Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dog on the Blog: Samson In Charge

Samson came to live with us during our Albuquerque period, in 1998. His arrival was one of the more unusual stories of how dogs came here.

Ricky and I own rental properties. That is how we make our living. In 1998, we owned a number of condos in an Albuquerque complex near the University of New Mexico. We rented a unit to a young woman who was a UNM student and was living away from home for the first time.

She was not doing well on her own. She was unable to make her second month's rent payment, so I had the gentle discussion with her suggesting that it would be best for all of us if she just moved out so that I could find someone else who would pay their rent.

Samson was her dog. One of the first things she did after moving into our condo was to adopt him from the Albuquerque Animal Shelter. Unfortunately, the day before she moved out, she left Samson alone in the condo with the bedroom window opened slightly. Samson nudged open the window the rest of the way, pushed out the screen and took off.

Our erstwhile tenant told us about it, but was not interested in getting Samson back. It was the condo community manager who told us that a big dog had been prowling the property for several days, and she thought he belonged to our tenant. According to the manager, the dog was hanging around outside our condo -- apparently waiting for the young woman to come back home, and not understanding that she would not be coming back!

We started leaving food and water on the front step of our condo. We could tell he was returning because people would see him eating the food and drinking the water. Finally, we caught up with Samson while he was on the property. We tried to coax him toward us, but he wanted no part of it. He took off running. We jumped in the car and followed. We followed Samson for about 8 city blocks before we finally accepted the futility of chasing after him. He was not running to any place in particular -- he was just running.

Finally, we contacted Animal Control and borrowed a dog trap. We baited it with hot dogs and placed it outside in one of the places where Samson had been hanging out. I started waking up at 5:00 am and wondering if Samson had taken the bait. Unable to go back to sleep, I would throw on a pair of pants and head over to see if our trap had a dog in it!

On the third day, I arrived a little after 5:00 am to find Mr. Samson himself standing in the trap and staring at me with a disgusted expression! I ran home to get Ricky and together we carried the trap with Samson in it to our house. We opened the trap in our living room, and Samson darted away from us, then turned and studied us with his piercing eyes!

We soon learned that Samson would only be "our" dog on his terms! There would be no crating. (He taught us this rule by chewing out of every kind of crate manufactured!) He would tolerate other dogs, but only if they accepted his superiority over them. He would only recognize Ricky and me as worthy of love and respect. Any other humans were fair game and destined to incur his considerable wrath!

Samson is the ultimate "watch dog". He will allow no one to enter our house without his permission. And he would happily tear out the jugular vein of anyone who tried to harm Ricky or me. Who needs Brinks Security when we have Samson Security?

The amazing thing about our Samson is that when it is just the three of us, he is a big baby boy who will lay on his back and nuzzle us to rub his tummy. He gives wonderful kisses.

Early on, we noticed a problem with his breathing. Samson seems to labor at breathing, and sometimes he sort of snorts -- which many folks misinterpret as growling. (Maybe it is in part because of his "big dog" menacing presense!) Ricky and I thought maybe his nose had been broken at some point, and we asked Dr. Skains if she could operate and help him to breathe more easily.

She took lots of X-rays and Samson actually spent several days with Dr. Skains and Cindy studying him and his breathing. But in the end, Dr. Skains recommended against operating. She said Samson was born that way with what effectively is a birth defect. But it would be nearly impossible and somewhat risky to try to reconstruct his nasal passages. So we just left it alone.

Samson is getting on in years, now. His step is a little slower. There are hints of grey around his muzzle. But he is still the Head Dog around here. Whether or not Samson could have been "trained" to behave differently is an open question, I guess. We were fine with Samson being Samson. We are trying to give him extra turns in the bed, because we know he will not likely be with us much longer.

My favorite photo of Samson is the one above, sitting in the bath tub, waiting for his bath, smiling from ear to ear. That picture captures the Samson I know and love.

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

Please become a Smiling Dog Partner to Support Our Work
Your Monthly Tax-Deductible Gift Gives Hope to the Forgotten,Neglected & Rejected
Just click on

No comments: