I thought my high school crush broke my heart when he started dating the popular girl in the grade below me. I thought my first boyfriend broke my heart when he told me he wanted to sleep with other people. All of what left a crack in my heart was mere child’s play. Never have I felt so much pain as I did October 7, 2016- the most incomparable heartbreak was the one where I had to promise my best friend I was here for him, when he was leaving me for the last time.
It is funny how we all know that dogs have a short life span, and we spend every day with them depending on them just as much as they depend on us. At least that’s what I did. At 11 years old, just entering middle school (arguably the worst of all times in our lives), Samson was destined to be my best friend. You know that feeling when you meet someone and you already can imagine the endless possibilities that can come from a life with them? That is what I felt when I saw that chunky mess of a dog garnished with an underbite. To me there was no future, there was just always a here and now. An ever present love that could finally be mine. Wholesome, unconditional, and even when I felt undeserving. He loved me through my pre-teen years of angst. He loved me through my bowlcut years. He loved me when I paid more attention to a boy who didn’t invest in an eighth of the amount Samson offered me. He loved me when I didn’t even love myself.
Samson had been bred by an asshole. I’ve never seen a puggle that was so robust with such tiny legs to support such a body since befriending him. He looked like a pug on steroids. The only piece of beagle in him was his loud bark that he could only manage out of his stocky body if he jumped. He couldn’t run. Occasionally he galloped. Only if I sat a short distance away would he take strides to hit me full force knocking me down only to continue to eat grass to my side. He didn’t know how to play, or he wasn’t interested. When he had bones, he didn’t know what burying them entailed as he left them out in the open, nuzzling absolutely nothing to cover them and acting completely shocked when the other dogs found them. He couldn’t growl- he could only whine. It became almost a song of forewarning rather than anything fearsome. He was scared of everything. I couldn’t chew gum in his presence as he was always on alert that I would blow a bubble. I’m not sure he is what you would classify as a “dog”. I’m pretty sure he was just “Samson”- he made up his own rules.
He was so goofy. I remember one night waking up to a crash and finding that he’d managed to jerk in his sleep so much he rolled off the bed. The best days were the mornings when I would sleep in and, for whatever reason, he would sneak his way upstairs to come lay with me. I always wondered what struck him in those moments to find me. Maybe some days he would just think of me a little more than others, and maybe he wanted to make sure I knew I wasn’t without him. I’ll miss how much he loved to be near me. I’ll always miss the pitter patter of his feet behind me- stopping and going as I do. I’ll miss how much he loved pepperoni. I’m not sure why I miss that exactly… but I’m really mad he got so fat and I couldn’t give him more. Needless to say, he was harmless. He was so special because he was just so sure that everyone he met would be his friend. He was what I call a “people dog”. He wanted to be with the humans, and maybe that’s why I just always assumed that he was going to keep growing with me. He wasn’t a “dog” so he had to outlive them all. He was different, he was special, and he had different rules. I never even imagined being old without him there by my side, white fur and all.
It was four days before Christmas that my dad got a call from the vet.
“How long does he have left?”
The vet gave him two short weeks without chemotherapy which couldn’t be started until after the New Year. Sam was the second dog of 2015 to start chemo and he was one of two who continued to live a year and a half after his remission. People acted as though it was crazy to invest that money and time into a dog, but I knew him. I knew he didn’t want to die, and I’d do it all again if I had to. To me, it’s not about how much he loved me. I really will never find something so incredible, but I couldn’t know Sam to not love indefinitely. It was my way of letting him know that I valued his life just as much as he valued being a part of mine.
And we took the world by storm his last year. The vets cried the first day we walked in without Samson. They remembered the same things I loved about him right down to the way he galloped. They remembered him as a friend. People always say that a life is measured by the way you make people feel during your time here, and nobody lived as long a life as Samson did if that’s the case. But he wanted to go. I knew I’d never be ready so I just needed to know he was. I knew before I left for school that the light in his eyes was just dimly lit, just enough to be by my side. I told him that if he’s ready, I’ll be ready with him.
And so I sat and waited for him in the room where many people said good bye to their companions. They carried him swaddled in a blanket, and I’ll never forget how he lifted his head at the sight of me. I’ll never forget when my dad called my mom so she could be there, and at the mention of my name he looked up to see why it was said. He really always recognized me as a part of him, and I feel like he’ll always be a part of me. Helen Keller once said, “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Although I’m not sure she wasn’t talking about her eye sight or her hearing, I can vouch that it transcends something so definitive. He never closed his eyes. Up until his last breath, he wanted to be present. And that’s how we were. A study showed that dogs who sit and watch as their owners leave are so comfortable in trusting they’ll soon return. There was no future. It was always the here and now with us.
So here I am now, and I can’t say I’m happy. I’m curious as to how I can ever be completely, wholly happy with a part of me only existing in spirit. I may or may not be crying as I type this and fumbling over the right words to say. To be honest, there’s not enough words in the English language to say what Sam deserves to be remembered as and for. I just think that in terms of our present, what Samson and I continue to have, is that trust. I think he’s somewhere in Heaven occasionally laying down and watching, waiting for me like he always used to. I know it, actually, because I don’t have a single doubt that I have to worry he’s left me for good.
And I’m a part of him, and he’s a part of me.
How lucky I was to have had something that makes saying good bye so incredibly, painfully, horribly hard. Yet even luckier that I know it’s not good bye, it’s see you later, bud.
Every breath I take is a token of my love to you.