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I was always a cat person, probably because I grew up with cats and had a mom who wasn’t big on dogs. We had a dog or two throughout the years, but they lived outdoors in pens and I think nearly every one of them died on the busy road in front of my house. Eventually, someone would leave the gate open or the dog would escape and….that was that for the dog.

In the 1970s, dogs didn’t live in the house, especially big dogs, which is what we usually had. I never liked them much because they were always smelly, covered in mud or poop, and they barked constantly. I always felt sorry for them and even now, thinking about them makes me sad.

So I wasn’t really a dog person.

But then I married one.

When I met Dan he had just gotten a golden retriever puppy, but by the time he moved out, the dog had gotten too attached to his parents and the country life to go with Dan, so Rocky lived out his years roaming his parent’s acreage and house.

A year or two after we got married, we got a yellow lab puppy. Cassie clearly preferred Dan and never seemed to care much for me. I didn’t dislike her, but this was my first time living with a dog in my house and it just seemed like a lot of work. They needed constant attention, she shed like crazy so I had to sweep all the time, we could never be gone for too long cause we had to let Cassie out, rainy days/spring meant constantly wiping paws and wet bellies, she chewed a lot of stuff, etc.

The girls were toddlers when Cassie died, and I adamantly refused to consider another dog. Nope. At this point, I had a full time job, two small kids, and I was throwing away houseplants because I just couldn’t have one more living thing depending on me. No way was I going to take on a dog, too.

Well, those girls grew up and when they were about 10 and 8, Dan blatantly enlisted them in his campaign for a dog. “I would get you a puppy, but your mom…..”

It was three against one and eventually they wore me down and I begrudgingly agreed to a dog, but it had to be a rescue, it couldn’t be hairy (no Goldens) and I’d prefer it be a girl and not very big.

They broke every one of those promises except the first one. Sam (Samson) was one of a litter surrendered to the A.N.N.A. Shelter. I think there were five total — three of them yellow/golden and two black. By the time Dan and the kids got to the shelter, Sam was the only one left.

So I got a long haired black male dog that they said was a Newfoundland/Golden Retriever mix.

Nobody ever listens to me.

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One look at Sam’s paws and I knew he wasn’t a Newfie, or if he was, he was going to be a miniature version. And, he was pretty cute, but puppies are always cute. Time would tell what kind of dog he was going to be.

Since I worked a few miles from home, I started coming home at lunch time to let the puppy out. Almost as soon as I let him in, he’d pee on the floor. Sigh.

I thought we’d never get him potty trained, but then one day (just like it happens with kids), he just got it, and he has never (not once) gone in the house in the past nine years.

We had crate-trained Cassie and expected to do the same with Sam, but he would have nothing to do with it. He would bark the entire time and was clearly distraught by being locked in. Eventually, we started letting him stay out, confining him to one room, then two, then the downstairs. By the time he was a year old, he had the run of the house and he’s never done anything to lose those privileges.

He’s never chewed anything. Despite being long-haired, he barely sheds. (Labs shed like it’s their job). From Day one, he has had a sweet and sensitive temperament. He never bothers the cats, even when they would hiss and bat at him when they first arrived. The cats soon learned that Sam was no threat and was, in fact, easily bullied out of his food or water dish. He’d wait patiently and quietly while the cats drank his water and ate his dog food.

Sam only has two bad traits: He is an aggressive and intrusive crotch sniffer and he is leash aggressive, which means if he is on a leash or in our yard (invisible fencing) and sees another dog, he absolutely loses his shit. For this reason, I won’t walk him. Nothing will draw dogs out of their yard by another dog, except maybe another dog openly jawing at them: BARK, BARK….bring it, man…..

Take Sam off the leash and he loves other dogs. On Friday nights at my inlaws, there are anywhere from 4 to 10 other dogs there as all of Dan’s siblings/cousins, etc. bring their dogs, and Sam gets along with all of them. He’s nine years old now, but will play with the young dogs and puppies for hours. (Then fall asleep in the truck on the way home and sleep soundly for hours).

He is also a shameless beggar, but I don’t even blame him for that. That blame lies squarely on the shoulders of my husband, who feeds Sam a bite of literally every single thing he ever eats and always lets Sam lick the plates/pans/bowls clean before he puts them in the dishwasher, where it’s ALWAYS on sanitize. (We call Sam the pre-wash.)

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Sam is the perfect dog and I know that he’s approaching the final years of his life and I’m telling you that I cannot even think about that without getting a giant lump in my throat.

Sam changed my entire view of dogs. I’m a bonafide dog-lover now. I can easily overlook hair and slobber on my pants leg, hot/bad canine breath and muddy paw prints from other dogs.

I’ve been working at home since March of 2020, so Sam and I have had something like 370+ days together now. He snoozes outside my home office while I work.  We have lunch together every day.  It’s me and Sam. Sam and me.

He has always been my husband’s dog — Dan is clearly No. 1 for Sam, but as these days and years go by, he’s become a bit of a mamma’s boy, sometimes preferring to stay inside with me rather than follow Dan outside or go with Dan to my inlaws.

When Sam refuses Dan’s, “C’mon Sam, let’s go,” I secretly love that he’s choosing me.

I reach down and pat my boy — the boy I never wanted — taunting Dan, “Sam’s my dog now. He’s a mamma’s boy.”

I know he’s probably just getting old and tired and sometimes, like me, he’d just much prefer the peace, warmth and comfort of home.  And, for that, I love him even more.

sam's bday

Sam’s ninth “gotcha” day was March 31. There were presents and party hats and treats for the birthday boy.


About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.