RIP Sammy the Dog

Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.
The pet-owners prayer.

SammyandReneeKissingSammy was nearly 15 years old when he departed this world in our arms Saturday morning. My ex- was there with me, as she was when we brought him back from the pound in 2000.

You can even see in the pictures, Sammy was special. His lineage – a mix of Samoyed and Chow – triggers that ‘aw…’ response in the human psyche; part teddy bear, part koala bear, with a touch of wolfieness for attitude.

He made literally hundreds of friends in the several locales in which he lived, welcoming them from driveway, porch and yard space with his comehither smile and tail wag. Aggressive dogs did not intimidate him. Small dogs never felt intimidated by him. He addressed all with an air of optimistic curiosity.fEBRUARY 2004 004 for blackberry

He had an unusual way of looking people straight in the eye. In his later months, his arthritic walk was interpreted by others as being regal – or as a FedEx driver said, pimping it.

The day was clearly coming, but the hole in my heart is much bigger than I had expected. And it turns out my reactions are typical. I’ve heard from a hundred people the same thing – Sammy was so nice, and I miss my own dog so much too.

Someone said it’s because, unlike with most people, we can’t discuss with them their imminent demise – they are wholly dependent on us for deploying the power of life and death.

Others note that, just as our dogs are constantly monitoring our state of being, so are we constantly aware of them, even if unconsciously. And I do notice, many many many times a day, his absence.

SAmmyearsandtongue2Sammy was special?  Sure, but so was your dog. And yours. Deeply unique, all of them, yet all with that capacity to love unconditionally.

And don’t tell me (us) “he’s just a dog, that’s not love.” Not buying it. There is a continuum of consciousness, and it overlaps species considerably. ‘Sam in a dog’s body’ is what we called him, and so he was.

I’ve held off writing this for several days, because I wasn’t sure what to say. I want to share my pain, but I don’t want to be all gratuitously self-involved. I also don’t want to claim my experience is unique – clearly, it’s not. And while I’d like to draw some conclusions about what it all means, I also decided not to waste the time on intellectualizing it.


I had a dear friend. He’s gone. It’s sad, very sad. And I know now, better than before, how many of you have gone there before, and know exactly what I’m feeling – and I, you.


RIP Sam, no longer in a dog’s body.

22 replies
  1. Ben
    Ben says:

    Sorry for your loss. Dogs are one of life’s great gifts because they love unconditionally, are quick to forgive and are always happy to see you. They really are man’s best friend

  2. BarbaraKimmel
    BarbaraKimmel says:

    Charlie- this may sound corny, but every time I have lost a dog, I have either planted a tree or purchased a house plant in their memory. I took my small (at that time) “Perky” tree with me when I moved from one home to another. It’s a reminder, at least for me, that life goes on.

  3. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    Sammy was quite special Charlie. This must have been very difficult to write. He was blessed to have you, and you him.

  4. davebrock
    davebrock says:

    Charlie, I’m so sorry for your loss. Our pets become important parts of our families. They don’t care who we are or what we’ve done, they just care about us. Unconditionally. They make use better people, if we pay attention.
    We could learn a lot about love and trust from them.
    Thanks for sharing this Charlie. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to do so.

  5. Michael Holt
    Michael Holt says:

    Very well written Charlie, and my sympathies for your loss. I couldn’t agree with you more about how dogs and humans relate.and in my own case, the profound relationship I have with my golden retriever, Nana. Understanding a dog, and letting them understand you, allows one to have a better understanding of the value of all life.

  6. John
    John says:


    My thoughts are with you and know that while this hurts it hurts because of the joy and love Sammy and you shared.

    Be Well

  7. Karin Bellantoni
    Karin Bellantoni says:

    Charlie- My condolences. Our pets are our therapists, our family and our best friends. Its the end of an era. I think Sammy is very proud of you for sharing this intimate and beautifully written story.

  8. Mike Kunkle
    Mike Kunkle says:

    I saw your post and commented on Facebook, Charlie, but still found myself compelled to comment here again. Your willingness to share your story is a tribute to your authenticity and your wonderful nature. I’m sorry for your loss.

    As a guy who was once ridiculed by some friends for spending $2500 to try to save a $25 guinea pig, and who has his dog plastered on his Facebook cover in a montage, I think I know what you’re going through (or as much as another can know, anyway). We (including many of the commenters I’ve seen here and on Facebook) don’t think of our pets just as “animals.” In fact, “Sam in a dog’s body” is the most elegant way I’ve seen it phrased.

    I wish you all peace, Charlie, and for you personally, as soon as possible, but no sooner… grieving is a normal and necessary human process. Be easy on yourself, Charlie, and remember the good times.

  9. sarahagan
    sarahagan says:

    Oh Charlie – sigh. These furry companions are the perfect examples of love and generosity. They crawl up into our hearts and take over. Thank you for sharing: it reminds us all that love is love and we should be careful not to dismiss the loss and grief we feel when someone (human or not) leaves us.

  10. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:

    Many thanks to all, really, for all the rich, thoughtful and gracious comments you have sent in. Certainly makes me feel better, and it’s good to recognize in general how much we all relate to certain things in the same way.

  11. Martha Rogers Ph.D.
    Martha Rogers Ph.D. says:

    Words can’t convey the loss of a loved one, but this at least lights a flame of understanding. Thank you, Charlie. My husband says the loss of a dog is worse even than the loss of people in our lives, not just because of their unconditional love for us, but also because we have no mixed feelings about them. My own little Riley is a comic, a show-off, and a lovebug. But mostly, he is incapable of any evil thought. His sheer goodness flows from his eyes and his gestures and makes me better in turn. Charlie, this is an undeniably sad time, but I’m happy for you that you had Sammy, and he had you.

  12. Paul Mccord
    Paul Mccord says:

    Charlie, I’m so sorry for the loss of Sammy. I understand your loss because the loss of a dog is like no other. Certainly it cannot compare to the loss of a child–but it is close. In the last few years Mr. B.J., our Dachshund,has taught me a great deal about the intelligence and emotional life of animals. I’ve learned that he can count (to five at least, maybe more, but can’t verify that), is very much aware of the concept of ‘his’ (that being anything and everything he wants and even things he isn’t interested in if one of the other dogs wants it), will go to great lengths to protect us and to comfort us when we need it. The pure joy he feels when we get out the leash and he knows we’re going for a walk or when he hears the rattle of a bag of his treats–and even more the excitement and joy he expresses when Debbie or I walk through the door. When either of us comes in–even if we just took out the trash–we have to have a big reunion with jumping and licking and kissing and laughing. I know I’ll be in your shoes in just a few very short years. As Martha Rogers says below, we have no mixed feelings about them (although unlike her Riley, Mr.B.J. delights in his own little evil thoughts as he schemes to steal Lola’s orChloe’s treats from them). Be well my friend and hold your memory of Sammy close.

  13. edrozda
    edrozda says:

    Charlie, 6 years later we still see Dutch in so many things we do and
    the tears come back now and then as well. We’ve never had the courage to get another dog, after all how can we replace Dutch. But we will always be richer for having known him, nurtured him (and he, us) and grown with him.

    Thank you for sharing a real personal story, not that you ever shy away from being real (which I always appreciate). Be well and know that you are not alone.

  14. Jill Jackson
    Jill Jackson says:

    Charlie – I am so sorry for your loss. As a big fan of God’s furry creatures – and a new dog owner (rescued a pup last spring) – my heart goes out to you. May it bring you comfort to know that you were a big part in making him such a happy and loving pup. I am sure he led a life of joyful existence, being loved by you

  15. Curtis Guffey
    Curtis Guffey says:

    Charlie – I am Jill Jackson’s brother. I pray blessings and peace on you. I know Sammy is at peace. My wife and I lost our Casey two and a half years ago and are now facing this presently with our beautiful Sophie. She is 13 and has been fighting cancer for a year now. She was “supposed” to be gone almost eight months ago but God blessed us with more time. This is so hard but please take comfort in your memories and also the deep understanding and support of people who have posted here! God Bless.

  16. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:

    To Martha, Paul, Doug, Ed, Cynthia, Jacque, Ed R., Jill and Curtis – thanks to you all for adding your thoughts and feelings here. It’s really a remarkable fellowship of people bound by a common theme, one of the higher aspects of being human, thanks to our furry fluffy friends. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Michelle Davidson
    Michelle Davidson says:

    I’m just seeing this post now. I’m so sorry to read about Sammy. Our furry family members are such a huge part of our lives. It’s always so sad when we have to say goodbye to them.


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