Also known as Samantha Anne or Samantha Annie or Sam Anne. Today, I talk about my dog, well, one of my dogs.
I haven’t really talked about the girls before now, but they’re as much a part of my home/work balance as my children, some days, more so. I will never forget the day when Ben was about three months old and I had just come back from a doctor’s appointment. My mother had stayed with him and Sam. When I came in, she said, I’m not sure but I think something is wrong with Sam. Sure enough, I watched her and realized she was hobbling. I looked at her foot, realized there was a serious problem, called the vet, threw her in the car and drove like a crazy person. I never once fretted about Ben or if he would be okay without me. Mom was there, P was headed home, and right then, Sam had to be the priority.
This makes me something of a strange parent, I suspect, because I cannot say that at all times my kids take priority over my dogs. There are times when the dogs take precedence due to illness or other overriding concerns.
Sam is an eleven year old black Lab. She shouldn’t be here now, but she is. She is stubborn, willful, and determined to do things her way. Sam is fear aggressive. This means, in basic terms, that she becomes super-aggressive/dominant when she’s afraid of something. Most fear aggressive dogs, Sam included, have triggers. Sam’s triggers are enclosed spaces, being backed into corners, and people touching her feet. To trim Sam’s nails requires two people, a muzzle, and a bucket full of treats. She also has serious allergies and a degenerative condition of the spine that causes her immense pain some days. She can be a difficult dog and a challenging one to have little kids around.
She adores Ben and Katie — absolutely adores them. She thinks Katie is the greatest thing on the planet right now. Mostly because Katie still stays where she’s put. If you put Katie in the swing, two minutes later, barring adult movement, Katie is still there. Ben moves — a lot. She doesn’t like that so much. We have trained Ben right along side Sam for the last 3 1/2 years. He can recite the things you don’t do to Sam the way some kinds recite the alphabet. We’ve taught him healthy respect for what dogs are capable of. Every dog can bite. I don’t care how well trained the dog is; there is always a risk that the “right” combination of circumstances could happen and that dog could bite. We’ve done everything possible to minimize the chances of that combination of circumstances happening in our house.
Among the important things we do is not let Sam out in mixed company. If there are little kids other than Ben and Katie here,we “convince” Sam to go into a crate (yeah, an enclosed space, trust me, I know how to shut the door VERY FAST), and leave her in the bathroom with music turned up nice and loud for her. It doesn’t do a lot to calm her, but it keeps her from injuring herself or otherwise making a fun occasion less fun.
We have spaces in the house where Ben and Katie are simply not allowed to go. Those are Sam’s places and you don’t invade them. We have a gate on our room for the days when Sam is not feeling up to company. Those days, we close the gate and leave her be. These are the days when the pain is hard for her to deal with and she needs some help. She has pain medicine and she takes it when she needs it. Right now, we’re talking maybe a pill every week or two, so the pain isn’t excruciating or every day. If it was, I hope and pray I can do the right thing for her and let her go. Right now, though, there are way more good days than bad days.
Sam is very loyal to the people she loves. When I’m sick, as I am right now, Sam will literally lie next to me until such time as I am ready to get up. After I had Katie, Sam could barely be convinced to eat or to go outside. She wanted to be with me the entire time.
The thing about Sam, and the reason I’m talking about her here, is that she requires time and care to a degree sometimes that is greater than my children. It’s a tough thing to balance taking care of her needs in addition to the two kids and, oh yeah, lest we forget, the other dog. My days can be very full of incredible highs (watching Peyton play tag with Ben) to incredible lows (watching Sam moan as she tries to lay down).
We’re blessed to have dogs in our lives and our children are blessed to be raised with dogs. I can’t wait to see how Katie responds to my girls as she gets bigger.