The view from my perch on the mountain

Sam’s Story

NOTE TO THE READER: As some of you may already know, I’ve been a blogger on Windows Live Spaces for the past year and a half. Recent “improvements” have made that forum practically useless and I’m not the only one who has decided to look elsewhere for a new home. Luckily, one Live Spaces feature, Windows Live Writer, has not been tampered with….yet….and I still have backup copies of most of my blogs. This is a Godsend for me because I can always recycle one of my older pieces when writer’s block sets in……as it has today. This is a compilation of 2 blogs originally posted in April 2009.

Part 1

I have been meaning to write this for some time. Working with some recent photos got me thinking about it again and, well, here goes.

On Halloween evening, 2005 I was on the front porch smoking a cigarette when our Labrador Retriever, Sam, spotted a deer in the back yard. Naturally he took off after it; it was after, all in, his yard. It was my bad luck that his chain was laying in the worst possible place on the porch deck. When the chain went taut it swept my feet out from under me and all 200 lbs. landed upside down, on the steps and the outside corner of the bottom step fractured my bottom 5 vertebrae.

After 8 months of physical therapy, wearing a &#%@&#! waist to chin back brace, I had surgery followed by 9 more months of PT and a larger brace. The fusions didn’t heal properly and that’s why I’m disabled. The doctor wants to go back in, remove the hardware from this fusion and another procedure I had on my cervical spine 3 years earlier and install new hardware to fuse the entire spine. That will be a whole other gunfight and I won’t go into it here.

People who hear about my accident always ask the same thing; "Did you shoot that dog?" I always give the same answer; “Of course not; he was just being a dog.” For all I know, he could have been protecting me from that strange animal.

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he would gladly lay down his life for me and never intentionally hurt me. I’m privileged to know Sam and couldn’t imagine life without him. My wife, Frankie, is without a doubt my best friend but Sam is my best buddy.

A true friend til the end. My buddy Sam.

P.S. After knocking me down Sam jumped on my chest and started licking my face. It didn’t help the back any but it was the thought that counts.

Part 2

I wrote a blog a while back about our Labrador Retriever, Sam, and it has recently gotten more attention. Those who read the first blog know of Sam having accidentally caused the accident that broke my back and resulted in my current disability. You also know how much he has come to mean to me. Well, there’s more to the story.

Sam was born in May 2004 in a cow shed on a farm in Poplar Camp, a little mountain community near here. My nephew was friends with the owner’s son and knew that one of his dogs had a littler of pups. When we moved here we promised our daughter Laura that she could get a dog. This was partly to ease the pain of leaving all of her friends and the only home she had ever known and partly because my family has always had dogs, both as companions and also for home defense. Anyone with criminal intent will tell you that the last thing they want to encounter is a large dog.

Sam finds a home. His head is bigger than that entire pup now!

As soon as the pups were ready to wean my nephew took Laura to the farm to pick out her new pup.Within a couple days of bringing him home Sam became quite ill. He had near constant diarrhea and vomiting and was very weak and listless. I was scared to death that the little guy wasn’t going to live and Laura’s heart would be broken once again. My wife and I were willing to do whatever it took to save him.

We found a vet in the phone book and took him straight in. After what seemed to me a very brief exam we were given a medication and a syringe to administer it with 4 times daily. The diagnosis was worms. He rallied a little that night but was much worse the next morning. I tried calling the vet but got a recording saying they were only open 3 days a week. That was when my new neighbor told me about an old country vet he had known his entire life. He called the office and when he didn’t get an answer he called Doc Jesse at home. He said he needed a favor and asked him to take a look at a little girl’s sick puppy. Within 10 minutes we were in the doctor’s kitchen and Sam was in his hands.

He took us out to the garage where he kept some of his older medical equipment and stored extra drugs and supplies. Within a few minutes he had mixed up a pasty concoction and told me to just dip my pinky in and let Sam lick it off every 4 hours and to bring him by the office the next afternoon when he would be back from his farm calls. That night I slept in a chair in the living room with Sam in a towel lined box beside the chair. I set my watch alarm and every 4 hours held him in my lap while he licked the medication off my finger. I guess I was groggy and forgot to set the alarm after one treatment because I woke with a start, checked the time and found it had been more than 5 hours since I last fed him. Then I looked in the box and he was gone!

I didn’t have to look very long. He heard me get up and came barreling down the hall with that little tail going a mile a minute. I kept treating him during the day while working my way through online help wanted ads and he got better as the day went on. When we got to Doc Jesse’s office he gave me another batch of medicine and told me I could stop feeding it to him when he sank those little milk teeth into my pinky. I thought he was joking but soon found out how sharp those little teeth were.


Over the next several months Sam grew like a weed and it wasn’t long before his head was bigger than the entire pup had been when he first came home with Laura. He also tried to eat everything in sight and actually succeeded in devouring all but a few small pieces of the remote for our satellite dish the day after it was installed….batteries and all. That little caper cost me $59 for a new remote and I found reminders of the event in his “deposits” in the yard for the next couple of days. A blue or red button, a sliver of gray plastic. We never did see the batteries but they must have been Energizers because he kept going and going.

When he was about 6 months old he already weighed nearly 50 pounds and it was all solid muscle. We had the broken tie out chains to prove it. For a while Laura and I had a near daily battle with Frankie who kept saying she was going to get rid of that damned dog when he chewed the end of her new coffee table, ate one of her shoes, yanked the leash out of her hands when she was walking too slow for his liking. It got to the point that I had trouble controlling him when he decided to take off after something and I’m 10 inches taller and nearly 100 lbs heavier than Frankie.

One afternoon we went somewhere and took him with us. On the way home he just had to stand in Frankie’s lap with the front half of his body out the window, ears flapping in the breeze and drool going everywhere. We stopped to talk to my nephew who was mowing his lawn and he couldn’t get over how big Sam was. That’s when he dropped the bomb. The entire litter had been infested with an intestinal parasite and Sam was the sole survivor.

Sam was the runt of the litter and both my nephew and his friend tried to talk Laura into taking one of the other, more active pups but she said she just knew that he was the one for her. He wouldn’t be alive if she hadn’t picked him and our lives would be a lot emptier without him. I’m convinced that God’s hand was involved in that selection.

Throw the ball, throw the ball, THROW THE BALL!

He’ll be 5 years old next month and he’s mellowed a lot with age but every once in a while that wild little ball of fur puts in an appearance, Just as the smoke starts coming out of Frankie’s ears I remind her that she had wanted to get rid of him. This never fails to bring a smile to her lips. Sam may be Laura’s dog and my best buddy but most of all, he’s Mama’s baby.

June 22, 2010

Sam is still my constant companion and loves accompanying me on my photo excursions through the back roads and forgotten places deep in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. I don’t know which of us enjoys exploring more but I do know that doing it together makes the journeys and the discoveries even more special.


He turned 6 last month and recently learned that Labs can swim while he was on vacation with us back home in Virginia Beach. Watching him romp on the beach, learning how to negotiate the waves and just enjoying life in general brought back memories of that wild little ball of fur who used to drive Frankie out of her mind every chance he got.

I guess in some respects Sam will always be a pup but that’s okay because there’s still a lot of boy left in me. Both the pup and the boy are wild and run amok from time to time but that’s okay, as well. It just strengthens the bond between us and reminds us how much fun it is just being alive.


13 responses

  1. Patsy

    Loved this the first time you posted it and enjoyed it again with the update. Nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. I have three that make my day everyday, I always say : “Lord make me half the person my dog thinks I am” Hugs

    June 22, 2010 at 2:16 PM

  2. Fizz

    Absolutely love this memory… I am in love with Sam vicariously… he’s a great dog. I don’t know why someone would ask you if you put the dog down just because he was bein’ a dog… makes no sense… It’s like burning the paper that gave you the paper cut or killing your kid if they accidently hurt you in some way. People are dunces.

    Thanks for re-publishing… this was my first go and I have to say I just loved it… I’m going to share it with my Papa… he’s a pooch lover too!

    June 22, 2010 at 4:23 PM

  3. Hi Chip nice to hear from you, and like Patsy, although I’d read this from you before it was nice to hear the update and know you and Sam are still the best of friends. You are also spared the thought that he is not ridden with guilt and remorse for what happened, he is still you best buddy and you’re still around, and to him that’s all that matters.

    June 22, 2010 at 4:28 PM

  4. Maria

    Oh My I love the story as I have a labrador (Max) who has done plenty of tearing but I wouldn’t change him for anything (not even a million bucks). He has also thorn shoes, trash, eating apple pies and water pipes (had to learn plumbing cause it was costing me too much) but is worthy, I’ll not trade this memories for anything.

    June 22, 2010 at 5:18 PM

  5. Nancy Co

    Hi Chip, I have never read the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    June 22, 2010 at 7:54 PM

  6. Sue Mac

    Hi Chip
    Sam is a wonderful dog, and im sure we could all do with having a wonderful mate like Sam in our lives, your pic’s are great, hope Sam enjoy his swim at the beach
    Take care my friend

    June 23, 2010 at 2:16 AM

  7. HI there Sam, oh and you too. Rocket Man,
    I had tears in my eyes, reading the story about your accident…(no not laughter tears, real sad tears, I’m not ‘orrible you know?)
    Like you say, Sam was just being Sam, like Bess was just being Bess when she cannoned into my ex, knocked his leg out from under him and he was on crutches for months…and had to learn to walk again, via physio… Bess too was ill when we got her, from a farmer, I saw an advert in a local paper and so wanted something to love and cherish, and so she arrived, a handful of love, we didn’t notice she was ill and sickly and I shed tears, oh so many tears, but that didn’t help so vets it was. and she had worms, like Sam. Not as bad as Sam but it was a shock but she rallied and ’twas only a few years later that the arthritis set in…Osteo, she has to have injections every month, she’s on special dog food and supplements..and she has no insurance as the illness was hereditary and therefore not covered..but she’s worth every penny. She’s our Bess…
    First read for me…and I loved every word….LadyPx

    June 23, 2010 at 6:49 AM

  8. apparently my comment is awaiting moderation?… $%^%&&*
    I know, I know…I talk too much!!

    June 23, 2010 at 6:51 AM

    • roketman

      No. you don’t talk too much. Sam and I were out goofing off in the yard and there’s also a 5 hour time difference. Chatter away all you like. I get wound up myself, especially when I’m talking about my family or my buddy.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:32 AM

  9. Having followed on WLS it is blessing to still find the stories of friends unfolding, told with such love and care. I have come to enjoy Sam and not difficult to appreciate the love of an animal. What I did for pets never considered silly or too much and so relate to the night feeding and concern of worried love. How startling to read all the pups but Sam did not survive. Such an amazing survival. I am so happy to see new space so alive and visits from friendlies I recognize and I feel a bit tearful at how segments of the WLS community survive. I have not yet relocated. Am in a bit of a time crunch and my health issues require serious concentration to make big changes like new sequences. Eventually I will start a new page but for now I just enjoy continuing to cybervisit. Blessings for you/family/Sam. This story is told with such warmth. What a good read. Sending Happy Thoughts for a Happy Planet

    June 23, 2010 at 11:39 PM

  10. I would very much like to paint the first photo of your dog! My present to you…eventually. Jx

    June 25, 2010 at 9:15 AM

  11. roketman

    That would be wonderful, Jodie!

    June 25, 2010 at 11:28 AM

  12. I also have tears in my eyes as I read of Sam’s miraculous recovery …. I can just imagine how you felt when you woke after 5 hours!!! Wonderful story …. and what a vital and integral part of your lives Sam has been …. I so miss my dog Tao who was my constant friend and companion for 10 years …. it’s really time for another to find me ……

    June 25, 2010 at 1:10 PM

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