A eulogy for a good dog
We had to put Sam down last Thursday. He was 16.6 years old – pretty darn good for a 60 lb dog – and was finally going downhill quickly. He was never really our dog. Technically he was still our son’s and we were just dog sitting him for the past 10+ years.
His life started off pretty roughly. Our son, who had grown up with dogs (and been our first shepherd’s squeak toy when he was 3), had just graduated from college and decided to stay in New Orleans. He called us late one morning very upset to tell us he had just passed a tiny puppy that was tied up outside in the rain with no food or water and wondering what to do. We told him to pass by on the way home from work and call us back then. Long story short, the next morning after 2 more checks on the pup he wanted our ok to just take him, or to use 60’s terminology ‘liberate him’ (I’m showing my age here). He did and named him Samwise Gamgee (Frodo’s faithful companion). Sam for short.
A year or so later, he and Sam moved back to Philly, where Sam was introduced to our then current shepherd named Bear, who (surprisingly, if you knew Bear) accepted him with no problem. Four years later our son had an opportunity out in Seattle and moved out there with Sam and all his stuff in a U-haul. The following summer he wanted to come back for a long visit and didn’t want to board Sam that long, so he flew Sam back. Unfortunately, the flight in the cargo hold so traumatized Sam (he would shake at the mere sight of a dog crate and watching him during thunderstorms was unbearable) none of us had the heart to fly him back when our son went home, so Sam stayed with us.
A year and a half later, Bear died from DM, Sam became top dog we got a new pup. The new pup, who we named Duke, was Sam’s puppy from day one in a very real sense. Sam, who had grown up with our son’s roommate’s cats, used to lick his face to clean the corners of his eyes and taught Duke everything he knew. Thankfully he was a well-mannered dog and taught Duke well.
If Sam had a fault it was that he viewed the street as a smorgasbord, at which cat poops were the ultimate treat. He drank water like a fish, but thankfully must have had hollow legs, so no accidents. The upside of that was that he would let loose a torrent of urine as soon as he got outside and Duke picked up on that so he would go immediately also. Sure made taking them out in the rain or snow easier.
Last Fall he started showing signs of old dog vestibular disease, serious arthritis in his back end and last January he started spitting out his kibble. Turned out he had one cracked tooth and what looked like an abscess in one of his canines. When he went in to have the two extracted they found it was bone cancer under the canine, which they cut out as best they could (had we let them cut out part of the jaw to fully remove it, Sam’s quality of life wouldn’t have been worth spit given how much he lived for food). From then until last week he was on palliative care, with tramadol for pain. The vet told us to keep an eye out for coughing as that would signal that the cancer had traveled to his lungs and that it would be time.
That time came last week. I made him two big hamburgers for breakfast and the vet came about an hour later (there’s an outfit in Philly that makes house calls to put dogs down). He got an injection of a sedative in his thigh and by 5 minutes later he had drifted off into a deep sleep, at which point the lethal injection was administered. So Sam died peacefully in his sleep lying in his favorite spot never knowing that his time with us was about to be over.
Sam may not have been a shepherd, but he was a good dog. He was probably part rottie, part shepherd, part hound and god only knows what else. When people would stop us in the street to ask what Duke was (he’s plush) and then ask what Sam was, I would reply that he’s just a dog. . He was good natured and sweet, with huge eyes that made his face really beautiful. We couldn’t have really asked for more from a dog.