I’ve never had a dog like Sammy before, and I have had many. He was a brawny, muscle-y dog, feared by some because of how he looked. And though he could be obstinate at times and loved to challenge my status as the Alpha, he never once showed the slightest hint of aggression toward any person, big or small. His sense of duty in protecting us, especially our kids, was fierce. I could not walk him to pick up the kids from school, because any other dog near them was seen as a threat and he would make a scene. He was not welcome at the dog kennel anymore because when I took him there, the other dogs became a threat and he had to be isolated. We had to get in-home dog sitters every time we went out of town. His sense of intuition and protectiveness caused him a good deal of anxiety.I remember taking him and the boys down to the creek one day when the boys were little. There were some vagrant druggie types hanging around down there, telling loud stories, dropping F-bombs while the kids played barefoot in the creek. I thought poor Sammy was going to lose his mind. He cried and howled, looking in the direction of those guys, looking at the kids, then looking at me like I was insane. How could I let my children be around those noisy people with the weird body language? He seemed to be pleading with me. He was not calm until we got out of there. That was Sammy.
He was a pain in the ass in lots of ways, but especially because of his breed. When we first moved to SLO and had to rent a place, we were denied several of our choice of pet-friendly places simply because they would not allow a dog who looked like him.
He was macho and believed it was his right to lift his leg on whatever he wanted — houseplants, Christmas trees, hubcaps. I’m a good dog trainer, but could never train that out of him. He was terrified of the wind and of fireworks, and would pant and pace the house all night every July 4th and during windstorms. But for every night I lost sleep because of him, there were thousands of nights I slept like a baby knowing he was on watch.At times I was looking to find another home for him. When you have small children and other pets and obligations clamoring for your attention every minute of every day, you don’t have much left over for an anxiety-ridden pet. At times I just couldn’t take it; I didn’t want to resent any pet in my home. There are no-kill shelters in the area that would take him and find him a good home, but I could never bring myself to do it. He was found on a freeway on-ramp for God’s sake. Escaped from people who feared him and kept him tied to a stake in their yard 24/7, a pack of hot dogs thrown at him so he wouldn’t starve. He was meant to be with us, to eat real food and be sheltered inside at night, to have a job he was good at. As much as I felt inconvenienced by him at times, I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else having him. Other dogs were compelled to attack him, even tiny little dogs would burst out of their yards and come after Sammy, who was always on his leash. What if he was attacked and I wasn’t there to protect HIM? I couldn’t allow that. His golden years would be spent with us.
When the life silently left his body, his beautiful tawny fur was still as shiny and soft as ever, his muscle tone still sturdy. He simply looked like he was sleeping. And I was able to say goodbye and let him go.