Growing up, my family always had at least one dog. So when I bought my first home in 2009, it didn’t take much convincing when my then boyfriend (now husband) told me that his chocolate lab needed a friend. All I knew was that I didn’t want a puppy, so I started scouring petfinder.com. I came across a picture of D3, a 1.5 year old Siberian Husky/German Shepherd mix at a shelter about 30 minutes from my house. A few emails later I learned that he was a sweet dog, loved to be outside, and was very smart. He had figured out how to sneak under the gate that kept him in his kennel. They couldn’t figure out how he hadn’t been adopted. In fact, he had been there longer than is usually allowed, and his days were numbered.
Jason and I went to meet him on a snowy March day. I wasn’t ready to commit. A couple of days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dog that I knew would be shedding all over my new home. Soon, I was dragging the terrified and appropriately named, Samson, into the back seat of my car. The first few weeks weren’t easy. He and Jason’s lab, Cocoa, did not immediately hit it off. He was terrified of the stairs and all 65 pounds of him had to be carried up and down them each day. Getting him in the car was like watching a circus act. You can never be sure what to expect with a shelter dog, and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
Unsure of whether he could be trusted to roam the house, we purchased a crate to contain him when we weren’t home. I tested it with a trip to the grocery store and came home to a locked crate, two fewer sets of blinds on the windows, and a dog sleeping on my kitchen floor. The next time, we got smart. Jason and I had to leave him at a friend’s house, so we locked the crate with carabiners. A few hours later, Jason came back to find half of the carpet ripped up in the friend’s dining room. Once again, the crate was still locked, carabiners in place.
When Jason and I planned a vacation to his hometown a few months later, I was terrified about leaving Samson. I found a wonderful looking “Doggy Dude Ranch” where the dogs were able to play outside all day. A few days later, I got a call. Samson had been jumping their fence. They would have to charge me extra because they were afraid he would get out and run into traffic. Lovely. They soon realized that if they let him hang out in the office with the humans (and the air conditioner), that he was perfectly fine. We came to learn that he wasn’t much of an outside dog as we had been told. He wanted to be wherever his people were.
Over the next few years, our giant lap dog kept us constantly entertained. Mostly with his food choices. There was the time on my birthday when Jason bought me a cookie cake. I came home from work to find a perfect semi-circle eaten out of it where he had put his paws up on the counter and helped himself. Then the container of homemade ice cream, the stick of butter, and half of the Tupperware I own. The best was when he pulled a casserole off the counter and ate the entire thing, broken glass and all.
Finding out I was pregnant brought on a new set of dog-related anxieties. Would I still be able to give him enough attention? How could I love something more than my dog (sorry Jason)? How will he react to a baby? When Etta Mae was born, it was clear that they would be fast friends. He watched over her like a hawk and licked her face during tummy time. Now that she is almost two, he is her favorite horse, her perfect model for learning new body parts (“Samson, eye”), and a grateful recipient of toddler hugs. He enthusiastically eats the crumbs she drops on the floor (both intentionally and unintentionally) and they chase each other around the backyard together for hours on end. I can’t imagine my daughter growing up without a dog. And, I especially can’t imagine a more perfect companion than Samson.
I know that there will come a day when we will have to explain to Etta Mae that Samson went to doggie heaven. A new dog will occupy his space on the couch. But, he will never be replaced.