I don’t remember life before Samantha. I guess technically, she was my uncle’s dog because he got her when he was in high school, but I was just a year old when she came to live with my grandparents. To me, there was no life before Samantha.
We grew up together and I always was stymied as to what breed of dog she was. I used to pour over pictures in my Grandma’s encyclopedia of dog breeds looking for one that might be a match. Was she a lab? No, she was too short. A beagle? No she was black. On and on we went. Mutt was the best we could ever come up with or Heinz 57 if you’re feeling fancy. She was black with a white blaze on her deep chest and she had ears that were not droopy but flopped over themselves (rose, they call it) a squarish head and short coarse hair. Her long tapered tail always wagged in my presence.
Recently and out of the blue, I texted my sister: “I think Samantha was a little staffie mix.”
“Who’s Samantha…oh our Samantha! Makes sense.”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Kind of throws things into perspective,” was her reply.
Girl’s Best Friend
She was the kind of dog who played dress up with me and adored wearing pretty necklaces. In fact, if I put a necklace on her she would get upset if my grandparents would try to remove it. Samantha loved me that much and wanted to wear anything that made me happy, because of course, I made over her and her prettiness. I can only imagine how many tutus she would own if she were alive today. She never wandered off although she was never leashed, chipped or tagged other than her rabies tag. In fact, I don’t ever remember anyone ever correcting her. In my memory, Samantha was perfect in just being her.
I can still hear her excited yowling whenever I came to visit. “Ohhh, Samantha! Myyyy Samantha!” I would say over and over and she would whoop and holler back, so excited to see me. Back in the day, we didn’t worry about things like super excited greetings, separation anxiety or other behavioralisssues. She was always super excited to see me and I was always happy to feed the fire.
The Teen Years
Like a ]typical teen, I started coming less frequently and tried to avoid getting her “Samantha hair” on my clothes. Visiting my grandparents and my adoring Samantha was becoming more of an obligation than a privilage. How many of us would give an arm to spend more time…and hour, ten minutes…sixty seconds with a loved one who is gone. Eventually, the day came that I was visiting the grandparents and after having been there for awhile, I finally asked if Samantha was outside.
No, she wasn’t.
My grandparents had a cottage in Michigan. Like Samantha, there was never a life for me without the cottage. We went every summer and it was as much a part of my life as my toothbrush. We’d pick Grandpa up at work and he would drive to the toll booth and pull up a little further so I could get the ticket. We’d stop in the same town at the same deli for cheese and in the same town we’d roll up the the windows because for whatever reason, the smells of that town made Samantha want to run and catch the feeling. While they were in Michigan at their summer cottage, the place we all loved going, Samantha died/ The dog that never ran away or awry grew old, slow, hard of hearing and weak of sight, was hit by a car and was buried in a place that she loved.
Sometimes when I see the cartoon above, I think about Samantha. I wonder if she waited for me, if she waits for me still or if she went on with my grandparents when they arrived. What do I hope for? Is she waiting still? How many years did I spend wrapped up in my own life while she “waited at the bridge?” I’ve held this post for so long, because I know I’ll never be able to do her justice. I just don’t have the right words to bust past the lump in my chest.
I’ve always had a soft spot for black dogs and upon reflection, it makes sense. Like a parent, she was always there to support and love me. She was so there, that I didn’t realize how much until it was way too late. I guess back in the day, people didn’t just take pictures of their dogs like we do today and the ones I posted yesterday pretty much show that her presence is kind of random in the snapshots. Her presence in my heart, however is neither random nor insignificant. She became the unspoken standard of a great dog. Was she part Staffie or a Pit Bull mix? I don’t know, but I prefer to believe so. Is the “Nanny Dog” a myth? No. Samantha was my nanny dog and you can bet that whether she was a beagle, a lab, a Pit mix or a billy goat, she would protect me and watch over me at all costs.
Somewhere there is a picture of the two of us sitting in a box as babies together. I really need to find it and make sure it is kept safe but if it turns out that it really is gone, at least I have a copy in my mind’s eye.
Oh, Samantha! A better dog never lived.