Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Samson should be named Lazarus

Pharaoh's Haven is a place filled with miracles. It is a place that witnesses amazing gifts from God each and every day. Recently we were the recipient of an amazing miracle. Our oldest dog, Samson is 17. In the picture he is one looking at me instead of the camera- so typical. He has been with us since the age of 14. When he arrived here, he was very thin, anemic, covered in fleas, and I expected him to live at the most a few months. 14 is pretty old for a Greyhound, so I took this dog in knowing whatever time he had left we would give to him with great joy, comfort, and love. He quickly became my "soul dog". If you've ever had that one great dog in your life, you know what I am talking about. He is the epitome of all that is amazing in dogs and desirable in humans. He is gentle, kind, patient, long suffering, honest, and has the soul of a Southern gentleman. That is the way I describe him to people, since most people need a "human comparison" to understand a dog's soul. His first three days here after a bath to remove more than 100 fleas, he did nothing except sleep, eat, and go outside to go potty. I honestly thought we was going to die then. After three days, he got up with this new look in his eyes like, " Ok, I am back- what's on the agenda?" He loved to run in the pasture with the other dogs and was pretty darn fast for an old man.

After a couple of years, I noticed that his back leg was causing him pain, especially on rainy days and in the morning. I have arthritis and have the same symptoms on the same days so I knew right away what it was. I took him to see our dear vet, Renee Rockefeller at Augustine Loretto Animal Clinic and she examined him and said, " He has a very crunchy knee, Anne." Turns out that the back left knee was so filled with arthritis that is sounded crunchy when she manipulated it. So I said, " What can we do?" She recommended Deramaxx (doggie Celebrex) and we went home. The medicine worked wonders for the old man- he could bear weight on that leg again and his appetite improved. He wasn't tearing out in the pasture anymore, but that was ok- he could walk without pain. After about a year, he started to not respond to the meds as well and his appetite would come and go and he would spend all his day on the couch (it's HIS COUCH) and not want to interact or go on walks. We went to the beach last week and left him in the care of our zoo sitter, whose name is Betty and who is God's gift to our family. She is an amazingly gentle and intuitive woman who is the best zoo sitter we have ever had in 15 years. When I got home on Saturday, Sam was far away- he greeted me of course, and then got on the couch and slept. He wouldn't eat that night or all day Sunday. His eyes had the "death look" that all animals get when they are near death and it's a look I've seen MANY TIMES. People get the same look - they look past you to somewhere far away and they are not "here" if that makes any sense. I knew it was time. I cried so much on Sunday that I busted the blood vessels under my eyes, and thought I would die from the pain. Now, mind you, I have put at least 6 old dogs to sleep here, many of them dogs we'd had since puppyhood, so it's nothing new to me- I take them to ALAC and hold them while Renee puts them out of their pain. I cry and it's sad but when I leave I feel relieved that my dear dog is out of pain and in doggie heaven. I have never mourned this hard over any dog, and it was quite frightening for me to feel such intense sadness even though I knew it was time.

I called Renee on Sunday, sobbing my guts out. She said, " It's Sam, isn't it?" I said, " Yes, it's time." I told her, " I feel a very strong feeling that he is not to leave here, so I need you to come to the house and put him to sleep when it fits in your schedule." She assured me she would call me the next day with a time. All that afternoon I sobbed on this sweet dog's fur and told him how much I loved him and what a dear dog he was to us. Jon dug his grave outside before work on Sunday. The kids said goodbye in their way- the tears would come after he was gone- they don't mourn in advance, bless their hearts. I gave Sam his meds as usual Sunday as I thought, " I don't want him in pain anyway even if he is going to die." On Monday, he hopped off the couch and came in the kitchen and ate breakfast. I am thinking, " That's nice, but weird." All during the day, he was up and out, asking me for bones that he hasn't asked for in a year, and very frisky. I was freaking out. Renee called at noon on Monday and said, " How is 11:30 tomorrow for you?" I said, " Renee, I need to talk to you. He's like a different dog." I went on to tell her about his appetite, behavior, and walking around and even running in the yard. She said, " Well that's great news!" So we said, " The grave is there, and we'll just keep it covered until it's time." (We had covered it anyway to keep the little dogs from falling in it.) On Monday and Tuesday I did not recognize Sam. I took him on a short walk down our street and he ran ahead of me. He hasn't done that in over a year. Even our dear friend Mercedes said, " Anne, he hasn't looked this good in MONTHS!" So I knew it wasn't wishful thinking on my part. Sooooooooo, maybe God gave us an extension because of the horrible sadness, or maybe Sam saw the grave and thought, " Wait guys, I am just sore, not ready for the grave yet!!!" Either way, I said out loud to God while walking with Sam- (trying to keep up with him to be honest) "God, I don't know why you gave us this gift, but I thank you and I praise you for it- I truly thank you for giving us a few more days or months with this amazing dog." So I sing Sam his silly song that I have sung to him since his first days here- I can't write it or everyone would laugh at me because is is a truly silly song but part of it is " I love Sam and Sam loves ME!" I am grateful that I get to sing that silly song a while longer.

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