One very hot, mid-90's day in late July, 2002, I drove from the northeastside of Indianapolis to Brownsburg, IN. I had just bought a 1995 Jeep Wrangler nine months prior, and was travelling with the top down. I met a very nice couple and was introduced to a very large litter of Germand Shepherd puppies. I looked at all of them trying to decide which male puppy was going to be the lucky dog that got to spend his life with me. Little did I know at the time, but I was the lucky one. As I sorted through the pups, my eye kept going to this larger, sort of allusive, bowl hogging pup. He had a spirit of independence and confidence that I related to. I picked him. Happily, I put him in the Jeep, turned the engine, and put it in first gear. Six week old Sampson jumped out and ran back to their front door! Sampson whined all the way home. I got him home, introduced him to our five kids and put him in the kiddy pool. He's been a water dog ever since.
Sampson's favorite past times were to jump into any water to swim and fetch. He would duck his whole head in and retrieve what was tossed. He had his own kiddy pool in the summer that he would lay in. He loved to play ball with the kids. As he grew so did his taste for balls. As a pup a tennis ball was good, but as an adult he preferred soccer balls or basketballs. The joy he got was to keep the balls away from the kids. The kids enjoyed trying to catch him to get the ball back. If he wasn't playing with the ball, he was laying by the ball guarding it. When the kids grew up and moved out, he was always excited to see them come visit and expected them to play ball with him.
Sampson loved playing with other dogs, ours and other peoples. He got along well with strange dogs and I never had to worry about him hurting or attacking. Of all the dogs I have known in my life, Sampson is the only dog I knew who would actually give or share his food or treats with his fellow canine companions.
Sampson and I have traveled many miles in our Jeep. I say 'our' because that Jeep was his second home. Sampson went everywhere with me. Everyone I knew or met, knew or met Sampson. Sampson guarded that Jeep well. I learned quickly that I would receive more cooperation from him if I kept just the top on without the sides so he could have a shade. Yes, we also traveled with a bucket of water. Sampson was never a social dog but he never bit anybody. His large size and deep bark put the fear into a few fellows that thought an open Jeep was just the place where they could obtain some DVDs or a Pioneer radio. I walked into a Dollar Store one day and I heard barking. I looked out the window and saw Sampson running after a kid across the parking lot. I put him back into the Jeep and noticed on the dashboard were some DVDs that I was planning to return. Thanks Sampson!
I always felt safe traveling at night with Sampson. He protected me from uncertain people. With an open Jeep, people off the street tend to approach easier. Sampson always let me know who had bad intentions. His deep growl would persuade those people to change their minds in approaching. The others he would sniff and then return to position in the back seat keeping his watchful, caring eye on me.
At the end of my financing term for the Jeep, I was a couple of payments behind. The Repo Man came at 3 a.m. As I was turning over my keys and getting info, Sampson was inside the house howling. Sampson had never howled before or since that one time. We took Sampson with us to get the Jeep back. When he saw the Jeep, he jumped over our laps, out the truck window, ran to the Jeep and jumped in. He loved his Jeep. Another time we received a call from a neighbor that Sampson was loose in the neighborhood. When we got home, he was sitting in the Jeep waiting for us.
I sold that Jeep back in April of this year. I miss it but didn't cry. I blew out the engine a few years ago and was keeping it for sentimental reasons, but I knew it was time to send it to a better home. I sit now with Sampson who has been my best friend and companion. Sampson's hind legs just stop working yesterday morning. He cannot walk. As house-calling vets are obscenely expensive, I sit here with Sampson, waiting, in his own time to go on to a better place. I am crying. Sampson has always had one place in the house that was his, the front door. He is the centurion of our humble abode. Anyone who came into our home had to pass through Sampson first. Yesterday, we had to place him elsewhere. Today, I am standing guard over my best friend's last few hours. My loving duties are to keep the flies away, give him water, clean up his excrement, pet his belly, tell him "It's OK", "You're a good boy", "I love you" and constantly thank him in word and deed for all the love, protection and good times he has given me these past 11 years. Yes, I am the luckier one.