R.I.P. Sampson {Underappreciated Family Dog}

***Posted in conjuction with Sprite’s Keeper’s Spin Cycle, the subject of which, this week, is pets.  Swing by this post for more of the most pettingly pet stories on the internet.***

Sampson was our one—and only—family pet.  {We know the biblical Samson’s name is spelled sans “p,” but our dog just…needed a “p” in his name.  Silent letters are the best.}  He was some sort of black lab mutt with no papers or notable lineage to our knowledge.  He was nothing fancy.  We were gifted him by some distant family member who moved out of state or something—he was two years old when he arrived at our place.

black-lab-mix, a stand-in for SampsonThis isn’t Sampson. I don’t have any photos of our family pet, and I never thought that he was all that unique, but I just googled™ “black lab mix,” and none of the image results looked quite right.  I should have taken pictures when I had the chance.  Image from here.

At first, my sister and I were off-the-walls excited to have a dog.  We promised our dad we would feed him, and walk him, and play with him, and wash him…and of course, that promise went the way of all empty childhood vows (right down the crapper with every other lofty ideal).

See, he wasn’t a frolicking puppy when we received him—he was huge, and didn’t mind his manners.  He jumped on us, knocking us over; to make matters worse, he couldn’t do a single trick.  Lame.  To our childhood minds, he was a total dud.

Hyper CamilleI was the hyper sort of child that needed animals to do tricks for me if they were to earn my affection.  Poor Sampson never really stood a chance.

At least, that’s what we thought for a few years, until one day he became a hero to us.  Our house was broken into, and Sampson scared the burglars off lickety split.  Oh, sure, we were terrified to sleep at night for months afterward, but we felt a little bit safer knowing that Sampson was watching over us.

Sampson hated men (except for my dad, who was the one who cared for Sampson the most), and he was mean about it.  Burglars learned quickly, and we never had problems with them again.

Unfortunately for Sampson, the next ten years saw a decrease in neighborhood burglaries, and his heroism (at least in my immature mind) became virtually forgotten.  He returned to being the pesky animal who never wanted to go outside (can’t say as I blame him, in this Arizona heat).  Any chance he got, he’d squeeze through the door and take off, and it was always my job to chase him down.  He wasn’t easy to catch.  I remember thinking in ninth grade (grade nine, Canadians!) that he was getting old—his days were numbered.

But still, he lived.  A few months later, he got hit by a car on one of his escapades {the night of my sister’s junior year homecoming date, if I do recall correctly [I always recall correctly]}.  I was floored when my parents actually forked out the thousands of dollars to nurse him back to health.

Hard-boiled Teenager “I would never blow my money on a stupid dog,” I thought that day.  “He just had to go cavorting through the neighborhood—it serves him right.” I was coarse, even as a teenager.

It would be another six years before Sampson really died.  The end was rough for him, and me.  During the course of his life, we had added on to our house, and a new concrete patio was poured right outside my bedroom window.  I grew to recognise the munch-munch-crunch sound of Sampson having a midnight snack only a few feet (and a wall) away from me.  I never acknowledged how secure his crunching made me feel each night as I drifted off to sleep.  Living in the room closest to Sampson’s food bowl really did make me the most protected member of my family.

As Sampson’s health dwindled away to nothing, I would lay awake at night listening to his mournful whimpers.  Over time, the whimpers became heart-wrenching yelps, as Sampson became physically unable to step up the three-inch ledge from the lawn to the porch.  I couldn’t stand it.  Every night for a week, I’d go outside and help him up to the step.  He was heavy, and the action exhausted both of us.  While I was outside, he’d rest his head, with age-grayed whiskers, feebly in my lap.  We’d sit there for a long time, Sampson and me.  I just petted his fur and patted his head; tears streamed down my face as I chastised myself for a lifetime of basically ignoring the family pet who always loved me anyway.  My beloved grandpa had died earlier that year, I was planning a wedding that would take me hundreds of miles away from the only place I’d ever called home, and Sampson was dying in my arms.

So SadIt was a really emotional year for me.  And by “really emotional,” I mean the fact that I started birth control that same year really didn’t help things. Hello, hormones, come right in; won’t you stay a while?

The day we put him to sleep, I could hardly believe how much I cared.  When had I grown so soft?  It wasn’t like me.  That dadgum dog turned me into a sap, and I don’t even like dogs.  I vowed, that very night, that I would never get attached to another animal—I’d save my love for humans in the hope that I’d never again have to hurt so bad for a creature that couldn’t even say goodbye to me.

And then I mourned.  I mourned good and hard.  It’s embarrassing to confess this on my blog—the hard boiled side of me knows it’s ridiculous to care so much.  I didn’t even really love him until those last pathetic months—well, that’s not true.  I loved him all along, but I didn’t show it until it was pretty much too late.

If all dogs really do go to Heaven, I’d very much like to see Sampson (providing I make it there myself {which is unlikely, the way I treated the poor old fella all his life}).  I need to make amends.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
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14 Responses to R.I.P. Sampson {Underappreciated Family Dog}

  1. Katie says:

    Oh, man. I AM a dog lover and I am 9 months pregnant. This post just put me over the emotional edge. Anyone have a tissue I can borrow?

  2. Holly Decker says:

    ah, the family pets that shape us.
    i often think of the animals in my life and wonder if i will see them again- and be able to actually tell them my love for them or how i wish i wouldve treated them better.
    you are not alone.

  3. He sounds amazing. And to have lived a long life where he was truly valued and loved (even though you may not have known it at the time) is what made his life so great. Sweet story and I’m tearing up! You’re linked!

  4. DeAnna says:

    There is a softer side to you after all! I have had my share of cats growing up, as for some reason my parent’s could never say no when we found a stray or lost kitten. But when it came to dogs we have a had 4 in the time from my birth to moving out. I don’t really remember my first dog, I’ve only seen the pictures. The next dog we owned it’s mother and she had puppies, we kept two. One day they both got out and took off. A few weeks later, the one was found sparing details, but he was roadkill. The other was found a few days later caught in a coyote trap. The decision, take his foot or take his leg. Of course the leg. From then on String our beloved Norwegian Elk Hound was known in the neighborhood as the Tripod dog. He could run just about as fast as any 4 legged dog and loved laying about on the warm manhole in the middle of the intersection in front of our house. He lived a few more years and had to be put down as he could no longer walk due to arthritis. But that three legged dog really had an impact. At the same time we had a Cock-a-Poo…half cocker spaniel, half poodle. And a Dalmation. It’s strange going home now and seeing my parent’s replacement for the dogs I had growing up, a little Jack Russell Terrier…cleverly named Jack. Anyways, great post. It was most definatley emotion and thought provoking.

  5. Shalynna says:

    How do you make people laugh and cry in the same post? ( I didn’t cry, but kind of wanted to).

    I think I might hire you to write about our family pets. We’ve been through like five dogs since David has known my family. It’s embarrassing. One “ran away” (not really, but that is what they told my sister! You don’t even want to know what my parents did. Okay, maybe you do. They dropped him off in a “nice” neighborhood hoping for a nice family to adopt him! Cruel. I’m actually pretty embarrassed about it!), the next one really did run away and everyone was sad (serves them right for what they did with the previous dog). Anyway, my point is we have some great stories and with your writing abilities we could have a best selling novel.

    And this comment is a novel too. :)

  6. ann marie says:

    Even though I am NOT a dog lover, I found myself feeling so sad for you throughout it all! :( We had cats, and we always ran them over. After one particualr trip to put down a beloved kitty, my Mother said ” No more cats..” it’s too hard to do this. I agree.. They become family.

    I think our beloved Pets will be in Heaven.. I hope.

    PS: I love to see your old flashback photos!
    he-he.. cute!

  7. RatalieNose says:

    Love this post!
    I, personally, am NOT an animal lover….or liker for that matter. But my aunts dog that she’s had FOREVER recently died and its been REALLY rough on her….so I can imagine!

  8. Kingsmom says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jami says:

    I remember that dog. I think that you should get a dog. You and Kyle would love it. We love our dog!
    But that is beside the point. I am glad that you wrote a tribute to Sampson. I am sure that he loved it

  10. Rachel says:

    *sniff* I too am a culprit of taking my family pets for granted even though I love mine alot. I think I need to go find a cat to hug. *sniff*

  11. Granmama says:

    I have pictures of Sammy. HE died BEFORE Grandpa died. November 6, 2006—a bad week. Sampson died on Monday, Russell Pearce was reelected on Tuesday, and GRandpa had his heart difibulator surgery on Wednesday—-not to mention the strange and unusual things that were happening with a favored daughter and another favored niece. From May 30, 2006-December 14, 2007 was way to much emotion and drama. Sampson nopt being there for me made it even more difficult. I miss Sampson and hope he is happy in doggy heaven. I think you should tell your readers how you got him to go outside without touching him ( he was stubborn—but he loved calmness in his sensitive ears.) I loved and still love Sampson. He is an important part of all our lives.

  12. Chloe says:

    I’m an animal lover… and now I’m feeling miserable!! *snif*

  13. Kimberly says:

    Oh so sad Camille. It sounds like your subconcious is telling you to get a puppy. ;-)

  14. babeintown says:

    I’m sad that the good dog is gone… and my heart in sand goes out to your family…

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