We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It occurred to me the other day that we have some big dates in January- the anniversaries of our arrivals in Venice, and also the anniversary of the day I got my dog Sam, in the first week of January 13 years ago. If you have read my blogs before, you might know that I've written about our other dog Leopold a few times. Today is Sam's day.

Sam, also known as Sammy, or Sam E.Cruse, came into my life on January 5th, 1998. I had moved my daughters and myself out of our marital home into a rented townhouse and began my separation from my husband on November 17, 1997. In the weeks that followed, nothing was easy. I didn't feel safe at all, so I decided I should get a dog. In the 17 years that we were married, we never had a dog, because my husband was essentially afraid of most dogs.

My girls and I went to the local shelter on January 2. We had our hearts set on a cute dalmatian. We put our names on a list indicating we wanted her, if her owner didn't come to claim her. Wouldn't you know it, later that same day I got a call from the shelter. A couple days later we returned, eager to find a dog. As we went into the shelter, I remember telling the girls we would only look at any dogs whose time was up. The shelter only kept dogs 7 days. You could tell by the little card outside each pen how long the dog had been there. I also told them we were coming home with a dog that day, one that was medium to large size, no poodles for us.

There were exactly three dogs at the shelter that day who had no more time. One was a pitbull. Nope. Then there was a male shepherd named Max. We took him into the room where you can get acquainted and play with the dogs, whereupon Max peed on my daughter Megan's shoe. She wanted no part of him any longer, no matter how hard I tried to coax her into giving him a break. Ok. We walked to the pen of the last dog who was available to adopt that day. He was a medium sized black and tan dog, mixed breed.Probably had some shepherd and some lab in him. He had a collar, but no one knew his name, no tags on him, and no one had called to claim him. Poor thing was cowering in the back of the pen, but he willingly came with us into the play room. It didn't take us more than a few minutes with him to decide we would take him home. We didn't have very many options, and frankly, neither did he. Looking back, I know it was a lucky day for both of us.

I knew that he needed me as much as I needed him. He and I made a silent pact to do this together. He got in the car, rode home happily in the back seat with a smile, and became part of our family that day. The girls named him Sam E. Cruse, Sammy for short. Poor guy had to contend with 4 cats already at home, but he managed them just fine. Our vet, after Sam's first examination, told me he figured he was about 18 months old. He was house trained, well behaved, seemed happy, that was good enough for me.

Sam's one fatal flaw, if he were to have one, was that he would RUN if he got out the door without a leash on him. And I mean RUN! I always worried he'd be hit by a car, so if he did get out, we all went on a manhunt for him. We always found him. And we became diligent about watching where he was if the door was open a crack. I figure that's how Sam ended up at the shelter to begin with. He went out an open door.

Because of Sam's running, I built a fence around our Baltimore house. Yup, I built the fence. It took me a whole 3 months in the spring of 2003., but that fence is another blog. Suffice it to say it was a personal triumph. Except for an odd occassion where a gate was accidentally left open, that fence kept Sam safe.

Sam is bright beyond imagination. I've had dogs my whole life growing up, and I had never been fortunate enough to have one quite like Sam. He understands everything, and can actually reason. I've watched him tie knots in his leash by using his paws and his teeth. Sam knows the names of all of his toys. If you ask him to bring you a particular toy, he will go right for it and bring it to you. And he can bring in the mail. How he knows to do these things, I have no idea, cause we certainly haven't taught him any of that. When we lived in Baltimore, one day when I came home from work I noticed all the mail in a pile in the middle of the living room floor. What the heck? And the next day the same thing. Then the mailman shed some light on the situation. He caught me the next day, running up, asking how my dog was? Sam?? Yes, the big one. (By that time we also had Leopold). He explained that he had experienced Sam when he delivered the mail. Sam would take each envelope gently from him as he pushed it in the slot, then come back for the next. He'd never seen anything like it, and just got a kick out of it. So that's how the mail ended up in the living room! When we sold our house last February, I was back in Baltimore for a few weeks. The mailman saw me, and asked about Sam.

Sam only barks when he needs to, to let you know something isn't right. And that's been rare. He doesn't bark at other dogs, birds, cats, people, cars. He's pretty much silent. And he asks for absolutely nothing. He never begs for food, never asks for one blasted thing. I call him my non-dog. He acts almost invisible, but we know he's there.

Sam has also been the world's best "older brother" for Leopold. We got Leo when he was about 8 weeks old, he's been around Sam his whole life. Leo also does not bark unless there's a reason. I'm convinced that's because of Sam. Leo is quite the personality, so we've got Sam to thank for keeping Leo in line around the house.

When we moved to Venice, one of our biggest concerns was how we would move the dogs here with us. We could not have done this adventure without having our dogs with us. I was particularly concerned about Sam, as he was already up in years. We did lots of research on relocating dogs, and made what we felt were the best choices we could. We chose Lufthansa because they had so much experience with animals, and we felt comfortable with all the information they gave us. Sam and I flew over together, he in his large crate in the hold. I will be forever grateful to Lufthansa for taking such good care of him, and for making sure I knew every step of the way that Sam was doing ok.

Sam loves Venice, has since his very first day. He's molto contento sitting at a caffe with me doing some people watching. If he missed Baltimore, you'd never know it. I do think he misses cars though. Sam loves a good ride in the car. I don't think he likes boats as much.

Sam will be 15 this year in July. We've had 13 and a half great years together, and I'm hoping for more. A few months ago he was sick for the first time ever. That gave me a heck of a scare. The vet thought it was serious, but miraculously Sam has recovered and has shown no signs of letting up. He's greyer around the nose, and moving alittle slower up the stairs, but still out running and playing.

At the moment, he's taking his morning snooze next to me on his bed. Life is good.


Yvonne said...

Aw, I love the story about Sam. I hope we get to meet your special dogs while in Venice! And, aren't you diligent, so many blogs for us to read. Thanks, Karen.

Michelle said...

Hi Karen,
We need to make a date to meet in Venice while our animal loving friend Kathleen is there...she'll arrive the day after our dinner.
I love Sam already (and Leopold too)

karen said...

Michelle-- that's an easy one, the boys are always ready to meet new friends! We'd definitely get this to happen :)