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For Love of a Dog
C J (Cindi) Mouser
I think it's
probably safe to say that many of us have seen some
hard times. May still be seeing
them. If there's one thing you can take for granted,
it is that if life decides to kneel on you, there
ain't a thing you can do to stop it.
We were going through one of those hard spells
about ten years ago. There were five of us then, as
are now, but at that time, half the family was under four feet tall. Plus we had a dog that had
been with us
for a few years. Sam was grown when he was given to
us, and he made several moves with us, before we
finally bought a house in Sarasota. It was after
that, that Sam's health began to deteriorate.
At first it was the ear mites. I suspected that he
had them, and when I found him one morning with a
hematoma on his ear I knew I was right. Not
only that, he was covered with fleas. It's like the
we moved into had millions of fleas in the dirt
just waiting for some unsuspecting family to move
provide a dog so that they could feast in earnest.
Sam was the best dog ever. A great, heavy, blonde
lab, he was intimidating to those who didn't know
and was fiercely protective of the house and the kids. I never met a smarter dog. He would follow me
when I hung clothes on the line, and in between
sitting down to scratch at those infernal fleas, he
retrieve the clothespins I dropped, placing them
carefully in the laundry basket. He knew how to
and seek, and would get between the kids if a squabble ensued that deteriorated into physical
Sam wasn't having any of that. Not on his watch.
I remember once I took him walking. I let his leash
drop to the ground so that he could roam a bit. We
were close to home, he was safe. He immediately
went to the back of a neighbor's car that sat
the driveway and squatted.
"Uh uh, Sam....not there," I said in a level voice.
He stopped instantly and moved to a bush nearby,
his offering in a neat pile out of harm's way.
"Want me to get that...?" I asked the neighbor who
had come out to check his mail.
"Nah," he said. "No harm done." Sam sat and
I checked into the once a month treatment for
fleas. Sixty dollars for three months. That would
pay the light bill. I'm not ashamed to say that
we were pretty broke. We sure as heck didn't
choose to be. Three small mouths to feed, doctor
bills, diapers. Anyway, I did the best I could by
him, which did little more than dry out his lovely
When the hematoma popped up I became desperate. The
dog was in real discomfort. Now he had this
thing on his ear. We never once thought when we took the dog in, that one day we would not be able
afford to care for him. I had no money to have him
treated. I called the vet. Sixty five dollar
fee, plus meds. I envisioned this two hundred
dollar vet bill that I had no hope of paying.
"Do you guys ever... you know, take payments?"
"Sure," replied the voice on the phone, "we will
finance fifty percent of the balance due."
"But how do I know how much that will be?"
Of course it wasn't the vet's fault, he had to
make a living too.
I sat looking at Sam all day out the window. He
wasn't allowed in the house. He had never been in
house, so he was not trained. By that afternoon I
reached a decision. I would either take Sam to the
pound where he could get the treatment he needed,
and hope that he would find a good home, or I would
find him a home myself. I didn't know anybody to
give him to. I didn't know what to do.
That evening after dinner I loaded Sam in the van,
drove him to the local supermarket and tied him to
post in the parking lot. Then I parked several rows
away and watched him. I knew someone would take
him, so I sat there and sobbed myself silly, even
before the man walked up and squatted down next to
I could see the man's mouth moving as he talked to
Sam. Then I saw his eyebrows go up when he
noticed the scrap of paper tucked into Sam's
collar. He unfolded it and read......
'My name is Sam. I need flea medication and I have
ear mites, but my owners cannot afford to take me
the vet, so if you decide to untie this leash, you better be prepared to assume the expense for my
treatment. I am a damn fine dog. I can fetch and
retrieve and play hide and seek. I can understand
English almost as well as you, so you need to talk
to me on occasion. I love kids and I will love you
as long as you love me.'
The man paused and studied Sam for a moment and
then he slowly slipped the piece of paper back in
Sam's collar. Then he went into the store. I didn't
know whether to be relieved or mad. I had seen the
man get out of an expensive SUV; he was well dressed,
clearly not poor. Why didn't he take Sam? Why? Was
his resumé not good enough? Had I left some
important detail out?
I sat there with my heart in my mouth and had just
about decided to go get Sam, take him home and
try something else, when the man returned. He had a woman with him. Together they knelt down and the
man handed the woman the note. She read it and then
stood and glanced around the parking lot.
Women. We know each other. She knew I was there.
I sank down as low in the driver's seat as I could
go and still be able to see. I watched, bawling my
out, as Sam was loaded into the SUV. He seemed a little concerned, but went willingly enough. I
them drive away and then I drove home, crying every
single inch of the way.
I knew that this was not the best way to find a
home for an animal, but I had to have some control.
to see the people, I had to know that whoever got
Sam knew that they weren't just getting a dog, they
were getting a treasure.
I don't know where Sam is now, but I do know that I
did the best I could to find him a good home, and
my mind, he's stretched out on a nice brick patio somewhere, in the shade, with healthy ears, and no
fleas, and I hope that someday he thinks of us and
remembers the good times we had together, and
doesn't hold it against me that I couldn't do
better by him.
I get through this memory by reminding myself that
Sam was a dog. Not a child, or a brother or a
He was a dog. A friend. Friends leave, go on to
other places, sometimes better places. Many times
lose contact with those friends, but you can love
them and still let them go if you know in your
it is what's right for them.
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