I have found such comfort on this site. I will start Sam's story with a thank you; it's been so helpful to me these last couple of weeks to know that I'm not the only one out there still aching from the loss of my friend.
10 years ago, we'd lost our first Golden Girl Copper unexpectedly. With her loss came Abby, our next sweet Golden Girl; who is still with us and still our sweet girl. When Abby was a pup, we were having such a great time with her and enjoying her so much I though maybe she'd like a play-mate. So I set out on my search for a male pup to keep her company and giver her some doggy companionship.
That's where Sam's story starts. I recall driving nearly an hour with my family and Abby to meet the breeder and the pup. He was the last one of the litter to find a home. She said she'd turned away two other families that she didn't feel were right for him because he was "special" and wanted to make sure it was a good fit. All the while my husband was NOT terribly enthusiastic about ANOTHER puppy in the house, but I talked him into "just going to look". We arrive at the breeders and make the introductions. As we walk to the back yard I see this fluffy, little, butterball that resembled a teddy bear on a toy store shelf more than a dog. She picked him up, handed him to my husband, and at that moment, I knew she was right - he was special. No licking, no tail wagging. He sniffed a bit, curled up into a ball, and fell asleep in his arms. No more worrying about another hyper puppy. He came home with us the following week.
That sweet little butterball grew into the most handsome, 90+ pounds of sweet, gentle, mummy's boy. Everywhere we went people would comment on how handsome he was. "Wow! look at that guy" I would hear. "Oh, he's so sweet" everyone would say when they met him. So mild and gentle with that kind expression on his face that every Golden Lover knows. Sam truly was special. He was my work-out partner, my cooking buddy, my house-keeping companion. At my feet 24/7. So tuned in to his surroundings (me, in particular) we communicated to each other. I spoke to him as I would speak to a friend or family member - and he understood every word "c'mon, let's sneak off for a ride and a treat" I'd whisper - and he'd quietly slip out the door with me...."Time for bed! Lets hurry up and get Daddy's spot before he comes in!" and he'd b-line for the bed and rest his head right on my husband's pillow. For almost 10 years - he was my shadow; my friend.
In early September I noticed him becoming a little lethargic. That was a tough call since he never was much of an athlete to begin with. Shortly thereafter, he began to refuse food. After a day or two, as we were coming up the stairs from our work-out. He got about 2/3 of the way up and got "stuck". He seemed to just not be able to make the last few steps. He was so heavy and I really struggled to help him. I called the vet for an appt. the next business day. Over all, the visit went well. The physical exam went well, he looked good, ultra-sound great. I left feeling not too anxious, he was after-all, on the cusp of officially becoming a "Senior". I got a call the next morning and the preliminary blood work was perfect. She was still waiting on some more results and would call again with the results.
Sam's white blood cell counts were through the roof (upwards of 400,000). Not good. She's not an oncologist but had sent the results to an oncologist for an opinion who believed it to be Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and with the blood counts being what they were, it was most likely a Stage 5. We were referred to a veterinary oncologist who saw us the very next morning and confirmed the diagnosis. If we chose to treat him only with Prednizone, he would have about 2-4 weeks. If we chose treatment, the best we could hope for is 4-5 moths. Treatment would buy us time only. There was absolutely no hope for remission of any kind. After a couple of agonizing days trying to decide which option was the right choice, we decided that Sam deserved for us to try. He deserved another swim at the pond, he deserved another snowfall (he loved the snow!) and he deserved for us to try. Somehow I just knew that he wasn't ready to leave us. I knew in my heart that he would tell us when it was time, and his time wasn't now.
Treatment actually went fairly well. We went once per week for six weeks to the Oncology Clinic and for the most part, he handled it well. Some treatments were more difficult than others, but we pushed through. The most difficult part (really the ONLY part) that he struggled with was upset stomach that would kick in around day 2 following treatment. Usually with some anti-nausea meds we'd get through it ok. Food was tough - the treatment would leave him with a VERY finicky appetite so each day was trial and error. It was a challenge but it was OK. I'd find something each day that he'd like and make sure he had as much as he wanted. Throughout the two months of treatment he only lost about 3 pounds. I had also added a lot of supplements to his diet which helped to keep him strong. I believe that worked up until the very end when he wouldn't eat much of anything at all.
One night we came home late and Sam didn't get up to greet us. I knew that was bad. I called the clinic first thing the next morning and brought him in. We was unable to get himself up into a standing position and was unsteady on his feet. The staff brought a stretcher out to my car to get him inside. They wheeled him through the waiting room and I saw tears in the eyes of the other parents as they watched him on the stretcher. After the exam the vet explained that the cancer had invaded his nervous system. His spinal chord in particular and it was affecting his functioning in his back legs and causing him pain. We decided on one last treatment that would be administered over night and that had been known to be successful in these situations. If it worked it would be an immediate improvement, if improvement didn't show right away, it wouldn't.
I called the clinic twice that night to check and things seemed OK. It was a touch call for that staff since he was so stubborn to accept commands from strangers they weren't entirely sure if he was struggling or just being Sam. But he was comfortable and safe and in the best care he could be in under the circumstances. The vet asked me to come in at the end of the day to allow for a full 24 hours and some time for her to observe him with me to make a fair determination of the effects of the treatment. I went down and waited in the exam room. I could hear them coaxing him down the hallway and rounded to corner to see him...and I still (in a way) wish I hadn't seen this. My big beautiful boy reduced to a frail, scared, little old man. He struggled to walk, hunched over, weak. I got down and called for him "Hey Sammy!" and those kind eyes caught mine and he peed on the floor he was so happy to see me; but he couldn't get to me. With help, they brought him in to me and he collapsed on the floor. so exhausted. I sat with him, stroked his face and in my heart I knew what those eyes were telling me; "Mummy - It's time".
I brought him home for one last night. We dined on grilled cheese and the cheapest, tastiest, dog treats ever. I'd never allow the cheap junk treats, but he loved them. I slept on the living room floor next to him all night with my arm around him.
The next day we sat outside all day. He liked the coolness of the outside when he didn't feel well. He laid in the grass and I sat next to him scratching his ear and brushing his hair (he LOVED that), and talking to him. Telling him how much Mummy loved him, that is was OK to go. Being such a good boy is hard work - it's time for a rest.
The vet came to our house that afternoon. Sam had his head in my lap, he was surrounded by his family that loved him and he was in his yard where we'd spent countless hours playing ball and where he'd protected us from squirrels and butterflies. He was quiet and peaceful and I think if he could have told me how he'd have wanted to leave this earth, he'd have gotten his wish. I felt the last breath leave him and with it, a piece of my heart left me. He now has a forever place in his favorite shady spot in the yard, and a forever place in our hearts.
I miss my friend. I want him here. I can still see him in the corner of my eye two feet away. I can smell his scruffy dog smell. I still catch myself calling for him and then I remember he's not here. I hate that he's gone but feel blessed that he chose us to be his family. There will never be another one like him.
I am sorry for your loss. Your story is all too familiar to a lot of us.
Little Miss Dakota II 5-10-2008
Sir Evan of the Forest(Son of Mac & Dakota) 4-27-2011
Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge
Sir Macintosh of the orchard 11-17-02 4-16-12 You were the best dog that needed a new home and I am glad I found you. I just wish we had more time to spend with you. 8 yrs with you was not enough link to his life in pictures http://s153.photobucket.com/albums/s...g83/Macintosh/ He was my riding buddy and best friend till the end. My heart still aches without you.
My heart felt sympathies go out to you for your immense loss:,(
I hope that you allow yourself to continue feeling the incredible eternal bond that you still share which in some ways is more powerful than ever now that he is your guardian angel. Hugs to you and Abby!
Thank you for letting us get to know about your sweet boy, Sam. I am so so sorry for your terrible loss. Your story has literally moved me to tears, I know the pain you feel and it's the worst. I am sorry. Thank you for sharing his photos, he was indeed a very handsome boy. Please know you have many people here who both care and really understand. Share with us anytime, anything. We are here for you. I truly hope your beautiful memories will help to turn your tears into smiles in time. Run free lovely Sam. X
I'm sorry for your loss of your beautiful friend Sam, I'm crying writing thissince its touched my heart with having put down my Nitey boy just shy of 3 months ago ...may u remember all those wonderful times you had with Sam... He sure was a cutie...thanks for sharing your story.....
Im so sorry to hear about Sam, his story bought tears to me eye's. So many of us have been through this and it brings back sad memories. I wish I had some magic words to help ease your pain, but I don't. Just know that you are welcome to post here as much as you want and need to, we are all hear to listen and help if we can. Run Free and Sleep Softly Sam, my Katie is at the bridge and will show you the rope's.