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Loss

Loss

Last year we lost our beautiful dog, Samantha. I am writing about Samantha because she was special (of course) and she helped me with arthritis.

Samantha was about 4 years old when she came to live with us.  She was mostly a cocker spaniel, but certainly not a purebred.  Or maybe she was. She was the second mostly cocker spaniel and family member who has lived with us.

Finding each other

We found (I have to say she might have found us) her in a rescue shelter. We learned that she was from the northern part of Indiana and she came to us with her name and a few details about her path to our door.  We learned the city she was surrendered in and that she had been seeing a veterinarian in another town even further north in our state. We found her after she turned up in a cocker spaniel rescue shelter about 50 miles away from us.

She was spotted on a website by Sheryl, and it was close to love at first site. She had several freckles on her nose, a buff coat and after a few years with us a graying face.

My protector

What made Samantha special is that at the time she arrived I was not at the top of my game.  I was about to start my dissertation, I had just had a hip replacement, and I was near my lowest point. Samantha was Sheryl’s dog. She found and mostly cared for her; but sweet Samantha adopted me as her project.  She laid beside me as I wrote my dissertation, she forced me to walk her when I did not feel like it, and she kept me up even when I was mostly down.

Samantha had the funny habit of closing her eyes as I teased her. She listened to my jokes over and over without complaining and while I wrote my dissertation she sat at my side day in and day out giving me emotional support and in some cases a paw on my foot to calm my tapping as I looked up a reference or contemplated the next sentence. Samantha got me out of the house on our walks around the neighborhood, and she had a fan club amongst our neighbors.

When my dissertation chairperson told me on the telephone, I had completed the requirements for graduation as a Doctor of Education. My exact words were “Samantha we made it, the dissertation was approved, and we are graduating.” She seemed to understand that the news was good and that she was part of the reason, which she most definitely was.

Companion

She helped me on days when I hurt, and I sat with her when she had difficulty. One of my favorite memories of Samantha was her protection of Sheryl and me from things like bad telephone calls, upsetting news or Hot Air Balloons. I can unequivocally report that in the six years she lived with us not a single hot air balloon attacked us and survived. Of course, no hot air balloon has ever attacked us, but Samantha did her job in protecting us each day she lived with us.

In fact, in her last few years, as Samantha’s health declined, it seemed she spent more time mothering me than I spent watching her. She was concerned each time I felt ill, she was worried when my blood sugar got too low, and she stayed at my side until it returned to normal.  She helped me move when I was too stiff and sore to move across the room.  Oh, and of course she was the first to run to Sheryl and rat me out if she thought I had done or not done something Sheryl needed to know about.

Whether it was barking at me precisely at 10 PM to get the popcorn out (she loved popcorn) or sleeping on my feet to keep them warm, Samantha was such a wonderful companion. At a time that my world was contracting, Samantha showed me that it was OK and possible to be me.  She was the perfect buddy for a guy who had difficulty moving forward into a time when he would be less out in the world.  I miss her every day.  She was my buddy both as a person and as a person with RA.

Do you have a pet buddy that helps you in your life?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • EmmaCB
    1 year ago

    Lovely piece – and sorry for your loss.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Emma!!

  • CarolynJ
    1 year ago

    Hello All. I have a little girl named Sadie Mae, she’s a schnorkie, part yorkie and part miniature schnauzer. She seems to know when I don’t feel good, and tries her best to comfort me. I find myself rubbing her back and forget for a little while that I am in pain. I feel for everyone that has lost their four legged family members. I lost my best buddy almost two years ago and still miss her so very bad. I have four dogs, each one is so special to me. God bless all our four legged buddy’s.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator author
    1 year ago

    I did love my little buddy she meant the world to me. I am glad yours do the same !!!

  • deacongates
    1 year ago

    When I went on what turned out to be permanent disability, following hand surgery to replace a destroyed joint, I told my husband I needed to get a dog. Madison was a sweet cockapoo pup who only recently passed away at age 11. He intuitively pulled off my socks when asked and pulled on my jacket sleeve when I was recovering from 4 different surgeries. I became a Type 1 diabetic at age 43 and now wear a sensor and insulin pump. On many occasions Madison alerted me to a low blood sugar I was unaware of.. I do not often talk about the depression that comes with two (or just one) autoimmune disease. Many days it is just tough trying to reinvent myself and make myself useful. Thank you for stories and comments. No one stakes this journey alone.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator author
    1 year ago

    Indeed no one goes this road alone. I was Dx’d with diabetes at 17 and I recall my mom (also a T1) that she was confident I woudl be OK, because she had shown me all those years how to live well with D. It is true, we travel these roads together always.

  • cannonsplash
    1 year ago

    Thanks Rick. That was beautiful. I never wanted a dog. I didn’t grow up with dogs and couldn’t relate to them. twelve years ago I met my Mr. and he had a jack russell – Abbie. It was baptism by fire for me. Shortly after we met, I had a bad ski accident and rehab took a while. I started walking in the woods near Mr.’s house and brought Abbie. We bonded over those walks. She has become my dog, and when I don’t feel well, she knows it and is a faithful companion. Last year she nurtured me through 2 knee replacement recoveries and since then has been with Mr. for heart failure and spinal fusion.

    Abbie is going to be 14 and is slowing down and getting grey (aren’t we all?) We know that someday sooner rather than later we will lose her and we miss her already.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator author
    1 year ago

    Abbie sounds like a wonderful little pup. I am sorry about the ski accident but it so cool that you got to know her. I know that 2 knee replacements must have been difficult but I am sure both you and and Abbie enjoyed the outings.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    This was such a lovely piece, Rick!! Thanks for sharing it. We lost our Bullmastiff three years ago to cancer and not a day goes by we don’t miss her.

    She was a huge dog — apparently almost 1.5 my size (I didn’t see it because she was a gentle dog). But, what amazed me most is before I went to college Saachi used to bully me a lot. After college and during my initial diagnosis she became more and more gentle with me. She even — without training — stood next to me so I could use her as a support when I need to get up from the floor or chair. As my years with RA progressed she became more and more attuned to my flares.

    Dogs are incredible. Granted, so are cats. Marmalade takes care of me like nobody’s business!

    Thanks again, Rick!! And for allowing me to share as well 🙂

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Monica. I am glad you liked it. We have only had small dogs. Of course as a by I had a larger dog. He was a Basset Hound named Festus. He deserved and i think appreciated the name.

  • brealovespoundpuppies
    1 year ago

    I lost TJ two years ago, he was 15 and had gone from a spry protector of his fenced domain to a dig limited to watching life pass by thru the window. I adopted TJ when I was 20. He was 6 weeks old and was instantly my best friend, He was a true Heinz 57….the perfect breed in my opinion. TJ was with me through all of the trials and tribulations of my 20s, including diagnosis of ra. He always slept firmly pressed against my right leg, sometimes I still feel him there. I have 4 dogs and love them all dearly, each one with their own personality that makes me smile. They bring joy and love in times of pain and loneliness, but I still miss my first protector, nurse, best friend and soul mate. I suppose I’m grateful my last gift to him was taking away the pain that I all too well understand. Thank you for your article, it touched my heart.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator author
    1 year ago

    I am sorry to hear about TJ, I concur that each dog that has lived with us has been blessing and they have their own personality. Our first was terribly difficult and they just got worse the more we loved them. I am hopeful that the pain is as short lived as possibile.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    Hey brealovespoundpuppies!! I am so sorry for your loss!! Losing a beloved pets is difficult no matter what but compounded when there is an even bigger bond between you.

    I recently lost the youngest of a group of four (the elder three are still going strong — and we added a new puppy last year) and our pack feels broken.

    I remembered this very special video by another contributor, Nan, who speaks about her relationship with her dog, Leah. I thought you might enjoy it: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/video/my-best-friend/

    All the best, Monica

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