I was devastated! The ache in my heart was so real that I actually felt as though it would shatter into a million pieces. I had lost a precious and integral part of my life and I knew it was never coming back. My little cross toy pom, Samantha, had just passed on, after being my special angel and friend for almost 17 years!
The day could not have been blacker if I painted it myself!
As I lay in the dark that night, memories flashed through my head… I reached down to the carpet next to my bed… maybe I was having a nightmare…maybe that soft white head would be there… but alas, all I felt was the hard floor. Sam was, indeed, no more.
Prior to Sam I had owned an equally special little dog called Sandy. Ironically she died the day after my son was born, and although it was almost impossible trying to deal with the elation of giving birth to a baby and the grief of losing Sandy, I managed to get through the ordeal by concentrating my energies on the little scrap of humanity that had entered my life. But trying to settle into a new house, take care of a new born baby and get over the loss of Sandy, often proved too much for me, and I just broke down and cried and cried.
Eventually, my mom said “ENOUGH, I am getting you another little “Sandy”. I was horrified. Sandy couldn’t be replaced…. how insensitive…the thought sickened me! But, my mom was determined. She returned from the animal shelter and told me that she had seen a white, two-year old cross pom, who was in desperate need of a home. I was annoyed, but the thought of this little dog being euthanized because it was homeless played heavily on my mind and eventually I went to “have a look”.
The piece of paper my mom had given me had a name on it… SAMANTHA. I walked into the reception and said I wanted to see a white pom named Samantha. The receptionist laughed and said “We don’t name our dogs, but perhaps you want to speak to Samantha, the lady responsible for adoptions” Of course the name Samantha was the name of the person I had to speak to, BUT in my mind the dog’s name was Samantha, and would never be anything else. I waited patiently for them to bring her out and when I saw this forlorn little creature, with beige patches on her ears and back and a sad look on her slightly Pekingese looking face, I knew I could never leave her behind!
I signed all the paperwork, paid the adoption fee and left with my new “baby”. She was tense and fidgety in the car and I could see the look on her face saying “Oh no… where am I going now?”
But, she soon settled in and became the love of my life. We also had a totally insane Maltese poodle called Lady. A nightmare of a dog who dominated poor Sam, chewed up everything in sight and had no qualms about nipping you if you annoyed her! But Sam and Lady became friends and in many ways, Lady settled down a little when Sam arrived.
Sam had been a stray, and it rapidly became clear to me that the first three years of Sam’s life had not been the happiest. She was nervous and shy and jumped up and ran away if anyone walked past her. She cringed when anyone raised their voice and leopard crawled away, with her ears back, if you startled her by raising your hand to pat her. Who could abuse such a dear harmless little thing? My mind boggled!
Although the mental scars of her earlier years went very deep and she remained timid and unassuming, Sam eventually came out of her shell and I became her hero! She followed me everywhere. She could hardly believe her luck when a big plate of yummy food was placed in front of her and looked at me as if to say “Is that ALL for me?” She loved “human food”, especially meat and chicken and she would sell her soul for cake and chocolate. I spoiled her rotten, mainly because I adored her but also because she deserved to be loved and taken care of. We had filled a huge hole in each other’s lives.
In the summer of 2004 Lady passed on and Sam and I became even closer. She spent most of her time at my side, lying next to the computer when I worked, next to the couch when I watched TV, next to my bed when I slept etc! Wherever I was, Sam was not far behind.
By this time, Sam herself, was getting on in age… she was 15 and had become hard of hearing but other than that she was still quite sprightly for her age! My family decided that Sam needed a new friend, and although I knew it was a ploy to get me to agree to them getting a puppy, I went along with it anyway. We had always wanted a Golden Retriever and after much soul searching we bought a highly pedigreed, scandalously expensive golden retriever puppy. We named her Chloe after one of the characters in the soapy “Days of our Lives”.
Sam was horrified! She looked disdainfully at the pup and ran away to hide behind one of the lounge chairs. She looked at me as if to say “How could you?” Chloe was a darling. A sweet mischievous, highly intelligent little bundle of energy. She LOVED Sam and desperately tried to snuggle up next to her, but Sam wasn’t having any of it! Eventually Sam learnt to tolerate Chloe BUT, that was as far as it went. She continued to shadow me and I loved her more and more each day.
In March 2006 Sam started urinating wherever she stood! It was very unlike her, but I put it down to old age. But, when she started wetting her blanket at night I decided to take her to the vet. My worst fears were confirmed… it was the beginning of the end.
Sam had developed a malignant tumour in her bladder. The vet told me that she was not in any pain and they could treat her with anti-inflammatory drugs to shrink the tumour, which would give her a maximum of about another 18 months, but since she was already very old she probably wouldn’t live much longer than that anyway.
With a heavy heart I took her home and so the painful slog towards the end began. I cherished the last few months I had with her, but I knew I had already started painting “the canvas of my life with Sam” black! She was not unhappy but she was always covered in urine, her hearing was almost totally gone, her appetite was non-existent and getting her to take her medication was an uphill battle. I hand fed her bits of meat and chicken and painstakingly laced her meds with meat, cheese, chocolate… you name it!
One Friday night in November she suddenly took a turn for the worst! She wouldn’t eat, she seemed unsettled and depressed and her breathing was laboured. I sat up with her all night praying she wouldn’t die, but miraculously she seemed better in the morning. But my joy was short-lived. The next day my daughter noticed a hard red lump on her tummy. The vet suggested they remove it under local anaesthetic as it was a skin tumour and would grow bigger if it wasn’t removed. I reluctantly agreed. She came through the surgery ok, but she was miserable. She was obviously in pain and the “lampshade” around her neck preventing her from licking the wound, was bothering her. But, still, she was alive!
Then catastrophe struck a few days later. She became unsettled again and appeared to be in great pain. Eventually at 2-00am I called the vet. He met us at the veterinary clinic and said he thought she had slipped a disc in her back. He gave her a morphine injection to settle her and said we should call in the morning.
It’s funny… I knew she couldn’t live much longer since she was already 17 years old and she had cancer, BUT I prayed for just a few more months…even weeks…or days.
It was not to be. The next morning the vet called me and said he suspected she had neurological damage and asked us to come by the clinic. My daughter came with me.
I gasped when I saw her. She had been bathed and she looked so healthy and beautiful, BUT when we looked closer we could see that something was terribly wrong. Her tongue was hanging out of her mouth, her eyes were glazed and her back legs were paralysed. I don’t think she even knew we were there. The vet spoke in a soft empathetic voice, but his words were like a knife through my heart. He said she was suffering and we had to let her go peacefully. The paint brush dabbed huge blobs of black on the canvass as I held her tightly in my arms and the tears ran down my face.
I knew I had to let her go, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I held her as the deathly serum went through her veins and eventually the life just drained out of her little body and all that remained of my best friend was a lifeless little form on a cold steel table. I kissed her good bye and I knew my life would never be the same again.
Six moths on, Chloe and I have become very close. She is very dear to me, but in a different way to Sam. We also have a new little toy pom pup named Lexi, and there are patches of black and white on the canvas. White because I know Sam will always be in my heart and one day we will be reunited….black because I still miss her so very much.