Sam came to us 14 years ago with the name Bodhi. His owner was a hip woman and thought it would be a good name for this gentle giant. However, she wasn’t all that great an owner for him as she put her other dog first in everything. When she became ill, she gave Sam away.
Our dear friend, Lori Tapp, DVM, knew the woman and knew Sam needed a home. And she knew we had just lost Jake and had space. We fell for the story hook, line, and stinker.
But Bodhi was a mess. He was terrified of everything. It took us an hour to get him from Lori’s truck into the house. At first, it was just me trying to coax him out then Lori tried and then Lorna came out. She sat with him in the truck, exactly where I had been sitting. She talked to him softly, just like I had been. But he took one look at her and fell in love. He latched onto her and never let go.
As y’all know, I wix my mords a lot. And that name, Bodhi, just would not come out of my mouth. I called him Brody, Buddy, Opie, but it just wouldn’t come out right. So one day I looked at him and said, “Bud, you need a name I can remember. What do you want to be called?” He turned his head, looked me in the eye, and said “My name is Sam.” And Sam he became. He was answering to that name instantly.
What I didn’t know, but Lorna did, was there is a term in Buddhism called “sambodhi”. It has been Westernized to mean reaching “enlightenment“. In India, in the Pali language–I think I am getting this right–by itself it means “the bliss of enlightenment” but it can be added to other words to mean other versions of enlightenment.
Sam was a big chicken. Terrified of loud noises. Absolutely freaked out at the dog park. Got nervous and drooly when I was pitching a fit and dropping the “F” bomb often. But he chased and caught several rabbits that were stupid enough to go through the fence into the dog lot. He also killed at least one young groundhog who did the same thing. I told him “All lives are sacred, Sam. You get fed on a regular basis, you didn’t need to kill it to eat.” But he would just look at me and all but roll his eyes. “I am dog. It was rabbit.” And that was that.
Sam was healthy his entire life. No issues at all. Until he reached I guess around 8 or 9. He didn’t jump as much as he used to. He could jump from a sit straight up from the ground onto the porch. Which is about shoulder height. We discovered he had a spinal disk issue. His jumping days (at least like that) were over. He kept insisting on doing it, though, so we had to put up barriers. When the guy put in the new dog lot fence, I asked him for advice on how to put up a barrier at a tricky corner of the back porch. He did it for me instead. Mumbled something about “left over lumber” and “gotta use it anyway”. His soft spot was showing.
About two years or so ago, we had to put Sam on medication to treat the pain and the inflammation. He did great on it but it slowly worsened. Other than that, he was in fantastic shape. Could wrestle and chase Quinn easily.
Saturday morning, I get up to find a big puddle of pee in the living room. We found Sam in the office, laying in his usual spot under her desk. He was panting heavily and refused to get up. He had eaten breakfast, though, so we were unsure what was going on.
We thought it was most likely his back because his back legs were basically useless. His gums were not pale (to us) and his stomach was soft. We got him to drink, got him standing (kinda) and outside to pee. He wouldn’t eat so we gave him veggie broth to drink and slipped a pain pill down his throat. Saturday was pretty bad for all of us. He was drooling, panting, and just not willing to move. But then that evening he got up and went to the kitchen on his own. He went to the bedroom and flopped onto a bed Lorna had set up for him. He slept well. Lorna did not.
Sunday all he did was sleep. He did drink water and some more broth. He seemed calmer.
We took him to the vet this morning and, after some basic looking over, told us his heart rate was far too fast (140ish), blood pressure was low, and he was anemic. Could be a mass in the heart. They took abdominal xrays. If it was clear, then they’d do the chest. It was not clear. He had a mass on his spleen and it was leaking.
This was the same thing that took Zeus and Joella. It happens to older dogs. It typically happens fast. For Sam, it happened slower. She believes it has been slowly leaking for a while. It would leak, clot, leak, clot. Given his age, his anemia, and his other symptoms, surgery had a low rate of success. We could take him to another office that had an ultrasound tech (our vet’s office didn’t have one that day) and they could discuss surgery there. We could do blood work to see just how anemic he was and decide based on that.
We decided to let Sam go. He was so very tired. Tired from the lack of oxygen in his blood. Tired from the chronic pain. Just tired. And he was ready to go and not be so tired.
The euthanasia protocol at our vet is to do three injections. One causes the critter to be calm and kinda high. The second knocks them out. And the third is the overdose. Sam stopped breathing with the second injection. He took one deep breath a few seconds into the 3rd, and that was it. Yeah, he was ready. We felt…good about our decision then.
Our first dog, Zeus, had the same mass. We were laying out in the grass where they would take him away from us with those same injections. I asked him if he was ready. In my mind, I saw the downward slope in front of us rise up to form another hill of the same height. On it, was the sun setting and a bunch of butterflies. Zeus told me that was where he wanted to go. So we let him go.
Since then, we send them all to the butterflies, telling them to find Zeus and he would show them how to play again, their bodies healthy and whole. We’ve had friends tell their critters the same thing. “Go to the butterflies. Go to Zeus and he’ll show you around.”
Sam went to play with the butterflies.
We will miss our Sam, our sambodhi, Sammalamma Ding Dong, our “get out of the way, Sam!”, our “stop licking the floor, Sam!”. Someday, we’ll come play with the butterflies with him and all the others that we sent before him and the ones we’ll send after.