Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Dog Named Sammy

While I was in college, I spent most of my Saturdays doing yard work for a family in Greenville.  They lived on a very large, heavily wooded lot with a tennis court, swimming pool, and a long winding driveway.  I did various things from cleaning the leaves out of the gutters to blowing leaves off the tennis court, pool deck and driveway.  That is where I met Sammy, a golden retriever who would show up every Saturday with a stick in his mouth, eager for me to throw it so he could retrieve it.  He would play as long as I would throw the stick for him.  I probably threw it a hundred times every Saturday.

After Cheri and I were married a few years, she brought home a beautiful blonde golden retriever puppy for my birthday.  He was about 6 weeks old and was a 20 pound butterball.  There was never any question what his name would be.  We named him Sammy, and he loved to retrieve.  We lived on a one-acre wooded lot in Fayetteville, and I would throw his beloved orange retrieving dummy as far as I could throw it into the woods.  I trained him to sit by my side and wait until I gave him permission before he could retrieve it.  Sometimes I would make him wait several minutes as he sat, eager to go find his toy.  No matter where I threw it, he would find it and bring it back, ready for me to throw it again.

When he was about 8 months old, we took him to a lake over in Peachtree City.  He had never been in the water, and was apprehensive about venturing in.  So we walked to the end of the pier and I picked him up, all 50 pounds of him, and tossed him into the lake.  He swam to shore and greeted me, wagging his tail.  We walked out on the pier again and I threw his retrieving dummy out into the water.  Without hesitation, he jumped in, swam to his toy, and brought it back to shore.  Now we had a new game to play.  After that day, he would get excited when we approached the lake, and couldn’t wait to get out of the car and into the water.

We moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was about three years old, and by that time we had a 16 month old son and another one on the way.  Our house had a large back yard, but the neighborhood covenants prohibited us from building a fence around the yard.  Sammy was about 90 pounds and was an outdoor dog.  We had a very small fenced area behind the house, but it wasn’t long before he learned to jump the low fence.  After our second son was born, we simply didn’t have the time to give Sammy all of the attention he needed.  A couple, Ken and Janet, from our Sunday school class were looking for a golden retriever, and they adopted him from us.  I knew I needed to let him go, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  It helped a little that he had been sprayed by a skunk a few weeks earlier, and still had that smell. 

I was thankful that he would be close by with friends.  It was gratifying that when we visited our friends, Sammy obeyed me better than he obeyed Ken and Janet.  My voice was imprinted on his brain, and he responded to my commands as though he was still my dog.  A couple of years passed and we moved back to Georgia.  For a while we would get a Christmas card every year from our friends, and they would include a picture of Sammy.  He lived about fourteen years, a long life for a golden retriever

In the fall of 2004, we brought home another blonde golden retriever.  My plan was to name him Bob.  My uncle Harry had a dog named Bob, and I thought it would be pretty cool.  My friend Bob had no objection, and even said he would be honored.  But this puppy looked so much like Sammy, and my wife had pretty much decided I wouldn’t name him Bob, so we named him Sammy.  It was an easy name to remember.  This Sammy was a lovable dog, but did not have much of the retriever gene in him.  He would chase a ball a couple of times, maybe, if he felt like it.  His sole purpose was to love and be loved.  He would sit at the end of the driveway and wait for our neighbors to come around so they could pet him.  When we moved to our current neighborhood, we became known as Sammy’s parents.  Not many of our neighbors knew our names, but they knew we belonged to Sammy.  He had a unique desire to carry things.  When Cheri came home from the store, he was always ready and willing to help her carry the grocery bags into the house.  As is typical of most golden retrievers, Sammy shed fur constantly.  It was a battle to keep the dog fur off of the floors.  Sammy aged quickly, and we had him put down last spring at the age of about 5 ½.  As we left the vet’s office, I opened an envelope that the vet had given me.  It contained a clipping of Sammy’s fur.  We laughed through our tears at the thought of bringing home more Sammy fur.  To this day, we still find Sammy’s fur in the most unexpected places.

We may get another dog one day, and it will probably be another blonde golden retriever.  If we do, his name will be Bob, or maybe Ralph.  Actually, it will probably be Sammy.

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