I did not grow up a dog lover. To me, dogs were, at best, smelly, barky and annoying. At worst, they threatened me, as in the pair of large German Shepherds that gleefully waited to attack me every morning as I walked the neighborhood on my paper route.
But that all changed when I met the girl that would later become my wife. The first time I went to her home, tucked into a corner of Anacostia near the Potomac River, she introduced me to her new puppy, a Black Lab named Sam. I quickly realized that this was a classic case of “Love me, love my dog”, and so I opened my heart, slowly at first, to this black wriggly creature that went everywhere with my new girlfriend.
After a month and a half of dating, I took her to meet my parents, puppy in tow. About five minutes after entering their home, Sam took a large dump on the rug my mom had just finished crocheting. My girlfriend was mortified, but hey, that’s life with a puppy.
About six months later we were married, and we drove across the country to L.A., to follow my dream of making it in the music business. Sam followed a bit later, in a crate delivered to us by American Airlines. I began to learn about the joys of owning a Lab, as he became my constant companion on long walks up the hills surrounding the Valley, and on the bluffs above Malibu. He came with us when we moved to Nashville a couple of years later, and when we had our first child, he graciously took a step back in rank, with a lick and a lot of tail wagging. Sam stayed with us through three houses and another child, loving us with all he had. He had become an old dog by the time my wife called me on the road in tears—Sam had become too ill to go on, and she had to have the vet put him down.
We went on for a while after that, with just a couple cats in the house, until one day I decided it was time for another dog, and began dropping by the local animal shelter. It wasn’t long until they had a batch of Black Lab Mix puppies, and one caught my eye immediately, rolling over so I could scratch his belly, and smiling at me. I knew I had found a new Sam.
Sam turned out to be the best dog anyone could hope for. He’s always happy to see you, he’s kind to the cats and other dogs, he barks like a maniac when strangers come around, and when he looks at me I just know he loves me with all his heart, as I do him.
Sam is twelve years old now, and grey hair covers his muzzle, and his eyes are cloudy. His hips sometimes give out when he forgets he’s not young anymore and tries to chase deer through the neighborhood. I dread the day when I call him for our morning walk, and he’s not able to go. But for now, he’ll continue to be The Best Dog Ever.