Mom asked if I’d take our dog, Lily, for a walk tonight. I was wearing shoes and Mom wasn’t, and I never really mind getting out and seeing the stars, so I agreed happily.
But we couldn’t find the leash. It’s one of those nice, retractable ones, and it’s hot pink, so it should have been easy to spot. But it just wasn’t there. Mom went digging through a cabinet and found something that would do: Sam’s old leash.
Sam was the first dog I ever had, the only other dog I’ve had. We got her when I was eight, when my family was living on a ranch in Hollister. I think I must have named her, because “Samantha” seems like the kind of thing an eight-year-old girl would name a puppy. She was a mutt, apparently part Husky and mostly Question-Mark, and she had the coloring of a German Shepherd, but the coarse hair of a Lab. She weighd about 50 pounds and was good at responding to verbal commands. You could walk her without a leash. She had the softest ears I’d ever felt. I called them “velvet ears.” She got stinky when she didn’t have a bath for awhile. Sometimes we’d let her wander the neighborhood, and I had a special way of calling her, almost a song. “Sa-MAAAAAAAAN-thaaaa. C’mere, c’mere puppy! Saaaaaa-mmmmy!” And she’d always come, and you could hear the fast beat of her paws seconds before you’d see her.
She was a damned good dog, was Sam.
She got old and she died. She was a shell of herself by the time she finally went. I was maybe 23 when I got a call saying that Sam had died. By that point, she wasn’t fun anymore. I hadn’t really cared about her in years, if we’re being honest. She was more a stinky, incontinent burden than anything else. And she just made me so sad, seeing her so old and feeble when she’d been the best dog a kid could hope for. It was a relief when she finally died.
I hadn’t really thought about Sam for a long time until my mom pulled that leash out of the cabinet tonight. And I attached it to the collar of my spunky little Lily-Pie, my sweet puppy who doesn’t always come when called, who you can’t even think of walking without a leash, and I thought about my first dog, my Sammy. And I remembered what a good dog she was, what a sweet dog, and how much I loved her.
And now I’m crying harder than I’ve cried in months.