The Strength A Dog’s Love Can Give
It all started with Sam (aka: Sam, the super dog).
Let’s go back to 2006. Matt (my boyfriend at the time, now husband) and I had been dating a short time, but shared the common love for animals. We both grew up on ranches and took physical fitness/health seriously. We were spending our winter hiking in the forest and playing in the snow.
We would talk about how much more enjoyable it would be to have a furry puppy buddy to experience the great outdoors with us. At that time, the thing that was holding us back (other than us being a fairly new couple) was that we both fight wildland fires in the summers. Our profession requires us to be away from home for long durations, then usually back for two days off and then we leave again; this is the general pattern continually all summer. We both are huge advocates of adopting and helping shelter pets—so till our summer lives calmed down, we would just borrow shelter dogs for our day trips in the forest.
Summer came and so did the craziness of working around 1,000 hours of overtime in a five month season.
It was nearly end of fire season when our lives changed. While on a fire deep in the wilderness, I began experiencing bad abdominal pain. We had been out on this fire for 12 days; I kept telling myself to just pushed through it because I knew we would be returning for our two days off soon, and I could handle the issues then (I was 22 years old and the only female on our 20 person fire crew, pushing through tough situations was something I was very familiar with). Upon returning home, I learned the "issue" was cancer. It was stage three cancer—very aggressive, butt kicking, on death bed cancer.
I was very sick. I had a hard time finding the will to even get out of bed. I think of myself as a pretty strong person (both mentally and physically), but this was bad—everything hurt. The weakness I felt was debilitating, but the doctor told Matt: “...she needs to move around, it will help her recover from the treatments sooner. Lying in bed all day is not good for her”. Normally we would have been running or hiking almost every day, being so weak was mentally killing me. Feeling like I wasn’t myself and had no control over how my body felt started to affect my mind, and Matt could see it.
Now this story is not about me and my super awesome husband. It’s about what (or rather who) began to heal us both—our super dog, Sam. After a doctor’s appointment Matt said, “let’s stop by the shelter and pet the pups”. We walked into the dark room with chain link kennels and there he was, Sam our little spirit builder. He was only eight weeks old and a fuzzy ball of love. The person with Animal Services told us Sam was found with his sister on the side of the road when they were two weeks old. They were bottle fed and were ready to be adopted the day we happened to be at the shelter—it was meant to be. Matt’s thought was that we always wanted to adopt a dog and having Sam at home with us would hopefully help give me the drive to get out of bed—play with him, take him for walks, potty breaks and the all-around love of having this wonderful spirit around would bring the life back into me. Matt was right.
To me, our little fur kid was more helpless in the world than I was. I couldn’t just lay in bed feeling pity for what was happening to me. I now had this little life that needed me. Sam gave us something to smile about again, something more fun to focus on. Sam would know when I was really feeling bad. So to cheer me up he would bring his toys and them near me, if he didn’t get a response—he would find another toy and to bring over. He would continue to do this until he saw that I felt better. It always worked.
I truly feel that Sam helped me feel purpose when I was at my lowest. I know it was because of the constant support and love of my husband and Sam that after two very hard years of heavy duty chemo and radiation, I was in remission. Today, I'm happy to say that I have a clean bill of health.
Once I made it back to work full time, we could tell that Sam was lonely; back then, there wasn’t a Whistle to know for sure that he was inactive all day. We could tell he was sad. He was always with us for the first part of his life that it was hard on him to be alone during the day. This was when Guiness became a part of our life. We adopted him as well. Guiness and Sam would play all day while we were at work and have fun sleep overs at grandma’s (my mom) when we would go to fires. Sam saved me and Guiness saved Sam. Guiness is my gentle soul, he is the calm one that keeps me grounded.
A very special thank you Kaleena Lynde, our inspiring Community member for sharing your incredible story with us. If you'd like to contribute to Whistle's Community, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug 6, 2013