Saying Goodbye to Sam

by Michael Gulvas

How do you say goodbye to your best friend? What words can you use to explain your grief at the loss of your constant companion for 13 years? Who or what can fill the void when you come home from work and no one is there to greet you with a warm embrace or a knowing expression? People or families, who have never owned a dog, can never truly understand how deeply you feel about the loss of a dog or pet. My dad has a wooden sign in his house that says, "Owning a dog is not a matter of life and death, it's much more important than that!"

When my dog Sam died, I couldn't seem to get over his death. Sam was a beautiful Labrador/German Shepherd mix with a bit of Blue Tick Hound thrown in for more music. He was black and tan, embracing the best markings of his mother and father to make a strikingly beautiful, big house dog. He gained respect from strangers with his size and his bark, but was as gentle as a lamb, and wonderful with children. Even with my grandchildren tugging and pulling on his ears, legs, or nose, he just had patience and acceptance, and took it all in stride.

We had Sam from a young six-week-old pup. We watched him destroy socks and slippers and chewed anything we neglected to pick up off the floor, including some of our kids' toys (wooden ones were devoured first). We moved to a bigger home, and Sam found bigger things to tackle. We tried keeping him in the garage and he ate his way through the mesh screen, in the door to the family room. We have the photos to prove it! He then decided that the tops of our wooden fence needed to be rounded to the exact impression of his canines. Our fence still shows the remnants of Sam's gum-soothing embraces. He played ball with Jared, my youngest son, but after retrieving the tennis balls, he never gave them back to Jared. Once Jared pried one loose, but the chew marks and the saliva rendered the ball useless. As he grew, Sam, lost his cute puppy looks and antics, and matured into a muscular 90-pound frame. He was always very active and ran the back yard like a sprinter and distance runner, protecting and marking his territory with strength and resolve. We never had a need to purchase a fancy security alarm system. With Sam and his bark and his presence, no one could have been a better protector of our property or my family. He even had his 15 minutes of fame, when he made the cover of The Family Journal Magazine back in April/May 2003. The only time I ever lied to Sam was at that time. I told him he made the cover of Rolling Stone! He never knew the difference.

Among Sam's enduring qualities, were his affection and unconditional love, his crisp beautiful presence, and his loving licks. He was really a frustrated lap dog. Anytime I would lay on the couch, he would muster up on the couch with me, and I don't know how we both fit. He just poured out love and affection and expected nothing in return. He was so gentle that I can't ever remember him even stepping on one of my kids or grandkids in some very tight places. And he was just a very pretty dog. He was so beautiful, and I told him everyday how handsome he was, and I always got a lick.

How do you say goodbye to your best friend? My dog Sam was more than our family pet. He absorbed my grief when my mom died and when I was having feelings of sadness and depression, he was my constant comforter. When I finally laid him to rest in my dad's beautiful sunny oak grove, on our family farm, I at least had the chance to say goodbye and attempt to have some closure. It was an uncharacteristic warm, sunny, and breezy January day in northern Ohio. The squirrels were chatting and active over head (Sam hated squirrels!) but it was fitting that the trees were full of them. My dad's Labradors and my sister's horse, Sam, all came over to pay their respects. I had been crying and sobbing for days, and now finally I could rest. I laid him down with his blanket and the copy of The Family Journal on his chest. I will never forget Sam, but I was able to say goodbye to my best friend. He was truly a gift from God, and I am so thankful.


(Thanks to Mike Gulvas for sharing his story about Sam. Sam passed away January 2007.)

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