Before Sam started aging, and even after his mobility started to suffer, Sam was a Happy Hound. I had almost forgotten what that was like, I had forgotten a lot of the good times because the last year or so Sam was an emotional wreck. His aggressive behavior towards other dogs stretches back to when he tried to kill Lucas in 2009. He took a shot at Lilith in 2013 and she nearly killed him. His repeated attacks on Tyger were going to lead to a very bad end. My vet and I had already talked about it. I contacted one of the best dog people I knew and she and I were going to have a nice long talk about what was possible and what was probable. Sam stepped out of the picture and didn’t leave me with a decision to make, and perhaps, that was his last gift to me.
I had to get out of the house yesterday and it was a relief not to have to worry about someone being killed while I was gone. I hated the thoughts I had even as I had them but they were thoughts born of the truth of things; Sam couldn’t be trusted anymore. His behavior was bad and it was getting worse. I keep saying this and maybe it’s to make me feel better about not being wrecked the way I was when Bert died, but Sam wasn’t Sam anymore.
When I got home yesterday afternoon Lucas, Lilith and Tyger greeted me and then we all went out into the backyard and took a walk. There was no fighting, no snarling, no one was unhappy with what anyone else was doing. Lilith and Lucas played and played hard, and Tyger actually sat it out and came and sat with me. The pressure that has been taken off of Tyger is enormous. I knew Sam was having a negative impact on her life but the relief in Tyger is palpable. She is a lot more relaxed and she hasn’t gone off by herself since yesterday morning. The L Hounds and Tyger seemed to have bridged a gap in just one day.
Lucas also seems to have taken a deep breath. Even though Loki is the oldest dog now he’s acting more puppyish than I have seen in him in a very long time. He got up on the bed and rolled around on his back and pretended to bite at me while I was writing. He’s more of a liquid state right now, staying off his feet and letting Lilith crawl on his more than I remember the two doing before.
The biggest change is in Lilith, believe it or not. Of the three dogs left she seems, and I hate to use this word, happiest. Oddly, Lilith seems downright ecstatic. Last night was the first night in a very long time Lilith lay claim to the spot right beside me and she wiggled until she was as close as possible. I have no idea what she is having this sort of reaction but Lilith has been super affectionate in the last day. This morning all three wanted to be petted and it was the first time in many years I have had three dogs on the bed with me without any drama. The Tyger got excited and clawed my face. Okay, nearly no drama.
I hate to enjoy the relief I feel that Sam is no longer a factor in this home. Even when his health was failing he was still affectionate and still craved affection from me. Sam never stopped loving me and I never stopped loving Sam. But there comes a time when life is no longer being lived it’s just being alive. There comes a time when as bad as things are they are only going to get much worse. The end came when it was supposed to come and this is not always the way that life is. I still look behind me for Sam when I let the dogs out. I will still reach out into the darkness to find those ears. I will still listen for the rattle of his breath and the movement of his legs in the night.
But medicated into a near coma for peace is no way for a dog to live. To live with that sort of anger and fear is no way for anyone to have to spend their lives. And for the rest of the family, they are having no qualms about opening up and being less tense.
I miss my dog. But he was gone for a very long time before his heart stopped beating. The first decade of Sam’s life was the very best of times that we shared together and that I will never forget.
Sam, Sam, the Happy Hound, was almost dead when he was found. The Muttibeast brought him home to me, and now they’re both gone and happy and free.