Alex at 18 months

Dog-related Reactions

to Travels with Samantha

I got Blue when he was an 11 week old German Shorthair Pointer. He was 1 1/2 months shy of being 11 years old when he died. You mentioned that it took about a year for you and George to develop your special friendship. The very first night I had Blue, while he was running at full speed, exploring his new home, his rear leg struck the protuding end of my barbells. He let out a yelp, and without hesitation bee-lined to the couch where I was sitting and dived into my lap. As I petted him and tried to ease his pain and quiet his crying, brief as it was, a bond developed between us that was never broken. That very first night, right then and there, Blue became 'my dog'. And although he developed some very close friendships, and touched every member of my family, that never changed. Blue WAS 'my dog'. With the exception of when I was away for one term of school, Blue and I were always together. He was my running companion. He was my backpacking companion. For awhile I sold heavy equipment to loggers, and he was my work companion. But he developed other friendships. Especially my mother. During that term of school while I was away, he was hit by a motorcycle. My brother ran into the street to find Blue lying with a hole the size of my fist in his chest. On the street next to Blue was his dinner, which he had lost when he was hit. My brother scooped him up and he and my father rushed Blue to the Vet. Blue survived the broken ribs, the punctured lung, the reconstructive leg surgery. And during his recovery, while he could not stand up to take his meals or water, he stayed in my bedroom, with my mother, who never left his side. My mother nursed him back to health, and would boast to visitor's that she had 'raised' Blue. But, she was always sure to add, 'But he's Garth's dog'. One Sunday afternoon, while hiking the 'French Pete' in the Cascade Mountains with my parents, we had Blue on a leash, just as the rules so dictated. We heard some barking in the distance. The barking drew nearer, and as we rounded a bend, the largest dog I had ever seen was running toward us at breakneak speed. He was headed toward Blue. While Blue was extremely large for his bread, weighing in at a sveldt 85 pounds, I feared he would have been no match for this other dog that looked like a pony by comparison. I had heard never to get between two fighting dogs, and not to restrict a threatend dog by keeping him on his leash. I was prepared to turn Blue loose to fend for himself as best he could. With this small freight train running full speed toward Blue, barking viciously, my mother, all sixty plus years of her, jumped directly into the path of the charging dog and shouted 'Shoo!'. I don't know why, but the dog stopped dead in its tracks and just stood there, staring at my white haired mother who was standing between it and its intended next meal, Blue. At that moment the other dog's owners came running around the bend, in hot pursuit, and got their dog under control. My mother loved ol' Blue, and willingly put herself on the line for him, just as she would have done for any of her children. All I can say is that my mother was watching out for Blue that day, and that God must have been watching out for my mother. Later in life, I had a roommate who was going through a bitter divorce. He was a forester, and would work weekends on his own tree farm. He became attached to Blue, and would take Blue with him to his tree farm every weekend. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, at about 5 a.m. Blue would quietly leave my bedroom and lie down in front of my roommate's bedroom door. Don't ask me how Blue knew when it was Saturday, but he did. And when he would return from his day of unrestricted romping, Blue was happy. While he was generally always happy, he had a special 'smile' on his face when he had been running. Running was Blue's passion, and these weekends spent on my roommate's tree farm were special for both of them. Except for the last one. Late Sunday night they arrived home and Blue was smiling, but limping. His right front foreleg, which was normal sized that morning, was now badly swollen. I was concerned, but not too concerned as I figured he had probably stepped in a hole while running and had sprained it. The next day, Monday, I took him to the Vet. While I was hoping that nothing was broken, I was prepared for the worst. Or so I thought. There was no way I could have been prepared for what I was about to hear. 'What we hope it is, is a bacterial infection', the Vet explained. 'This must be bad,' I said to myself, 'if they are HOPING for a bacterial infection'. 'But, we feel that there is a strong possibility that it is a particular type, a very deadly type, of cancer. Give him one of these antibiotics three times each day, and we'll hope it's an infection and that they will have some effect. If not, we can amputate the front limb, but the humane thing to do would be to put him to sleep. Bring him back in one week.' I was holding back tears as I carried Blue out to my car. On Tuesday, the Vet I went to for a second opinion held out no optimism. 'This is a very distinct type of cancer, and is very recognizable. It is also very painful. If you want to enjoy his company for a few days go ahead, but try not to make it very long. He's not walking on the leg now, and it's only going to get worse. If you want, you can say goodbye, and leave him with me.' I prayed (seriously for probably the first time). I gave him his antibiotics, eventually having to force them down as the hamburger, pizza, or whatever I tried was no longer disguising the pill's presence and he would spit it out. I would talk myself into thinking that I saw some improvement in the limb. That it was a little less swollen, that perhaps he had actually put some weight on it. But I was lying to myself, and I knew it. I would lie in bed with him, my arms around him, wetting his coat with my tears. Friends and family would call to see how he was doing and I couldn't stop crying long enough to talk. After sleeping for perhaps a couple of hours, I would wake up and for just the briefest of moments everything was okay. But then it would hit me again, that Blue was sick. Very sick. And the dread of losing him would spread throughout my body, and I would snuggle up to him as close as I could, to somehow protect him and ward off whatever it was that had invaded him. My parents were semi-retired in Arizona. They came back to Oregon each June for the summer. Although it was only April, they knew how upset I was and said they were coming back early. I told them there really wasn't anything they could do, and not to change their plans. They hesitatingly agreed. Thursday night I took him to my brothers. My brother, I, and Blue had barbecued steak. Blue ate his fill, which wasn't very much as his appetite was dwindling. He could still get around on his three good legs by this time, but was carrying himself much lower to the ground, and would now and then hit his bad leg on a piece of furniture or some other obstacle, and let out a small sound that would make me cry even more. To avoid this I became his legs, carrying him wherever he needed to go. Or wanted to go. The next day, Friday, just five days after that Sunday morning when he left the house healthy, and came home dying, it was time. I called the Vet and asked if he could stop by my house on his way home from work. He said yes but that there would be an extra charge for that. Although I was going to school at the time, and was poor, money didn't matter. If my dog was going to die, he was at least going to die in familiar surroundings where he was comfortable. When the Vet arrived, Blue barked, as was his nature, but he didn't move from the spot on the floor where he was lying. He was skeptical as the Vet approached, but made no attempt to escape or struggle. And as I got down on the floor beside him, to hold him for that very last time, the vein was found, the needle inserted, and after what seemed like a very long time, but really wasn't, Blue was dead. Through my tears all I could say to Blue was that I was sorry. That was nearly fifteen years ago. I still think of him. I still dream about him. I still miss him. And I think old friend there will come a day When there are mountains and meadows where you will run and play And that again we'll meet and start out new Just you and me, my dog named Blue. -- Garth Brown (
I just read chapter I of the book, about George, and just wanted to say it's good to see someone else feeling the same about his dog. My dog, Sheila, died about a year and a half ago from a kidney failure. It came on very suddenly in a way; there had actually been tell-tale signs for several months, but they all seemed just like signs that she was getting older. Then one weekend everything must have just given out. We tried for a week to keep her going, but she couldn't eat more than a little bit and her kidneys were so badly damaged that the chances of her having a reasonable life were pretty much nil. We decided she had to be put down. I think that tribute to George is a wonderful idea. I do still like to talk about Sheila, but only a few people really seem to be interested, and fewer still seem to understand what it's like to lose a dog -- I thought of her more as a little sister than as a pet. It felt good to see George's page and realize that other people do feel the same way. Brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad; I hadn't really thought about her actual death in a long time, but it also made me think about all the little things I loved about her. Thanks. Kirsten Starcher (
I just finished reading your first chapter. I lost my best friend, constant companion, child, room-mate, Sasha last month. She was a sweet, beautiful, shy Siberian Husky. I had her for almost 14 years. The last 6 it was just me and her. Her end was a lot like your dog's. Full of life up until a few days before the end. I did not have to make the euthanasia decision, she died at night at the vets. I was devasted by my loss. The grief and despondency were almost overwhelming. I had thought that now after 4 weeks I was almost back to 'normal.' But your story brought back the tears. You were very lucky to be able to take your buddy so many places with you. You were very, very lucky to have so many friends to help you. Randy Dow
I've come to the conclusion (after losing my mom last summer in addition to my dog 5 years ago) that a profound loss--whatever that loss is--changes you almost down to the DNA. Maybe you look the same on the outside, but you just can't be the same person you were... Lorrie LeJeune (