Remembering Sam

I wrote this two years ago, in November, when Sam died. I decided to post it so the background to the new blog I am writing will make sense…
There have been so many lessons Sam has taught me that I hate to let his death be the one most remembered. Two beautiful carefree Aquarius girls, LP and I, for her birthday and mine, decided to own a dog. He scratched his one white paw at me in that little wire fence cage in Charleston, South Carolina and I was putty in his hands. That began the first of two very important lessons. One, you should let the other roommates of the house know you are bringing a dog home before you do or they might be very upset. I remember holding this precious puppy, each of us pushing the other one to go first through our Charleston home of seven girls, not knowing the happiness or wrath that awaited us. We got both. His cuteness, not ours, won them over eventually. Second big lesson. I called home with such innocent excitement to be completely squashed by my mother’s total lack of awareness. How can you own a dog with LP, Katie? Do you know how long dogs actually live? I was so angry at her lack of happiness for me. Of course Lauren and I would be together for the next twelve years. Duh! We were 19 and 20! We would always be together. We lived in Charleston and were both from Atlanta, shared a car, a home, a family. We shared everything! I now shake my head in disbelief at those adorable girls with bare feet walking to and from Norm’s Pizza for cigarettes and sweet tea.
What the hell were we thinking?
I laugh at LP’s frustration at teaching him how to walk because he sat on the sidewalk, leash on, ass parked on the sidewalk, refusing to move. She would drag him, feel terrible, and then Sam would walk in her arms while she scolded, looking absolutely ridiculous. I laughed from behind. He was truly a parenting class for dummies. I am so thankful we didn’t kill him.
I remember all the dog parks and friends he made and his soul mate Delilah, who he was named in conjunction with the Grateful Dead song, and watched with pride as he grew from puppy to man as he learned to walk to Josh and Ed’s house without even a leash. Him and Brady and Delilah, Bee and Tela, jumping into the Astro Van for road trip to road trip. He always knew when we were almost home. I can see him with the windows down, jumping up from sleep in the back seat to stick his nose out the window when we got close to the beach, his beach, the ocean waves calling him and his response to them, a long howl and paws scratching the doors in anxious anticipation. He may be the only one who may not remember the greatest batch of chocolate pot brownies made and carefully placed in Sean’s infamous Astro van on one trip in particular. I looked back and Sam was on his back, all four legs pointed to the sky, tongue out, and half the brownie batch completely gone. I think LP almost had a heart attack. I think that was our worst parenting mistake of all, and we were far from done. Sam has had highs and lows. He has seen more sights and mountain tops and sunsets and ocean tides then many people do in their entire lifetime.
He has also been one of few dogs that has ever been taken to a party by his mother who got so drunk that she brought the wrong dog home. That would be me. In my defense, his twin was a border collie, black, and did respond to the name Samson. He just was missing a white paw the next morning. That was another big lesson for me.
I just remember my panic and his relief and my pathetic realization that the people who owned the house didn’t even notice so that helped me feel at least I wasn’t as bad as those parents. His carefree days changed forever though when LP left for Australia, not just him, but for me and Josh as well. She had been our glue. That time was my first realization that she wasn’t always going to be there and so I had to hold a strong front for the family and I didn’t do very well. Josh and Ed moved out of Rutledge with Sam’s friends Bee and Tela and I worked downtown and lived with a friend who would like to be named Lewis Hillside, a black pornstar, for the sake of this blog, and well, we all know living with Lewis had its challenges, like lamp fires and midnight releases of pee on my work clothes and the total lack of awareness that I clung to Sam and cried myself to sleep like a baby every night. I didn’t have enough money for a leash so I took my purple flannel robe tie and put it around his neck and he was so graceful about it. I was on the break of death in my addictions and disowned from family and my Charleston girls were all over the world and Sam was not allowed to stay at Lewis’s or we would be kicked out so I had to figure out how to work and be a mom. I just remember calling cabs, hopping in and pulling Sam into the cab with me, my hood covering my head, face down, praying the driver wouldn’t say anything. I shoved money into his hands and jumped out with Sam, who soon began figuring out that cabs meant he was going to a strange girl’s house, one I am so thankful for, who kept him for a joint a week while I was working. I can’t remember her name now but I thank God for her.
I looked into his eyes and promised him every day I was coming back and I thought his eyes were a reflection of my own and that we were both dying. I promised to be alive and he kept me alive with that promise. Then came in Brooke on Cannon Street where she gave me full use of her bike and a place for Sam to be with Bosco. Her kindness can’t be repaid nor can Meredith and Collen who let me stay for free with Sam boarded while I worked, who was pissed at this point. He chewed up my favorite boots ever. I remember crying on the floor with those boots and him looking so very sorry for himself and I couldn’t yell at him. What a soldier. He was welcomed at Becky and Vinnie’s house, who lived right on Folly Beach where he always stayed close. He always knew. Especially when I met my ex, who laughs at how the first time he met Sam, who was in HIS car that I borrowed and yet growled at him through the window.
Jeremy Samson Kirstein. They had the same middle names! It was destiny! So, I moved him to Mt. Pleasant in a nice house with two new dogs to get to know, a Basset Hound and a mutt that he never quite bonded with. So, this Jeremy and I fell madly in love and decided to marry and I just knew it was the answer to the emptiness inside of me, the blackness, the mess and sorrow of being me was uplifted and I never wanted it to go away. And LP came home. She came home and our family had completely changed. It was the most beautiful painful thing to watch them reunite like all was well when we both knew everything was different, almost to the point of disrepair.
I had to tell her and the girls I was to marry this Jeremy Samson and move to Atlanta and the silence in their reactions were deafening. I had split myself into two people and one had to die. I didn’t believe I deserved it all. I hated Atlanta. I hated me. They supported me knowing full well I was nowhere ready to be a wife but there presence was the ultimate love of friendship. And yet, what was to be done with Sam? I begged LP to make the decision so I could grieve it before I was to be married. I couldn’t bare the pain of him being away on a day that meant such joy and I just had to know. She wouldn’t. And then she did. She gave me to him in a letter, one I have in my brown box in my closet and in my heart till this day. The ultimate gift of unconditional love. She let him go. And he did. He said his goodbyes over the Honeymoon and I died again watching the departure and remembering my mother’s grief of this day I was too young to know would come.
What a prophecy.
He sat in my lap and I cried the entire trip home to Atlanta, a foreign place with traffic lanes, big suburban neighborhoods, missing dog parks, little fences and no smells.
The smell of the beach was lost as well as my dream.
The next seven years Sam moved with little complaint into several little homes, watched a lot of fights and tears, was a witness to love and babies and his Jeremy who he embraced them all with such surprising sweetness and acceptance. He was a wise man now. He knew they were now my heart and his lessons prepared the way. He guarded on the front porch just like the days he guarded in Charleston, just not on the steps barking at men coming towards me, but at the mail lady delivering ebay packages. He bit her once and I cried because of how misunderstood he had been. I once had been given a shot of vodka and found out later it was actually GHB by a guy at work and Sam was the one who pulled me whining with his teeth as I awoke to headlights, just barely missing my head.
It was Sam that after waking from panic attacks was lying on my chest whining and licking my face to consciousness, still attached to my wrist by ripped flannel ties. It was Sam that laid in my bed and comforted me over a failed marriage and a father that had done things that would have been easier to have just believed he had died, and yet his presence gently reminded me of how far we had come and how much we had overcome. He always believed in me. He never left or complained or judged. He just stayed through it all and loved me anyway. And now, divorced and happy and transformed, he has done his job and is tired. He is so very tired. I see that he couldn’t go until I was okay. And I am more than okay. I am alive and well and full of promise and forgiveness and joy. I am victorious. Birth and Death are so bittersweet. Something beautiful has been born in me but just as seasons change, death comes to remind us that nothing lasts forever. I ask him how I can be without him. I am afraid, I say. I ask him who will know me and my quirks and forgive and love me and he just lays his chin and tells me I will be just fine.
Sam is not a dog. He is my totem, my friend, my teacher, my heart. His last lesson remains. The most loving thing we can do for another soul is to let them go. I release you Sam.
With light and love, I release you.

3 thoughts on “Remembering Sam

  1. I love reading your blogs Katy. They ususally make me cry. Your talent at writing amazes me.
    I love you
    Mama Love

  2. Wow… crying at my desk. Beautiful, as always. Reminds me of Buoy and all the mud I have dragged him through, and he is always my constant, my only constant.

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