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Healing Alliance
by Kathy Bruins
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Anguish and adrenaline is an unfit pair. Watching my husband, John, sit in the backseat with our beloved golden lab, Max, as he gasped for life. His tongue was white as it hung limp out of his mouth. It seemed so long to get to the vet’s office…hang on, Max, I thought…or was I kidding myself. Fourteen years is a long life for a large dog, I’ve heard. But I wanted more. Scenes filled my mind of when I first brought him home…a gorgeous golden puppy. Then, there was the time he learned to climb over the fence. Many cherished moments flooded my mind. I thought of the many photos taken of our family member.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, we brought Max inside. The vet did a few tests on him and told us it was his heart…congestional heart failure. He could do some things to lengthen his life, but he suggested not letting him suffer. There was the hard decision, which intellectually wasn’t hard at all. We said our good-byes, letting him know what a good boy he was, and walked out…feeling our hearts being cut out of our chest. Tears streamed down our faces as the deep sobs of anguish took over. I didn’t think I would ever heal again.

The soundless noise was too much to bear after a month without Max. We heard it was good to heal from losing one dog before you get the next. John and I decided to get another dog before we started collecting social security if we waited that long, so the hunt was on. One day as I was reading the newspaper online, I saw an ad for a dog free to a good home. The price was right, so I read on. It was a golden retriever, eight years old, and AKC registered. This seemed strange to me, but I thought I had to check it out. I called the number on the ad and ventured right over.

Upon arrival, the man was outside with his children. I introduced myself and saw that the children’s faces were downtrodden. I felt like a criminal. The father explained they were sad to see the dog go, but they remodeled their house and couldn’t keep him. So he had his son retrieve Samson. This huge golden retriever, 120 pounds of love, came bounding out to me. We instantly bonded.

Wanting to grab the dog and run home, I logically told the owner, and myself, “I have to talk to my husband first.”

He said, “That fine, but it would be first come, first serve with whoever wanted the dog.”

I reached for my cell phone and called my husband stopping his construction progress to talk. As I told him about the big brown eyes staring at me, along with the head leaning against my leg, my husband laughed and agreed to give Samson a new home.

It’s hard to be excited when there are children’s hearts breaking. I told the children they could come and see him anytime they wanted. The father’s eyes were also misted. So they all gave Samson a big hug, and I opened the backdoor of my car. Samson enthusiastically bounded inside amazing the owner for he had never seen him take to someone so quickly. So he handed me Sam’s extra heavy food and water dishes. I soon found out that Sam likes to try to tip the food dish over before he eats. I always know when he is eating as I hear the dog chow being tossed around.

Samson is such a delight! It is hard to believe that we were his third owners as I learned from the last owner. This dog is well trained and very obedient. His beautiful reddish coat glistens in the sun. Kids pile on him without a single growl. Who would give away such a dog?

His companionship is greatly valued as I work out of my home and always have a buddy ready for a walk…or a swim at the beach! Laughter (and embarrassment) abounded whenever Sam would flip on his back during our walks and kick his legs into the air while doing a dance similar to something I’ve seen at a disco. Other benefits include my feet never being cold for Sam loves to lie on them. Games we play include “finding the bone” that my husband would hide from Sam upstairs before bedtime.

Sam would get so hot during the summer; I bought him a child’s swimming pool from a garage sale. When he jumped in, his rear would hang over the side of the pool. So I found a larger pool for him to lie in and cool down. The routine would be for Sam to lie in the pool, then roll in the dirt, back in the pool, and guide him to the cement for an enjoyable drying process, being cautious of the explosive shaking that could happen at any second.

Of course, Sam needed a fan to blow directly on him to help keep him cool.

Sam’s weight was a concern, so we bought the diet dog food and treats. For more exercise, I enrolled him in a doggie day care once a week, where they would play games, interact with other dogs, and have their own mailbox with report card each day. Sam expressed separation anxiety when we first started going…soon after, my arm would be almost removed, as Sam would try to get to the door to his buddies.

Samson is now old and our walks are a lot slower. The vet contacted me after doing surgery on Samson to remove the remainder of his front fang that broke off, and told me Samson has bone cancer. He is expected to live about three more months. So we take a day at a time. There are still rolling times on our walks, still a smile when my husband or I come home, and the joyous prance when a treat is being offered.

I know the day will soon come when we will have to say good-bye to Sam. I know we will cry and our hearts will be broken. I also know that our lives have been enriched by his presence in our lives. We will continue in the great practice of finding another healing alliance.

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