Archive for January 29th, 2008

My dog Sam, Part 6

January 29, 2008

For me it was an amazing springtime on the Sand Road as the vestiges of winter began to fade away.  Though we lived close to town, wildlife flourished in the nearby woods and being near the river meant fishing and swimming as the days stretched into summer.  Sam and I spent many hours wandering to nearby ponds or hiking through far reaching pastures.  But with Sam’s freedom to roam came a notoriety that put us on the outs with several of our neighbors.

Early on Frankie’s owner, the sassy girl from the “lower” road, came to pay us a call with her dad claiming Sam had bit her.  I remember my mom meeting this drunken slob and is daughter at our front porch and him threatening to shoot Sam if he was ever caught on his property.  We figured what probably happened is the girl tried to step in between Sam and Frankie during a fight and got nipped for her trouble.

I’ve only actually seen Sam and Frankie get into a scrap twice.  The first time was on neutral ground shortly after Sam had initially staked his claim to our yard by chasing Frankie down the road.  Frankie appeared one afternoon with another dog, sniffing and marking their territory everywhere they went.  But either Frankie felt secure with another dog running with him or was just suffering from short term memory loss because when he crossed over into our yard with seeming impunity, Sam shot out from under his tree and hurled himself towards them. 

Frankie’s companion heard/saw Sam coming and fled immediately, Frankie started to run but then spun around to face Sam.  The momentum of Sam’s weight and speed flipped Frankie into a backward somersault when they collided.  With Sam following through together they rolled across the grass and into the main road; a snarling mass of teeth, fur and tails.  Back and forth with a viciousness that could only mean absolute power to the victor, Sam and Frankie tore at each other for a full three minutes or more.  I ran after Sam initially thinking I’d try to stop them, but the ferociousness of that dog fight held me at bay.  Realizing that they were in a fight for road superiority I started cheering Sam on.

“Sam!”  I cried, “get ’em Sam!”   …and Sam got ’em. 

Frankie was mad with rage but no match for my dog.  For every move Frankie made Sam countered it with shear power and determination egged on by my shouts of encouragment.  Whirling in a kaleidioscope of dust and canine acrobatics, Frankie and Sam fought like they were in a duel to the death.  Up on his hind legs Sam had a towering advantage over Frankie who while struggling on his back could only make short thrusts with his good hind leg to try and push Sam off of him.   Finally Frankie was forced into submission despite false bravado through his exposed fangs and blood.   It didn’t take him long to realize he was in a losing battle because at a point when Sam seemed to pull back, Frankie scrambled up and hauled ass back down the “lower” road.  Sam stayed behind, standing there triumphantly taking all the praise through words, pats and petting I could muster.  Sam had beaten back the meanest animal on Sand Road and I declared him the best dog in the whole, wide world.

Of course, the fact that the sassy girl’s father made this threat upset my mom.  That anyone would come around and complain to her about anything we kids had been doing would concern her, but with Sam it was different.

Many times my mom would claim that she knew Sam understood her when she talked to him.  He was practically human, she would say, and his actions bore that out.  For instance, most dogs that were in the house and wanted to be let outside would paw at the door or bark, but Sam communicated with telepathy.  He’d go find you and stand staring at you until you got up to see what he wanted.  Then he would lead you to the door and stand there until you opened it for him.  My mom believed in many things that were “out there” beyond the realm of explanation and relative reasoning.  Sam could have been the reincarnation of some earth bound wandering soul for all she knew and it wouldn’t have taken much for her to be convinced of it.

Sam felt he belonged on the furniture, too, and would reluctantly get down when told like you just insulted him.  My older sister would complain about finding Sam upstairs on her bed.  But not only would he be on her bed, but in it; lying on his back with his head on a pillow and a sheet pulled up over him.  When Sam rode in a car, he wanted to be in the front seat with the driver sticking his head out the window.  And when you talked to him, Sam would tilt his head and give you his utmost attention. 

But reports came from up and down the road about Sam’s behavior outside our yard as he became bolder in his escapades.  He didn’t like to be told to leave another  person’s  property and he didn’t take kindly to people trying to chase him away with what ever means they would use.  Residents complained to our friends about him and when he came up missing the first time we figured someone had made good on a promise to do him in.

Sam was gone about two days when we first started to panic.  We all loaded up into the station wagon and drove the length and breadth of the Sand Road, calling out his name and asking people if they’d seen our dog, but nobody had.  Sure that he’d been killed by a passing car I scoured the ditches on both sides of the highway for at least a mile on both sides, but to no avail. 

Then as soon as we figured Sam had been murdered; his body chopped up, set on fire and then buried, somebody got the bright idea to check with the dog pound.  Sam had been picked up, much to our relief.  My mom declared that it’d be the last time she’d “bail him out of jail” and handed over the twenty bucks it took to license him and pay the fine.

But she was as glad as we were that our dog was okay.  Sam rode all the way home with his head in my mom’s lap, looking up at her with big, brown eyes and a wagging tail…