My family had to put our dog Sam to sleep today.
We found out on Monday that he had an incurable form of liver cancer and that he only had a few days to live. Our options were to put him to sleep or to allow him to slowly fade until he simply passed on. Going with the former seemed the more humane; it was quick and painless, like going to sleep.
Sam was an incredible dog. In his own way he was endearing to everyone whose lives he touched. He only wanted to be petted, to give love, and to be loved. He was a gentleman and the gentlest of dogs. Whether he was nudging your hand in the hopes that it would quickly move to pet him or was laying beneath your head as an impromptu pillow, Sam was always loving, always gentle.
It wasn't just his personality that made Sam special, he was also smart. I've heard in the past that there are simple tests to determine a dog's intelligence, but Sam never needed them. His intelligence was evident. When he was a puppy, living with another family, he was trained not to nibble on the many stuffed animals kept on the floor. While that was not a problem in our home, I always come back to a time soon after we first got Sam. I was doing homework in the living room and as he walked by, his always wagging tail knocked a pen off of the coffee table onto the ground. He inquisitively looked at the pen, seeming unsure what to make of it. I watched him as he slowly bent down and opened his mouth. Fearing that he might swallow the pen I quickly became to move towards him, only to find that he was already in the process of putting the pen back on the table.
To me, Sam always had more expression in his face than a typical dog. Granted, his anatomy did not allow him to portray an array of emotion comparable to a human, but nonetheless I could always tell when he was happy or when he was sad. His eyes told the story. I think that's why I quickly understood that he was ready to leave when I got home last night. In some way, he understood what was happening to him, that his time was nearing an end. At the veterinarian’s office, he simply lied down with his head in my mom's lap and with the help of euthanasia, went to sleep for the last time.
Sam was always there for his family and his friends. In sickness or injury, he stayed by your side in hopes of making you feel better. During times of happiness, he loved to be part of the crowd. As we came home from work or school, he happily waited by the door. It was another way in which he let you know that he was more than the typical dog.
As I sit here writing this, I am shaken by the realization that he is neither sitting with his head on the edge of the couch waiting to be pet nor lying by my feet keeping me company. When times were tough, he was an unflinching friend. He shared his love freely with both man and fellow dog. In my mind he was a giant among dogs.
Reflecting now, I think Sam's life and his legacy are best reflected in the tears of those who loved him when they learned he was close to the end. They were in the many phone calls we received today from family and friends who had learned of his passing. They are in the tears that well up in my eyes every time I think of him. Sam was always kind, always gentle, and always loving.
My last memories of my loving friend will be of petting him on his belly and behind his ears (his favorite spots) for the last time. Of him leaving our house and heading out for a "ride" for the last time. My favorite memories though will be of him licking at a bowl of vanilla ice cream from Dairy Queen (he knew all of the local locations), of playing with him in the backyard, of walks around the neighborhood, and of the quiet times lying on the family room floor, watching television.
In the end, I realize how much richer my life is for having Sam as part of our family for the past ten years. He brought happiness and joy to everyone he met, especially his beloved family.
I will miss you my friend...