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My Friend Sam

My Friend Sam

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Published by Shana Mahaffey
A story about Sam, the dog who taught me how to face and overcome my greatest fear.
A story about Sam, the dog who taught me how to face and overcome my greatest fear.

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Published by: Shana Mahaffey on Oct 19, 2010
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10/20/2010

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 1
SamByShana Mahaffey
 In 1990, a bull terrier mix with a pirates patch over her right eye, and aninky black wonder dog cape covering her white body, ran along a lonely roadoutside San Luis Obispo, California. A passerby rescued the running dog and brought her to the local animal shelter. And once there, she earned a reputation as anunfriendly dog, intimidating all those who passed by her kennel. But not my friendJohn who said, The first time I saw her, she stood straight and serious, her bodyforming an H. Rather than fearing this somber dog, John brought her home to hisgirlfriend Anne who lived in Santa Barbara, California. And so began a journey of my cherished friend, Sam, the dog who taught me how to face and overcome mygreatest fear.I first heard about Sam when Anne called me and said, I got a dog. Sufferingfrom a debilitating illness, Anne often had a tough time getting through the day. Sowhen she uttered the words, dog, my immediatethought, which I kept to myself, was I hope this is one of those old, mellow, sleep all day, cat-like dogs, becauseAnne didnt have the energy for much more. Then I met Sam, the canine version of Eliza Doolittle. She had the willand the friendly, aim to please personality you only findin dogs, but she definitely needed some work.
 
 2Ill admit my skepticism over the decision to keep a dog who barked toomuch, chewed everything in sight, didnt listen, and needed hours of exercise towear her out. But my uncertainty reversed itself when I saw how quickly Anneslove and attention, supplemented by the love and attention of her new, extendedfamily helped Sam transform her frenetic behavior into the intuitive, considerate,and affectionate dog I knew for almost ten years.Now dont get me wrong, Sam didnt turn into the Zen master who spent her days inmeditation. The turbo dog with a singularfocus on tennis balls, birds, and whose favoritedestination was the beach remained. In fact,Sam loved the beach so much it got to be that nobody could say beach in her presencewithout igniting a frenzied reaction of barking,high jumping, tail chasing, scatteringeverything and anyone in the near vicinity. To avoid this, the codeword for beachbecame Sea. But Sam, figured that one out quickly, demonstrating her knowledgeby reenacting her Beach, did you say beach? performance.No matter the route, Sam always knew the way to the ocean. And when thefootpath or car went in that direction, shed go crazy. Upon arrival, the entire beachbecame her playground. She once chased a bird so far out to sea, a boat with anoutboard motor had to be dispatched to rescue her. Another time, on a mission tocatch a tennis ball, she knocked the wind out of me with a blindside as she shot 
 
 3forward to snatch the flying ball in her jaws. But she was also the dog who ran like athief whenever her friends called out, Sammy! Who passed out slobbery kisses likecandy. Who welcomed you anytime, day or night, with a wagging tail and a friendlybark. So, what are a fall and a little shortness of breath for a friend like that?A couple of years after Sam moved in with Anne and became part of my life, Imoved to New York City. Even though we saw eachother far less frequently, Sam knew I was her friend,the cat lady, who took her for runs, shared my muffin,and who liked to be greeted by the helicoptoring tailaccompanied by a gleeful bark. And many years laterwhen life found all three of us in the Bay Area, abridge separating me from Anne and Sam, our routine remained the same, just morefrequent.Not long after Anne and Sam moved to the Bay Area, Sams health took adownward turn. When I saw her after a couple of weeks of battling her illness, Inoticed the toll of it had dimmed her black eye patch and wonder dog cape, but it didnt diminish the twinkle in her eye or the mirth in her doggie smile. Thefollowing week, after many tests, the vet was ready to present the results. Annescheduled the visit for early evening so Sams posse could all attend. As she lay onthe cold metal table, Sam shifted her gaze back and forth between Anne and the rest of us, wiggling her tail as if to say, Dont worry, it will all right.Still, a thick fear washed over the half dozen of us standing in the examiningroom awaiting the prognosis. More people waited by the phone. When the vet 

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