Life without Sam

One year ago we were getting settled in Cholula. My two biggest anxieties had nothing to do with living in Mexico – they were that my grandpa would pass away while I was gone, or that Samson would.

They lived through the winter and on into spring. Grandpa grew increasingly dissatisfied with his quality of life on dialysis and at several points talked about going off of it, but soldiered on. Samson continued to lose muscle and fur, but still trotted along for his morning walks. When we got back to Ohio in May, I had the luxury of spending most of the summer with them.

And then they both passed away. First Grandpa, just a couple weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. And then, a few weeks later, Samson.

Grandpa eventually got to the point where it didn’t make sense to continue dialysis. He had made peace with the idea, and he’d talked about it long enough that we’d made some peace with it too. I will forever appreciate the honesty with which he talked about what it’s like to live to 92. He was buried in the church cemetary on the most beautiful midsummer day.

About a week after Grandpa’s funeral we made the trek back to Boston and moved into the first floor of an old Victorian. Samson came too. One week later we let him outside late at night and he tumbled in the dark and rolled down the slope of the front lawn. Without any muscle he couldn’t regain his footing, and he fell off a ledge down to the pavement.

It’s hard to write this without crying.

The day of his fall he got up and hobbled into the kitchen, so I hoped that he was just stiff and with time he’d recover. But he never did. Over the next two days he lost more and more mobility until he couldn’t get up. The vet said he’d likely injured his spine, and it wasn’t something that could be fixed. I remember thinking that I’d always assumed Sam would lose interest in food, and that would be my sign that he was ready to go. But there he was lying immobile in his bed, willing the vet to return to the treat jar on her counter.

The night before he fell Samson asked to sleep in bed with us. He hadn’t done that in years. It seems crazy to suggest it, because after all it was an accident…the fall…but Read and I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow he knew something.

When he took his last little raggedly breath, a long, low, sad wail came out of me. My baby dog. My once in a lifetime dog. I counted once and we’d been to 24 states together. Two cross-country moves. Something like ten apartments. He was my – and then ourconstant protector and companion.

So now we’re trying to figure out life without him. In some ways it’s easier – not having to be home at certain points or carry a baby while letting him outside – but still a sense of loss hangs over so many moments. I restarted my job and R. started writing his dissertation and the baby started daycare, so there’s been all kinds of new to keep us busy. But sometimes in the evening we walk to the neighborhood dog park just to watch them play and run around, and talk about how if Sam were there, he’d be sitting off to the side with us, watching the action and pondering the next chapter of his yet-unpublished-memoir.

In the mood for more Samson stories?
The story of how he found me
That time he jumped off the balcony
That time I got a letter about his threatening behavior
That time he returned to Hocking Hills



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  2. becca · September 14, 2015

    katie and read, this totally hit me right in the feels. like the others i cried when I first heard the news, and again while reading this. Samson was so so loved and such an incredible dog ambassador. also, he was the cutest woofy there ever was. i’m so sorry that you lost both your grandfather and your dog so close together. but i’m so thankful that you were back from Mexico and had some time with both. sending all my love from OR.

  3. lsaspacey · September 12, 2015

    So sorry for your loss. I felt so bad for you having to leave him behind before and now I’m sad that he had to leave you behind. Take comfort in the fact you got to reconnect with him beforehand and that he waited for you to come back to him, baby and all. Take care.

  4. Caroline · September 12, 2015

    I am so very sorry to read of your losses. My lovely MIL passed away this summer and we have lost two dogs and the heartache is so painful.
    You write beautifully, capturing the emotion so well.

  5. Jessica Adams · September 8, 2015

    Ok, Katie, I cried reading this, and when I first heard the news. He was SUCH a good dog that it’s almost difficult to get across how wonderful he was. He was truly something special. And even though he wasn’t my dog, he has a special place in my heart – we spent some good times together! ❤ Sending love & healing to you & the family.

  6. tami · September 8, 2015

    i felt too sad after reading this so i had to go back and read all of the other sam entries to cheer myself up….

  7. carmar · September 8, 2015

    Oh I’m so sorry. I am crying, too. What a wonderful dog.

  8. Connie Womack · September 7, 2015

    So sorry for your loss. It was also hard to read and not cry.

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