When I walked out to get in my car to leave for work today, Sampson came out to say goodbye. I usually pat him on the head and say, “See ya, Sammo,” but this time was different. I stopped and knelt. Taking his massive head in my hands I told him what a good boy he was and how much I’ll miss him.
When I get home from work, he’ll be gone.
Sammo, Sambo Magnifico, Sambodino, Sambini the Great, or Dang Worthless Hound. No matter what I may call him, Sampson is my buddy.
Andy got the yellow ball of fur while attending ASU. He was finishing his Bachelor’s degree and rooming with a couple friends in a house one of their dads owned. By the time Andy finished his teaching degree and moved back home, bringing the dog with him, Sampson was already nearly grown.
When he finally did finish growing, he was big. We could easily walk side-by-side with my hand resting on his head. Although he was supposed to be a cross between a yellow lab and some kind of cattle dog, I defy anyone to show me any traits in the big, golden dog that belonged to anything but a yellow Labrador retriever.
As I started my car and backed down the driveway, Sammo trotted along beside me. At the road, I moved the shift lever to drive and started downhill. This was Sampson’s favorite part. The car picked up speed and the dog shifted to high gear, skimming across the ground in a golden blur. His lithe body coiled and flexed and soon his lack of wings was the only thing that kept him from taking flight.
I grinned, “I hope your new back yard will be big enough for you.”
Andy never made any secret of the fact that, wherever he went, Sampson would go too. Still, up until today, I had managed to delude myself that my son would never really finish the fence around his almost four acre back yard. Nor would he build a doghouse big enough for Sammo’s comfort.
But he did.
Sampson has one of those Labrador retriever personalities that means he quickly came to feel like he’s not “my dog.” No, Sampson seemed like all he ever wanted to do was make me happy. Each and every time he saw me he greeted me with that full-body wag that some dogs have, and with a smile that encompassed his whole face.
He would walk beside me, tall enough that my hand could rest on his head, but not satisfied with that. No, he wanted to take my hand in his mouth every few steps.
“Dang it, Sampson, I hate dog slobber on my hands.” But my hand would find his head again and the way I said, “You ornery, worthless mutt,” was with a tone of pure love.
Those times when I would “accidently” hold the door open long enough for the dogs to slip into the house, he’d find his place on the floor and get comfortable. But he seemed to sleep with all senses on alert, lest I would have some need to walk where he was. He never seemed to understand that I was fully able and perfectly willing to take an extra step or two around him, so he usually moved quickly to get out of the way, often managing to get right under my descending foot.
“Dang it,Sampson, just lie still.”
The look in his eyes was the clearest and purest apology a non-speaking animal could ever make.
Oh, and when I went to the door on one of those days when it was so hot and miserable outside that he wanted to stay inside where it’s cool, he would do his contrite bear skin rug act. You know, his nearly 100 pounds of pure muscle and bone would flatten out almost like he was trying to blend into the floor, and his eyes would say, “I belong right here, ple-e-ease.”
But, if I went outside, that’s exactly where Sammo wanted to be. No matter what I did, he wanted to be near me. If I took the farm truck across the field, he flew alongside in that long, ground-eating stride of his. When I got to the other side of the farm, he was already there, tongue lolling from the effort and excitement.
If a vehicle pulled up in our driveway, or stopped on the road out front, the house virtually vibrated from the growl that emanated from that dog. It would start from somewhere deep inside him and seem to come from every pore of his body. His bark sounded like it erupted from some evil hound from hell that couldn’t wait to tear every shred of flesh from a bad guy’s body…from anybody who might want to do harm to his family.
And THAT’S what Sampson felt like, not our dog, but a member of our family. The way I said he acted toward me is the same way he acted to each and every member of the family, even the ones who moved out before Samson moved in. He made each one feel like the most important person in his life, like all he wanted out of his own life was to make them happy.
Nope, Sampson didn’t feel like he was, “my dog.” He felt like he was, “my buddy.”
At his new home he’ll be Harper’s big cuddle-puppy. But I pitty the fool who enters Sammo’s backyard with ill intent. There will be a red-eyed hound from hell there to meet them.
Sampson, I hope you’ll be happy in that big back yard, but if, for some reason, that four acre play land isn’t quite big enough for you, we have an eighty acre farm that will always be your home, and I’ll always welcome you back with a pat on the head and a, “Dang it Sampson, I hate dog slobber on my hands.”
But you and I will know better.
Rain, heat, or snow, Sampson loves to run.
This is Sampson’s “I belong right here, ple-e-ease,” look.