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Halloween Sammy

October 27, 2011

Guest Blog Post by Mark – Sammy’s Daddy Pack Master

My dearest and very missed SammyDog,

Dressing you up for Halloween?  Really, what were we thinking?

Thanks for being such a good sport, SammyDog, as we dressed you up for our human holiday.

Those eyes...

Thankfully, we didn’t try often.

Perhaps we realized that you were in costume year round, with those beautiful eyes – Maybelline photoshoot worthy.

Halloween was one of the few human holidays that you did not cherish.

The menu was totally off limits and the Trick or Treater’s – ringing the bell, often in scary costumes, never quite suited you.

Yet, you never fussed.  That was your nature.  Your sweet, accommodating, soul – what a gift.

Here’s a few Halloween pictures from the years.  By the way, what happened to those little girls, your pack sisters?

I hope where you celebrate this upcoming Halloween – that it is more to your liking.  Doggie treats for all!

We celebrated 14 Halloween’s together – and while we know it wasn’t your favorite holiday, you made each one a special treat.  Your genuine and accommodating demeanor, is a trick we should all aspire to possess.

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We grieve, too

August 26, 2011

My dear pack family,

I know you still miss me, as I miss you.  The bond between humans and dogs is special, enduring, and reciprocal.

Hawkeye doesn't want to leave his fallen master

I’ve noticed that over the last few days, your media has given special attention to the poignant image of Labrador retriever, Hawkeye, lying at the coffin of his heroic master, Navy SEAL Officer, Jon Tumilson.

This obviously touched a chord in a viral way.  Office Tumilson is a true American hero.  His service to country cost him his life.

Parents should never have to bury a child, and we canines should not outlive our human pack family members.  It’s not the natural order of things.

It is expected that our demise predates yours.  When it doesn’t happen that way, we grieve.  The pain is real and raw.  Mourning is not an emotion reserved for your evolved species.

Officer Tumilson, thank you for your service to our country.  I’m still not sure I grasp the thing your evolved species calls war, but if your masters command you to fight, you obey.

My pack family, you also are my heroes.  You rescued me from a life confined in a shelter, with an uncertain future.  When you met my acquaintance, I was but a scrawny mutt with sad eyes and a nervous disposition.  You gave me a chance, and that’s an act of selfless heroism that warrants the grief we feel when our hero masters leave us.

I look forward to meeting Officer Tumlison.   While I can’t be his “Hawkeye,” I hope that I can give him some SammyDog love that comforts him until we welcome Hawkeye to our dimension.

I welcome you, Officer Tumilson

Happy Birthday to me (us)

August 16, 2011

To my dear human pack,

Emily and Allison with Frosty Paws & birthday candle

Today is August 16th – the day we would celebrate my birthday.  It wasn’t really my date of birth, but you knew that.  It was the day that you welcomed me as part of your family by adopting me from the Henry County Humane Society.  Since the shelter staff didn’t know my actual birthday, you chose my adoption day to be my unofficial birthday.  It felt right, too, since bringing me into your pack, represented my real genesis.   My earlier days are best left as a secret.

Commemorating birthdays are a human endeavor.  We canines don’t know, nor do we care about the actual date of our birth.  It was all we could do that day to ensure we got our fair share of mama’s milk and to try to stay warm.  People like to make a fuss over birthdays. We prefer to celebrate every day with boundless joy and vitality.

Knowing what my birthdays meant to you, thanks for making them special.  We celebrated 13 of them together.  I cherished the special food treats, long walks, and extra fawning.  I loved the Frosty Paws treats, complete with birthday candles, so I could make a birthday wish.  What more could I have possibly wished for then to be with you, my pack family?  Of course, no birthday was ever complete without a trip to PetSmart where I thoroughly engrossed myself in the sweet, satisfying scents of all types of animals, and then dutifully obeyed your command to pick out a favorite toy and food treat.  Some acts of obedience were easier and more eagerly performed than others.

King of the dog food!

I never quite understood that one dog year equals seven human years thing, but I now realize it had something to do with us dogs packing in seven years of life into every one human year.  During our time together, I’m convinced I made up for my early days without you, by packing in ten human years for every dog year!  Not a day was wasted.

Today is my first birthday, since our bond, celebrated outside of your presence.  Since you can’t give me Frosty Paws and candles, I hope that you’ll still grant me a wish.

I wish that you treat yourself as if today is your birthday.  Honor yourself, knowing that you gave me a life fulfilled.

Who knows?  Had you not rescued me on that hot Atlanta summer day, 14 years ago, I might not have had many more days, much less 13 magical birthday celebrations with you, my wonderful pack family.

Make every day your birthday

In my enlightened state, I’ve learned that your evolved species needs reasons to fully embrace life’s bounty.  That’s unfortunate.  So allow me to expand my birthday wish, to live each day as if it’s your birthday.

Tonight as you brush your teeth and look over at your bed, saddened that I’m not sprawled out, having staked my territory, don’t despair.  Rather, revel that tomorrow is your birthday, as is the day after that, and the day after that.

Live for the moment, and celebrate the precious gift of life.   After all, you never know how many more actual birthdays you’re going to get.

Happy Birthday to us – each and every day!



Back from vacation

July 14, 2011

Guest Blog Post by Mark – Sammy’s Daddy Pack Master

Grand Teton National Park

Dear Sammy,

We recently returned from a wonderful family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  As Emily and Allison grow older and carve out lives of their own, we realize our vacations for four are numbered, but we eagerly anticipate future vacations with their future spouses and offspring (yikes, that would be my grandchildren)!

Sammy, you would have loved Jackson Hole.  We know how you just hated the hot, humid Atlanta summers, just like we do.  Of course, we don’t have to endure the stifling heat with a thick, fluffy coat like you did.  No wonder you often took refuge on the cold bathroom tiled floor.  This Atlanta summer has been right out of an Al Gore, global-warming documentary, so the escape to Jackson Hole’s cool, dry climate was a welcome summer break.

You would have enthusiastically embraced the amazing hikes we undertook in the national parks – Grand Teton and Yellowstone as well as the abundance of wildlife.  I could only imagine the smells you would have cherished there.  Jackson Hole is also a very dog friendly destination, and I couldn’t help myself taking pictures of the wildlife and domesticated-life, canines.

Escape from the heat

When we first landed in Jackson Hole, we immediately locked eyes on a beautiful golden retriever, on leash, with his male owner at the airport baggage claim.  Soon thereafter, the expression on the dog’s face and uncontrollable wagging of the dog’s tail revealed the dog’s sheer delight of the homecoming of what appeared to be the man’s wife.  We all smiled and looked at each other.  Mommy’s tears reflected the sweetness of the moment, recalling like we all did, the same enthusiastic return you always provided us.  I must admit, it was an empty, quiet house upon our return and you not being there to greet us made our transition back to the “real world” that much more challenging.

By the way, we did return to some mail for you.  If you have a forwarding address let me know.  Although, I’m not sure you need pet meds where you are.  In fact, I hope you don’t mind we donated all your left over medicines and food to a local pet shelter.  You may not have always played nicely with other dogs, but you had a big heart, so I’m sure you’d approve.

What to do with your mail, Sammy?

We also experienced a sweet, Sammy moment during our vacation as we celebrated (yet again) my 50th birthday at a wonderful dinner at the Jackson Hole Amangani hotel care of Aunt Barrie, Uncle Adam, and Tucker.  The meal and views were spectacular.  As I prepared to blow out my birthday cake candles Emily remarked, “I guess now you can wish for a dog.”

You see, before you became part of our family, whenever there was a birthday wish to be made, I’d comment, “I hope we get a dog, too.”  Then for the almost 15 years you graced our lives, when that birthday candle moment would come for any of us, I’d predictably snicker, “But we already have a dog.”

This was the first family birthday moment where that was no longer a true statement.  It was a sweet, reflective moment and it got us thinking about all the great times we shared with you, which was truly icing on the (gluten free) cake of a wonderful celebration dinner.

Sammy, I’m so glad we got to enjoy several vacations with you.  Oh, how you loved the beach!  And even though you are no longer with us, our memories and recollections of you were inescapable throughout our Jackson Hole vacation which proved to make our experience that much more enjoyable.

Sammy enjoys the beach

SammyDog, Comfort the Big Man

June 19, 2011

Guest Blog Post by Mark – Sammy’s Daddy Pack Master

Dear SammyDog,

Sometimes even rock stars get tired

Recently you shared with us that you can’t reveal where you are.  If you’re in a place that we know as heaven, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to welcome a new resident into your dimension, Clarence Clemons.

You may not know Clarence Clemons, aka – The Big Man, but you’ve heard his music many times while keeping me company.  The Big Man was best known as the statuesque, bigger than life, saxophone player in Bruce Springstreen’s E Street Band.  Sadly (for us), he’s passed on to The Promised Land (watch The Big Man’s awesome sax riff begin 2:50 into that video).

When performing with the E Street Band, Clemons would stand tall, proud.  In his later years, he’d often sit on a stool during the show, resting his replacement knees and hips, while nurturing his mended spine.

During many songs, he’d merely support the beat by clapping his hands, playing the tambourine or humming some baritone backup vocals.  He’d wear a larger than life smile while watching the Boss perform, seemingly as if it were his first time attending one of Springsteen’s 3+ hours of inexhaustible rock and roll magic.

Magic morphed into nirvana when the Big Man grabbed his saxophone and on queue, belted out  rich, spiritual, soulful, riffs.  As great as Springsteen and the E Street Band’s songs and live performances are, and with abundant musical talent probably already posturing to replace Clemons, I just can’t  imagine the E Street Band without the Big Man.  Losing Danny Federici on the organ was tough enough.

Sammy, seek the Big Man out, and comfort him as you comforted us during our time together.   He’s worthy of your companionship.

Life is good for a rock-star dog

It’s been 3 weeks to the day, since we said good-bye to you.  It’s not surprising how much I miss you during the expected times – your walk time, your meal times, our meal times (when you got to eat again), keeping me company during the day, helping me take out the trash, and bedtime.  But, I am surprised how often I think about you during what I would consider the less obvious times.  For example:

  • Settling the bill at a restaurant and not asking for a doggy bag because we wouldn’t dare eat the scraps that you cherished and so appreciated
  • Driving by Petsmart and wondering if I need to stop and pick you up something
  • Emptying leftover water from dinner glasses into the sink, instead of pouring it into your bowl
  • Grilling and not having you by my side to sample the main course
  • Buying cards for birthdays and other holidays and realizing that I don’t get to buy a card from you (kudos to Hallmark for realizing pets like to share in special moments, too).

Speaking of cards, if do get to meet the Big Man, let him know you were once in a rock band – if starring in a Jib-Jab Hanukkah video card counts.  You rocked the house, SammyDog!  In fact, that hat you’re wearing in the video will probably remind the Big Man of Miami Steven Van Zandt, guitar player from the E-Street Band.

Sammy, comfort the Big Man, and let him know that at last, he is at peace in his eternal Land of Hopes and Dreams.

Why the bed mattered

June 5, 2011

In an earlier post, you wrote about my determination to sleep with you in your bed.

Wake up already

I tried hard to be a good, obedient member of the pack, and  I respected your authority.  I fully acknowledge that defiant phase, soon after I was lucky enough to join your pack, when I chose to ignore your calls to come.  Oh, I heard you calling, and I knew what I was supposed to do.  Instead, I chased birds at a full sprint, running wildly throughout the neighborhood, determined to make you proud by demonstrating my superior hunting skills.

Not only was I unsuccessful in catching any prey (what a dog could do with wings), I knew I was wrong to defy your command.  I was embarrassed about my behavior, and I’m sorry.

I think you knew that, too.  I would come home crawling on my belly, head down, tail tucked, eyes slowly looking up at you for acceptance, for forgiveness, ashamed that my canine instincts got the best of me.  My shame was  punishment enough.  So you could only imagine my shock, when pack master Mark decided to flog me with the newspaper to further punish my misdeed.

I learned my lesson, but I think Mark learned a greater lesson.  For the next few weeks, I really gave him the silent treatment.  Do you remember?  He’d come to pet me, and I’d get up and walk away.  He’d come by my side to make peace, his expression and scent revealing sincere atonement, yet I’d ignore his reconciliatory gesture.  Looking back, I realize that I was a real bitch to him – perhaps the only time I lived up to both common dictionary definitions assigned to the “b” word.  Ultimately, I think we both learned an important and enduring lesson.  I would for evermore respect your call to come, and you’d never strike me again.

Wayne Bressler cartoon portrays a typical night in Sammy's bed.

My nature was to please and obey.  Why, then, was I determined to sleep in your bed even though you opposed?  This was a battle I was not willing to lose.

It wasn’t that I wanted to cuddle with you all night.  You’d recall, most nights after I’d enjoy a few compulsory love pats, I’d move down to the foot of the bed where I could stretch myself out, escape your body heat, and slumber in peace.

I certainly was not wedded to your mattress.  I didn’t care that it was a “Heavenly Bed.”  I’d find comfort on hard wood floors, cement sidewalks, tile floors or other hard surfaces.  Duvets, high thread count sheets, down pillows – sure they felt okay, but typically, I’d circle three or four times before I’d find that unlumpy, uncluttered, comfortable spot.  Obviously, it wasn’t the appeal of your mattress and accoutrements that drove me to take a stand.

Most assuredly, it wasn’t the darkness of your room, the breeze of the ceiling fan or the calming, peaceful rhythm of pack master Mark’s snore.    There were other rooms, and on occasion, other snorers that would meet those criteria.

The bed mattered

So what was the allure of sleeping in your bed?  Simply put, sleeping with you nightly was the most human thing that I was capable of. I convinced myself that if I could become more human, more like you, you would accept and love me even more.  And, I think it worked.

Think about it.  There is nothing else you do on a daily basis, that I was remotely capable of doing in a human-like way.

Eating?  Sure I loved most of your favorite foods.  But, we ate at different times, you wouldn’t dare eat the dog food and treats you fed me, and could you imagine me sitting at the table using your utensils?

Bio-breaks?  How would I even sit on that toilet bowl contraption of yours?  And that whole ritual with toilet paper – no, thank you!

Walking? I loved our walks together.  But it was me on the leash, not you.  It was you who walked upright on two legs, not me.

Leisure activities?  My dear pack family, you always had to be doing something.  Why were you not content just being?  If you weren’t watching TV, you were reading, surfing the net, text messaging, talking on the phone – ugh.  Never a moment to just sit, relax, and just be.  Take it all in.  Smell the coffee.  Really you should try it some time.    Even, if I could learn all those human leisure activities, I’m certain I wouldn’t want to.  I was happy just being.

Doing as a human

So, this my pack family, is my confession as to why I would not give in to your demand that I sleep in another room or on your floor.  Once you accepted me every night, I became as close to a human being as I possibly could.  Sleeping, dreaming, enjoying our equal status.

A gesture of your love and acceptance, that I never took for granted.

Let the mystery be

June 4, 2011

I am at peace

My journey is complete.  I have arrived at my destination.  I am enlightened, I am at peace.

I watch you, my dear pack family.  I see you pass my empty water bowl and instinctively bend down to fill it up.  You stop at my perch on the front steps, poised to jump over me, but I’m not there.  You anticipate my greeting when you arrive home, and are startled by the silence as you enter.  You glance over as you prepare dinner, expecting that I’ll be at my ready position in the kitchen, studying your every move, waiting to sample tonight’s menu.

My leash

That’s to be expected.  After all, we spent almost 15 years together.  I now realize that we dogs add certainty and a calming rhythm to your unpredictable, often chaotic lives.

While you grieve, you’ve accepted my death.  You expect to see and hear me throughout your day. Yet, I’m not there.  Or at least I’m not there in the physical sense that you’re capable of understanding.

Where am I?  I am enlightened, I am at peace.

The noted humorist, Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

I thank you for the wonderful life you provided me and the merciful, peaceful death you granted me.  You anguished as you wrestled with my fate.  My life was in your hands.  Yet, when the time came, you spoke for me.  And you got it just right.  Why would I have expected otherwise?

Checking things out from Grandma & Pop-Pop's house on Earth

You have many questions for me, I’m certain.  Have I seen grandma and pop-pop?  Will I see you again?  Am I being fed properly?  What lies ahead for me, for you, for us?

I know these answers, for I am enlightened, I am at peace.

Where am I?   That answer will be, can only be, revealed and understood, when you complete your journey.

One of pack daddy, Mark’s, favorite song perhaps sums it up best.  Written and originally performed by Iris Dement, it’s called – “Let the Mystery Be.”

Opening verse from Let the Mystery Be:
Everybody’s wondering what and where they all came from
Everybody’s worrying ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
Nobody knows for certain,
And so it’s all the same to me
I Think I’ll just let the mystery be.

Click here to see the complete lyrics.

Mark’s favorite version of this song is performed by 10,000 Maniacs and the Talking Head’s, David Byrne.  I encourage you to check it out.  I know he listened to it – lots!

Audio only link: 

YouTube video version:

One day you’ll understand.  Until then, cherish the memories of our time together, know that you made my life magical, and…let the mystery be.