Today’s date, 10/11/12, is one of those dates that’s numerically fun. (For my European friends, I guess it was yesterday.) And, of course, in one month and one day, we’ll have the last “golden date” of this century, 12/12/12.
But for me, October 11th is a sad day, a day of mourning. Eight years ago today, in 2004, my dog—who brought me as close as I have ever come to having my own child—took her last breath. Her name was Samantha; she was only ten.
That she died a couple of years after we moved into a new place I’d bought in part to provide an ideal home for her was tough. That she died a bit over a year after my divorce was final was really tough. That she died only months after the first time my job at The Company was eliminated and I had found a new position two days before my end date was just icing on a shit cake.
Today I choose to commemorate her passing by writing about the perfect day.
The day in question was back in 1994, the year Sam came into my life. And to make the “child I never had” connection very real, she came into my life in June, on Father’s Day. As with so many of the great joys of my life, she came unasked, unsought, from an unexpected direction.
When I was a child we had family dogs since I was in grade school. I’ve been close to the dogs of friends and have even shared a dog with a roommate. But I’ve never had my own dog.
In 1994 a friend told me about a friend of theirs with a litter of Black Labrador puppies they were looking to place in good homes. They’d first offered them free and had no takers. After putting a price of $25 dollars on them, they sold like hot cakes (or like cute puppies). People are funny about value. There were two pups left, a boy and a girl, and my friend—knowing I love dogs—wanted to know if I wanted one.
I’d gotten out of a heart-breaking serious relationship years before, rebounded into breaking another and then short-sightedly messed up a third that could have been a keeper. I’d spent years licking my wounds and getting my head clear, so I was ready for something new. I opted for the girl pup.
And so it came to pass that I picked up this new pup, born in early April, on a lovely Father’s Day in June of 1994. We went through the usual adjustment period, there were some rough spots, but it didn’t take long for a real love bond to form on both sides. There is nothing quite as joyful and fun as a young dog!
That December, our department, a great group of people, held their Christmas luncheon downtown at one of the finer eateries. The perfect day begins with my drive to that party. I’d worked at home that day, so my drive took me from my suburban townhouse into downtown. That day we had a snowfall, the wonderful winter kind of snowfall with giant snowflakes drifting slowly down.
It made the drive fun. I love driving through snow; there’s something slightly magical about zipping through the falling flakes. In 1994 we didn’t have Google Maps or GPS like we do now, so finding the right place to park was a bit of a crap shoot. Downtown is filled with parking ramps; the trick is choosing the right one.
I picked on that seemed fairly close to where I thought the restaurant was—turned out to be about five blocks. As with many cities in winter country, downtown has a network of second-story skyways that let you navigate without ever going outside.
So I wandered through the skyways, enjoying the falling snow outside, seeking my destination. I’d given myself plenty of time (thinking I might do a bit of exploring, downtown was not hugely familiar to me), so I arrived in good time.
The restaurant was a bit upscale and very trendy. The food was in that nouvelle cuisine style where presentation and unusual ingredients are key elements. With some trepidation (at least on my part) we ordered some pizza appetizers that were unlike anything Domino’s ever dreamed of. And they were delicious!
The meal, the service, the camaraderie, everything was perfect.
After dinner, a few of use went downstairs to a separate establishment, a brew pub. The luncheon had ended long before happy hour, so the place was fairly empty and we got a booth.
And the fresh beer flowed as did the conversation. The place filled and the energy level rose. At one point, the joint served a round of free beers to all patrons to celebrate having been open one year. They tapped a special anniversary batch of apple-spiced ale. Delicious!
This next part I’m not proud of, but it goes along with the perfectness of the whole day. I got as drunk as you can possibly get and still be having a good time. Not falling down, not out of control, but well and truly bombed. Perfectly drunk, if you know what I mean.
One of my co-workers had his boyfriend come pick him up, and they drove me to my car. The snow had stopped, and the evening was still fairly young, so I drove (yes, drove; the part I’m not proud of) down to my best friend’s house to hang out with him for a while, play video games and drink some more beer.
At one point I realized I was seeing two images of my beer bottle, and I have a rule that once you start seeing double, it’s definitely time to stop drinking. So I left that half-finished bottle alone. (But I can still remember, almost 20 years later, that it was a bottle of Summit’s Winter Ale.)
Shortly after I decided it was time to head home. And here’s the thing. I’d left my not-even-one-year-old pup around 11:30 that morning. It was now a bit over 13 hours she’d been confined in the house. I hadn’t learned about kennel training at that point, and we’d been having minor issues with house training.
I assumed I’d be returning home to pungent odor and damp carpet. But the day had been so perfect, so completely crystal perfect so far that I just shrugged. Such is the price you pay for fun sometimes.
On the drive home I hit fog, heavy, pea-soup fog. I love fog, so it just added to the perfectness of the day. (Fog always makes me think of sexy evenings in the girl’s dormitory in college where evening fog was common—college was close to the ocean.)
The fog was so thick, couldn’t see more than about 10 feet, that I took a wrong right turn at one point. Not to worry, I knew the streets there were grid-like, so another three rights put me back on my course (always remember: two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do).
Eventually I got home (yep, still hammered) and lo and behold, my happy puppy had held her own! The day continued being perfect! It was now after 2 AM, but we’d missed our evening walk, and I wasn’t particularly sleepy, and the fog was still thick, so naturally we went for a long walk.
It was December and close to freezing, so ice crystals formed on our leading edges. Sam had the cutest ice rime forming on her upraised tail and on the front edge of her ears. That was a, pardon the pun, cool sight. And the fog absorbed the few noises there are at that hour, so we walked in a silent white cocoon all our own.
Among our family dogs, two were strictly outside dogs (except for rare occasions), one was confined to the basement when indoors, and another spent days outside, slept in the kitchen (sometimes) and was otherwise mostly only allowed in the family room or living room under supervision. My parents liked, but didn’t really get into, dogs.
And I’ve read that, once you allow a dog to sleep on your bed, it’s almost impossible to undo, so you’d better be sure about making that choice.
That night, after Sam and I got back and I finally went to bed (it was Saturday by then), I looked over at Sam on her cushion near my bed and said, “You wanna sleep on the bed? Come on!”
It was like she was waiting for it. In a single bound she launches off the cushion and up onto the bed.
And that was her place for the rest of her life.
Which ended long before I was ready.
I still really miss her.
October 11th, 2012 at 7:36 am
Sam sounds like a wonderful dog and companion. Thanks for sharing this touching piece.
October 11th, 2012 at 4:50 pm
She was at that! (I have a couple more posts in the works that relate some of the fun we had together. As you’ll see, I’m convinced that dog had a sense of humor!)
October 11th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
🙂 What a great story.
October 11th, 2012 at 4:51 pm
Thanks! She was a great dog; one of the best I ever knew!
October 11th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
October 11th, 2012 at 4:51 pm
October 11th, 2012 at 6:25 pm
What a lovely story. Anyone with a heart falls in love with their pet. They give so much back and take so little. I can never ever forget the dogs who’ve gone from my life. They are always with me. You’re very lucky to have experienced this and I hope you’ll have another dog soon.
October 11th, 2012 at 7:03 pm
Thanks! To me dogs are the most special of pets. No other animal is so interactive with humans, and that connection goes back a long, long way. Humans and dogs… an amazing, wonderful, joyful partnership!
There’s no way I could give a dog the life it deserves right now, but when I retire, there will be a dog in my life again!
October 12th, 2012 at 4:29 am
Wishing you a happy retirement, then, for sure! I plan on having at least three dogs when I retire. The more the merrier!
October 12th, 2012 at 7:08 am
Thanks, and likewise! Dogs are pack animals, and would likely be happier having more dogs around. I always felt a little bad that Sam’s pack consisted of only us two. In some regards she was happier when I was married, since there were five of us. (But in other regards, she was unhappy: less attention, we often couldn’t fit in the evening walk, my wife was prone to emotional outbursts, and–even after making it clear the dog sleeping on the bed was one of my very few non-negotiables–the wife put up such a fuss that I had to set up a bedside bed for Sam… all reasons why I’m no longer married.)
October 12th, 2012 at 5:41 pm
Whew. For me, that’s serious incompatibility when a spouse won’t let the dog in the bed.
October 12th, 2012 at 6:01 pm
Same here. From the beginning, I made it clear how important Sam was in my life and that the bed thing was one of my few non-negotiables. Short version is, she changed the rules after we were married (and, as my buddy believes, after I’d sold my old place and had no easy retreat).
October 12th, 2012 at 6:13 pm
That’s just harsh and rottenly mean. Gee. But, you broke free and that’s what counts.
October 12th, 2012 at 10:43 pm
Well, ironically, I was broken free, but either way, yes, free. (Actually, I was “Born Free,” but now I’m expensive! :lol:)
August 31st, 2013 at 11:51 pm
“…that I had to set up a bedside bed for Sam… all reasons why I’m no longer married.” 😀
“Actually, I was “Born Free,” but now I’m expensive!” 😀
September 2nd, 2013 at 11:02 pm
And worth every penny! 😆
September 3rd, 2013 at 4:12 am
I know. You are precious indeed.
Whew! For a while I was worried you got upset or something (which was caused by your brief silence). I’m glad everything seems okay. I hope you are doing great, my dear pal. Take good care.
Enjoy your week. 🙂
September 4th, 2013 at 10:23 am
I’m doing fine! I’m certainly not upset with you, if that’s a concern. I am, maybe, a little upset that WP is so much like Facebore. I keep asking myself if I really want to be a blogger after all; so far I’ve been really enjoying puttering around with my own stuff and blogging is feeling like work. I’m kind of waiting to feel the tug of blogging again… until (or unless) I do, I’m not pushing very hard to be around here. Just barely keeping up with the few comments that trickle in.
October 11th, 2012 at 9:06 pm
Perfect story of a perfect day! Loved all the descriptions and heartfelt comments that add so much. Samantha was lucky to have you as her “daddy’ and you were lucky to have her, too.
October 11th, 2012 at 9:16 pm
Thank you. Yes, she was a very special dog!
October 11th, 2012 at 9:08 pm
This one touched my heart. We were never allowed pets growing up, and I’ve overcompensated by getting my kids three dogs and a cat. All simultaneously. My daughter’s dog is named Dobby. He sleeps in her room. She has a trundle bed that we pull out for him. But every night, after I tuck her in and turn to leave the room, she pats her mattress and invites him up. So the last thing I hear and see as I head down the hall is Dobby settling in beside her. I so very much hope he lives a long, healthy life. And thank you for sharing these lovely memories of your Samantha.
October 11th, 2012 at 9:18 pm
Three dogs and a cat! That’s quite the full house!! (Dobby after the elf in Harry Potter?) I’m sorry you didn’t get to have pets growing up (every kid should!), but I’m glad your kids do! Bravo!!
October 12th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
What a beautiful day. Days like that have some sort of magic that goes along with them. The best days of my life have always been the ordinary days that sneak up on me when I am least expecting it. And what a wonderful dog! I’m sorry about your loss but I am glad you wrote about this perfect day. I enjoyed it very much.
October 12th, 2012 at 5:59 pm
I’m glad you enjoyed it! You’re right: both the great dog and the perfect day… just happened! The best things in life often do!
October 11th, 2014 at 9:01 am
Perfect tale. Perfect tail. Perfect ale.
October 11th, 2014 at 11:36 am
Thank you, Hariod. Life doesn’t seem to grant us many of those times where everything isn’t just right, but memorable. That afternoon, evening and night is one of my most cherished memories.
Speaking of ale, I was looking to see if anyone around here sold Innis & Gunn, but it looks like the closest place is in Illinois — 300+ miles away. So it may take a while to try that one. I picked up a new brown ale by a Colorado brewery, Avery, to commemorate this week. It’s called Ellie’s Brown Ale and features a chocolate lab, after whom the beer is named, prominently on the label. The label also cutely says that it is, “Lab tested.” A fitting discovery for the week and occasion!
October 11th, 2014 at 12:01 pm
Did Sam also have ‘the sweet and somewhat nutty character’ declared by the brewers of Ellie’s Brown Ale? Nellie certainly did, but then she was a Border Collie and they’re all bonkers.
If ever you manage to track down any Innis & Gunn, then I’d recommend going for the ‘original’ brew, and not their fancier derivatives:
October 11th, 2014 at 12:43 pm
She did, indeed. As I’ll relate in the next post, that dog definitely had a sense of humor and was an utter tease!
That advice about (at least starting with) original versions is good advice, in general, I think. I will keep it in mind. (I can’t believe not a single place in the Twin Cities serves it. I’m guessing someone must, but that knowledge wasn’t shared with the interweb tubes.)
April 24th, 2015 at 11:24 am
People have such different ways of having dogs, setting boundaries. I’ve never understood the whole outside dog thing, but I did have boundaries for sure. I didn’t want a dog, but I promised my husband we’d get one after our overseas trip. He wasn’t sure I meant it, so he kept putting off the search. Finally, I brought it up and wondered if he was still interested. (Truth was, I was just getting this weird medical thing that I have, and I secretly wanted a dog too.) He waffled some more and wasn’t sure he wanted a dog. Finally, on a whim, he walked into the pound and there was Geordie. Boom. That was it. He was most definitely our dog.
For years before getting Geordie I was really picky about making sure our future dog would be well-behaved. Sleeping with us in our bed was not an option. (Wait wait! Don’t hate me!) When we took Geordie into our house, he ran around frantically, looking at us, looking at things, wondering what the rules were. I’d already decided where he could go, so it wasn’t a problem (especially since there was only one place he couldn’t go—our bed). I soon realized that he can’t jump into bed with us because it’s too high for him, but he’s always allowed in my office bed and on the couches and such. Then one morning while my husband was sleeping, I thought he’d like to wake up to Geordie in his arms. So I picked up Geordie and put him there. Oh boy were they happy. What’s amazing is that Geordie seems to know that it’s an occasional thing. He never begs to be let up…it’s kind of amazing.
I’ve since broken every single rule with Geordie, except feeding at the table. If we feed him scraps, (and only certain scraps that I know won’t be unhealthy), I make sure to take all the dishes to the kitchen first so he doesn’t associate the dinner table with getting human food. Then we wait a little while before putting a scrap in his bowl. This works really well with Geordie. He just sits quietly under our feet and my husband gets to spoil him with the scraps a little later. Compromise is possible!
April 24th, 2015 at 11:57 am
Yeah, I’m pretty boundary-free when it comes to my dogs. I try to keep some separation with regard to human food versus dog food, but I often let her lick the pots or plates. I’d give her empty margarine tubs to lick clean, for example, and I always wondered how much awareness she had of the degree of emptiness. When those tubs are nearly empty, your butter knife makes scraping sounds, and I’m pretty sure she connected those sounds with the pending arrival of another tub to lick clean. But it always seemed like she was giving me the eye as if to say, “Hey, leave a little for me!”
It is fun to watch a dog explore a new place. You can tell when they’ve decided they’ve seen it, because they start paying attention to you again. 🙂