Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sampson (1995 - 2006)

May 21, 2006. I haven't been able to write about this horrible day but I think sharing the details might help us to deal with it a bit better. We were woken up around 2am with a few of the dogs barking. I went outside but couldn't immediately see what was causing the problem. I went back inside and stood at the kitchen window to watch them for awhile. I could then hear a quiet whining, and looked around to see who it was coming from. I thought it might be Sampson so I went over to him and could see that he had been running in circles but he stopped crying when I went to him. Sampson's our biggest dog - about 70 lbs - more like a Siberian than an Alaskan. We got him from Lance Mackey a couple of years ago, but originally he was from Dean Osmar. When he first arrived he was a handful. He would fight with any other males and was difficult to approach. We worked with him and over the years he had developed a beautiful nature. We still had to make sure not to put him next to another dominant male but now when we went to him in the yard he nuzzled up to us - wanting his back scratched and his belly rubbed. Sampson was the best gee-haw leader in the yard. One word and he would pull the team right or left, through snowdrift and onto barely discernable trail. At nine years old, he ran the 2005 Yukon Quest in single lead up every mountain and across the finish line. This year at an age of 10, he ran the Knik, Copper Basin, was lead in the ceremonial start of the Iditarod (picture below) and the Kobuk 440 which we had decided was to be his last race. He was now retired and to enjoy life running with puppies and roaming the area.

This night I scratched his head and he did the same - turned his back to me so I could scratch his back. I did this and noticed that he looked a bit fat tonight. As I was leaving he started crying again so I turned back and crouched down to have a look. I rubbed his belly which he liked but then when I touched the side of his stomach he whipped his head around in pain and grabbed at me, catching my upper lip in his teeth. I wasn't sure at first that he'd caught me as it didn't hurt, but I touched my lip and could see the blood on my hand. I knew then that something was definitely wrong with him. I went inside to soak the cuts with water and epsom salts. Hugh was downstairs by then and he went out to check on Sampson. His stomach was getting bigger all the time and now Sampson was tearing apart his doghouse. We were a bit worried to approach him and knew that at now 3 in the morning there was no one we could really call, and no way to get him to a vet. I tried to rest but Hugh was freaking out everytime he looked at me. The one cut was wide open and my lip was hanging loose a bit.

We had no idea what was causing Sampson's bloating. We hoped that whatever it was would either pass or get thrown up, so we were reluctant to sedate him. At seven in the morning we went outside again to check on Sampson. He was laying still and his eyes were glazed over. We called out his name and he raised his head and looked at us as though saying goodbye. Then Hugh went in to call our neighbour Paul, another musher - to see if he had seen this before. He thought it was either a twisted stomach or a punctured stomach and said either way there wasn't much one could do and said maybe it was just his time. Hugh came back out and by then Sampson had passed away. We moved him out of the yard and covered him up for the time being. We then went to the hospital where I got five stitches. Later that day we found out that Sampson had died from a fish bone. Amazing to think such a small bone could bring down such a big dog. We had fed cooked halibut and rice the previous night, and one of the bones had punctured his stomach. We're now overly cautious about feeding fish and have been sifting out all the bones after it's been cooked.

So now Hugh and I both have Sampson tatoos. (Hugh got bit last summer when he was hooking up dogs and a dog nipped at Sampson from behind. Sampson in turn whipped round and got Hugh in the arm.) I personally wouldn't mind if I kept a scar from Sampson - it just means we we will be connected forever.

We hope Sampson is in a good place but we miss him terribly. He was a wonderful fella who's spirit, determination, and love we will remember forever.


"If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." --- Will Rogers


At 3:29 AM , Blogger Dianne G said...

I am so sorry to learn of your losing your friend Sampson, especially at the beginning of his retirement. I check in on you every few weeks, and checked in today to see if you had puppies (congrats--hope they all live glorious lives), and found the sad news. We always worry about bones, just because we've "heard" that they can be dangerous, but I think this is the first actual fatality I personally know about.
Re: tatooes. Hope your lip heals well. I am wearing a black eye this week--I'm keeping my son's dogs while his family is at Myrtle Beach, SC (sigh). DJ the big lab, is somewhat lacking in "home training," but he has a great heart. I've been working with him this week. Unfortunately, early in the week, when he was working on "sit," he SAT well, but then punched/scratched me in the eye. I really think he was sorry. His sitting, and non pawing immediately improved.
Enjoy the pups. Dianne

At 12:35 PM , Blogger tamra said...

Hi Dianne,
Thanks for checking in and leaving a comment - we love to know who's tuning in. Bones - ya we've never heard of an actual case of this before either so it was real shock. Hugh's lost a dog (Maverik) before from a corn cob (getting stuck somehere in the stomach) so he never eats corn on the cob anymore. So sorry to hear about your eye injury. Dogs eh - gotta love 'em - so unpredictable. He was probably trying to give you a high five about how smart he was and then missed :)

At 6:32 PM , Blogger Dianne G said...

You got the exact picture re: high five. He was so excited about sitting that he had to move SOMETHING. The two dogs are back at home now, so my dog Daphne is an only dog again. I am researching buying a recumbant trike for me so she can hook up for Greenbelt runs. She has the heart of a sled dog.


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