Dog Tales: Memories

Father’s Day, 1994

This post rises from deep in my Drafts Folder. I started it back in 2012 as a followup to the Sad Day; Perfect Day post. That one recalls a special 1994 memory about Samantha, my dog (who died a little before her time, in 2004). The second post would catalog various memories highlighting how much fun we had and how much she meant to me.

Two years later I did post a version of that eulogy: Dog Tales: Games. That post was actually the second beat to a post the day before, Sam’s Final Walk, which described the disposition of her ashes.

For Father’s Day, I thought it appropriate to post once more…

As I describe in the Perfect Day post, Sam came into my life on Father’s Day. It wasn’t planned that way, and the day had no deep meaning to me (other than regards my own father who was pretty far gone into Alzheimer’s by then).

In those first days I was sure I’d made a mistake. It’s almost a classic story theme: the independent individual suddenly responsible for a young life and… well, panicking.

But that’s just act one. In the arc of act two, the surprised parent finds strength and learns valuable lessons about self and others. Finally, in act three, the old and young bond and find love. The credits roll on happiness.

Waiting for me to come home. (Taken by my then step-daughter.)

The closest I ever came to being an actual parent (of little humans) was having two step-kids. A decade earlier I had talked about talking about getting married with a woman who had two kids. (A weird echo: In both cases a daughter older than the son by ten years.)

Those were wonderful, but relatively brief, experiences. Sam was my effective child for eleven years. (Dogs are maybe roughly comparable to having a perpetual one-year-old.) I fed her, cleaned up after her, worried about her health, and climbed the walls when she was in surgery.

Other than parents and sister, no other living being has shared day-to-day constant life with me that long. There have been family pets, and I’ve co-owned pets, but Sam was mine alone. That she came into my life on Father’s Day is one of those jaw-dropping moments of synchronicity that makes me wonder.

All the humans had free choice and wandered off. One simply cannot put a leash on people. I wouldn’t if I could (other than for mutually agreed fun, of course). That treacly hippie-era quote about setting love free and if it’s meant to be it’ll return, well it’s actually right on (to borrow another hippie phrase).

One of the greatest gifts life offers is someone choosing to love.

§ §

As for a trip down memory lane, the Dog Tales post covered many of them.

I’m especially fond of the “huge water puddle” story. Watching her zip back and forth at hyperdog speed was a hoot. And a joy knowing my water dog was, in fact, a water dog.

Near the same location in that park, the ground ramps down about four feet from the park level to the sidewalk level. That bank faces east, putting it in the lee of most storms. In particular, snow storms.

The snow sweeping across the park hits the bank and suddenly finds four more feet of air beneath it. A lot of snow drops out of the wind then, building a serious snowbank against the bank. Nice deep fluffy snow.

So puppy Sam and I are walking that winter, she’s maybe nine months old then, and she discovers this deep snow. Snow she disappears down into.

So here’s my little Black Lab pup bounding out of one snow hole she’d created to creating the next. Bounce, bounce, bounce, she’d flash into sight just long enough to arc over and down into the snow again.

Nearly the same spot in the park and I’m laughing my ass off at my energetic hysterical dog.

Samantha loved playing in the snow ever after!

(Our walks together inspired some silly lyrics to an old child’s song.)

§

That park had baseball fields and a hockey rink. We especially liked that hockey rink.

In the summer, it was a good place to play fetch, because it was a large walled-off area. There was only one open entrance, so if I stayed there, my puppy couldn’t go running off.

I came to learn she wouldn’t go running off, at least not for long, so I let her roam off-leash as often as possible. Even leashed, I used the longest of those retractable ones.

The first time I let her off-leash we were wandering through what used to be a corn field but was now being turned into a condo tract. Lots of dug up dirt made interesting smells, and she loved running up the various hills of that dirt.

It was night and she just vanished into the night. After several minutes I figured, crap, I guess my new dog has left me. Then suddenly, there she was at my side. Where she stayed for another decade. Only cancer parted us.

Back to that hockey rink: In the winter it was filled with ice and Sam seemed to get a kick out of sliding on it. She used to grin and come back for more when I’d push her around. I think she especially enjoyed the effort involved in running after the Kong toy or ball I’d throw for her. Ice gave things a new level of difficulty!

§

She never cared much for tug-of-war, perhaps because it was too static. (Or maybe because she realized she could never win and I was just toying with her.)

She’d much rather run. Sometimes on early morning walks, when the park was completely empty, I’d let her off the leash, and she would zoom to the other end, turn around, and zoom back. A bit of energy burned, she’d start running around checking stuff out. It was a joy to watch her move.

She did love fetch and catch and would play that until my arm fell off. Training her to catch was pretty funny though. I’d have her sit. Then I’d back up about ten feet and toss a treat at her.

Which bounced off her surprised face. But, hey, a treat! After a few more face bounces she starts to get the idea and tries to snatch the treat out of the air. Over time she got amazing good at it.

I gave her deliberate high-speed training as a pup. We’d play games with fast moving toys, which I’d often spin rapidly to train her sight and her paws.

I’d play keep-away with her a lot to develop her dexterity, and that dog got her revenge in one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen any dog do.

Grab it! Grab it! (Ha! Ha! Made you miss!)

She’d hold a toy in her mouth, something that stuck out for potential grabbing. She’d approach, daring you to make the grab. You would, and that devil dog would move her head the merest fraction to make you miss. She was a perfect judge of the precise minimum movement — it was a nefarious ninja skill!

She took to the no-bite training big time. (You yelp and end play. Most dogs pick up on it.) She was super adverse to any contact between her teeth and my skin. Most dogs get it, but she really got it.

(It’s actually kind of amazing how good dogs can be with their mouths and bite control. My pal Bentley, who is more inclined to roughhouse, has astonishing bite control. She knows exactly what she’s doing.)

§

Sam’s first car rides freaked her out. The very first I had to stop and let her out to recover.

Over time she came to love car rides (we always went somewhere cool; she even liked going to the vet). She’d put her front paws on the console and stare out the front window.

Except on the way home. Tuckered out, often wet from a swim in a lake, she’d crash in the back until we got close to home. Somehow the smells of our neighborhood let her know we were near, and she’d wake up.

Our time together is one of two times in life I’ve been in seriously good shape. At our peak, she and I used to run 5K every other morning. (We’d walk the 5K on alternate mornings just to enjoy the morning.) In the evenings we’d take an even longer walk.

The other time I had a work out friend. We’d run and then hit the gym. It’s always easier with a partner and/or a commitment. A partner eggs one on when one isn’t feeling it.

So does a commitment. That Father’s Day, when I was on my way to pick up my new puppy, I stopped by a pet store to get supplies. I also bought a couple of books about Labs. One of them said Labs have to be walked three times a day.

Yikes! I have a job, you know. But, on the spot, I committed to walking her twice a day. I kept that commitment. (My marriage put a crimp in my commitments to Sam on several counts. Not the reason for the divorce, but definitely had me considering it a lot.)

So glad I did. (Commit, I mean.) The wonderful thing about daily walks is seeing the change of seasons, feeling the wind and sun, watching the weather evolve, and just generally getting out of the damn house.

In the spring I especially love watching life return to trees and plants. One sees the first buds appear, then leaves, then everything is green.

§ §

This has gotten longer than I expected. There are still stories to tell, but perhaps I’ll leave them for another time.

There is the delicate stomach she had all her life. As a pup, I used to let her shred cardboard cartons (such as soda and beer come in). She loved reducing them to little pieces, but I wonder if chemicals in the cardboard might have contributed to her eventual cancer.

There are all those people who told me, “Labs don’t settle down until they’re about five,” and that turned out to be very true. She was a hard dog to take pictures of, because she was always moving.

The Minneapolis paper did an article about home buying costs, and it centered on my buying my current condo. The article’s author wanted a picture of me and Sam to go with the article.

There is the sorrow that I bought a condo with no stairs because she’d had ACL surgery once and might need it for the other knee. But she only got to live here for a year or so.

And there is a key story about an enduring gift she gave me. It’s a crushing moment of awful self-discovery and regret. It’s not a tale I’ve decided to tell in public yet. Maybe I never will. Suffice to say we taught each other a great deal about life.

I still really miss her sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade the joy of our time together for anything.

§ §

The punchline is that I might not be a Lab Guy any more. Definitely a Dog Guy, but having gotten to know a more opinionated breed, I find I like them even more.

I’ve long had a grudging secret slight agreement with the disdain cat owners have (or pretend to have) for ‘sloppy overly affectionate dogs — such whore for attention!’ And with some dogs, it is pretty intense.

Who did you just call a “spoiled couch potato”?

I’ve found I really like a dog with more of her own mind.

Stay with dogs, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

17 responses to “Dog Tales: Memories

  • Wyrd Smythe

    (Seven more posts to hit 1000!)

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Do you ever think about getting another dog? I know my dog, Jordi, died in 2009, and although I miss her terribly, I’ve never been tempted to get another dog.

    Although like you, I’m very much a dog person. I don’t really have anything against cats. If I found myself in possession of one, I’d probably end up loving it too. But dogs seem much better at reciprocating our affection.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve thought about it, especially since I met Bentley (who is just a hoot). OTOH, I dog-sit Bentley for 10 days in February while her mom visits her folks in Florida, and a few weekends during the summer when mom takes off with the gal pals (Bentley will be with me next weekend, in fact). I’m not sure how Bentley would take to my having a dog (or how my dog would take to a visitor). Might be a ton of fun or a major headache.

      But when Sam died, that was a rough time for me. Just divorced and they’d closed my department at work so I had to scramble to find another position within the company in 60 days or end my years of service. I found a new position with two days to spare, and that new position turned out to be a lot of work. (First I had to rewrite the existing code suite, and then create a new one for a different system.) There just wasn’t time for a new dog and over time I got used to the freedom it entailed.

      How about you; how come you never took the plunge again?

      Cats are okay, but I see them as feral. I had a manager who loved cats and, at one point, had three. She came to work several times with wounds from her cats suddenly attacking her (for no reason). Cat owners seem to take this in stride, but cats have way too many sharp pointy bits for my taste.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      BTW, I keep forgetting to mention that I’m reading Leviathan Wakes (and loving it). I’m at the point where Miller is on the people-mover to Eros talking to the missionary. Looking forward to reading the rest! I’ll probably have to watch the series again after I do.

      (My morning walk and grocery shopping are done, so the rest of my day is that book.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On the dog, I think it’s the same for me on freedom. Jordi’s last couple of years were painful, and my life was seriously constrained as a result. I enjoy the ability to just leave and travel without having to make arrangements. (Not that I’m doing any of that these days.)

        The Expanse books are one of the few series that really suck me in for long periods anymore. I’m currently reading Neal Asher’s ‘The Human’. While his books are filled with idea candy, I don’t have the same connection with the characters that I get with the Expanse books. As a result, I usually don’t binge on Asher’s the way I do with the Expanse. It’s going to be a real bummer when that series is done.

        Come to think of it, the last book should be dropping sometime soon. They’re usually pretty decent about getting a book out a year, although that’s slipped a bit since the show started.
        And being the last one, it may take them more time to get it out.

        Anyway, glad you’re enjoying it!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It can be heartbreaking dealing with an older dog, or a sick one.

        I’m hoping the library has all the books for The Expanse. (I haven’t checked yet.) If not, I’m hooked enough to buy them. The characters are very well-drawn, and it’s neat getting to know Holden and Miller. The structure of alternating chapters between their points of view works very well, and it gets especially interesting once they meet and start working together.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Definitely on the heartbreak. Jordi died the night before I had an appointment to bring her to the vet, which I’m sure would have resulted in a recommendation to have her put down. I buried her in the backyard with her favorite toys.

        The POV landscape expands in the later books. I think what the writers are good at is producing sympathetic characters. I care what happens to them. (At least most of them.) That’s something a lot of other writers, particularly in the SF genre, often don’t do enough work on.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Oh, that’s a tough one, my condolences. Sam had an anal cancer removed successfully, but then a month later a fast-acting bone cancer took her down. Poor thing that had loved walking couldn’t manage more than a block or so. So hard to see. It really rips your guts out.

        Yeah, I figured they have to introduce new characters at some point. Earth and Mars getting into the game. Looks like I’ll finish the first book tonight; got about 100 pages left.

        One question I have: The assumption at this point is that Phoebe was a weapon aimed at Earth, but which got trapped by Saturn. My question is how were the aliens smart enough to target Earth, but didn’t take Saturn into account? Seems like, if you’re good enough to target a planet of a distance solar system, you wouldn’t ignore a giant honking ice giant. Just a minor quibble; loving the book!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Ah, so you’re done with the Eros escape? I was disappointed the show pared that back, although I suppose budget was an issue, and having zombies probably would have been seen as copying Game of Thrones.

        It’s been a while since I read the book, but if I recall correctly, the Saturn thing was a goof made across interstellar distances. It’s something of a conceit, but then think about all the stupid mistakes made on routine human projects. And, if I recall correctly, it’s presented as human speculation, which gives the authors plausible deniability, if necessary.

        A more basic question might be why the aliens didn’t notice the failure, but that gets explained later. (Having seen the show through season 3, you know the answer.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yes, the Eros escape, very exciting! I can see what you mean about zombies seeming a bit derivative. Action scenes like that are expensive, too, so cost might have been factor as well.

        Ha! So the god-like aliens maybe had a units conversion error. 😀 We’ve lost at least one space mission to exactly that!

        And, yes, it (so far) is entirely speculation. (I am now so looking forward to reading the next books!) I just read the chapter where the Nauvoo misses Eros…

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Well technically the Nauvoo doesn’t so much miss as Eros dodges! I remember Naomi doing some quick calculations to convince herself it’s advanced tech and not anything supernatural. Although we’re in Clarke’s third law territory regardless.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, yes, the Nauvoo misses because Eros dodges. And then flies away very fast! Yeah, Naomi realized the heat rise is waste energy, which means entropy, which means physics. Although I just read the interview at the end where the author explicitly says this isn’t hard SF (hard-ish, I guess 🙂 ). There’s also that line about the Epstein drive working “efficiently.” 😀

        I’ve got Caliban’s War on hold at the library. Says 20 days, but might happen sooner if I’m lucky. Depends on how fast whoever has got it now reads. (I gulped down Leviathan’s Wake in two days.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Ty Franck (one of the authors) is usually adamant that the Expanse isn’t hard SF. Although it seems far from the space fantasy of Star Wars. (The authors did do a Star Wars novel, which I haven’t read.) I think the reason he stipulates it is to avoid having science geeks challenge him to endless conversations about the plausibility of various things, like the Epstein drive.

        Franck also admitted on Twitter that the economics in the novels are bogus. He noted that there are no real economics for colonizing the solar system. And he said they’re always purposefully vague about dates and timelines, because they know someone would do the orbital calculations and tell them that Ceres, Mars, or whatever weren’t in the right position on those dates for that timeline.

        It’s worth noting the the old time space opera novels (which the Expanse channels to a large degree) weren’t particularly hard either, even by the science of their day.

        20 days seems like a long wait. Of course, since book 3, I’ve been having to wait a year or more between each one. Hope they get it to you sooner!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Although it seems far from the space fantasy of Star Wars.”

        I got a kick out of Denis Villeneuve (who directed the new Dune movie) saying something along the lines of it being a ‘Star Wars for adults.’ As I’m sure you know, I’ve always been more on the Star Trek side of things than the Star Wars side. I’ve long said Star Wars is a fairy tale for kids (something even Lucas has said).

        That said, episodes VII, VIII, and IX, do seem to try to break that mold somewhat. (At least as much as a Disney film can.)

        Villeneuve did Arrival, which I thought was outstanding, so I have high hopes for Dune. (OTOH, he also did Blade Runner 2049, which I didn’t find quite so outstanding, but it had a very hard act to follow. I think I would have liked it more if it wasn’t a Blade Runner remake/sequel. I think it might be worth watching again with an open mind.)

        But I can appreciate the freedom of not trying to be hard SF, but hard-ish. As I think we’ve both said, the show is far better than most that way, and the books are even better. I can’t say there was anything I really objected to or which took me out of the story. (Couple of times my antenna twitched is all. 😀 )

        “Franck also admitted on Twitter that the economics in the novels are bogus.”

        Yeah, I think we’ve talked about that before. In the show, the ice economy didn’t feel quite right, but the more I think about it, even though ice is plentiful, it still has to be obtained and processed, so I can see an industry built around it. (I do think it might be more “official” than depicted given its importance. It’s not clear to me if the Canterbury was an independent operation, but it seemed so.)

        The book does mention how large the population of the belt is and mentions how that many people consume a lot of water and air. And many belters in the book talk about the different mindset belters have about the air that Earthers take for granted.

        “…because they know someone would do the orbital calculations and tell them that Ceres, Mars, or whatever weren’t in the right position on those dates for that timeline.”

        LOL! Yeah, you know they would. It would be a major pain to get an astronomy program, run it forward, and try to get all the orbital stuff right. (A couple of times I did sense liberties with transit times, but nothing very annoying. I’m not, for instance, particular moved to do the math with acceleration to see if the distances involved are actually possible in the time suggested, but I have a sneaking suspicion they aren’t. Space is really big…)

        Good point about older space opera novels. Even opera isn’t realistic; kind of known for that, actually. 🙂

        That 20 days does have me chomping a the bit a little. Seriously considering buying them, but maybe if I watch the show again up to the point Eros impacts Venus and find some other distractions the time will pass.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I saw that article on Dune, and his remarks about the adult Star Wars. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s able to pull together.

        I actually enjoyed Blade Runner 2049. I know a lot of old time Blade Runner fans hated it, but whatever aspects of the original they were attached to, it wasn’t ones I shared. I thought the new movie did a good job of capturing the existential conundrums and bleakness of the original, but with a faster pace that I liked.

        There were things from a scientific view I found questionable, such as the idea of implanting someone else’s memories, but those were in the original, so it wasn’t a unique sin of the new movie.

        So the fact that the guy behind Arrival and BR 2049 is doing Dune has me more optimistic about it than I’ve been until now.

        One thing I do think the Expanse books get right is the way AI exists in their systems, as functionality without a personality. Although one thing they get wrong is the idea that humans would still be doing the dangerous work. Admittedly it’s hard to tell stories about humans sitting at base drinking coffee while the robots do all the scary stuff.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I do need to watch Blade Runner 2049 again. There definitely was a lot to like (and I think some of his tonal notes in that will do good in Dune. It gives me hope that Dune will be good. It’s another of those really hard books to film — there is so much internal thought in the narrative.)

        “Admittedly it’s hard to tell stories about humans sitting at base drinking coffee while the robots do all the scary stuff.”

        Heh, yeah. About all you can do then is AI uprising stories.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    That last picture is my pal Bentley, who I just dog-sat this weekend. She really is a great dog!

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