Dogs Are Strange, Gross And Wonderful: Part Three

Our Family House Elf — Who Happens To Be Disguised As A Dog

C.S. Sherin, posted and updated October 3, 2019

This story will conclude this short series (part one, part two) about some of the dogs of my life and heart. The funny thing about this conclusion is that our current dog’s story hasn’t ended, thankfully, and sometimes we are not sure if she really is a dog…

Right after Miss Honey died was a rare instance, where we felt the need to adopt a dog pretty much right away. In most cases the best approach is to give one’s self and family plenty of time to process and grieve before taking on the responsibility of introducing and caring for a new family member. Yet, there are exceptions….there are times when waiting isn’t for the best. I have learned to trust my instincts in any number of ways, and this was one of those times — I was getting a gut feeling to begin looking, a week or more after Miss Honey had passed on. Part of this had to do with honoring Miss Honey. We had rescued her from the county shelter, an adult dog with behavioral and health issues, who enriched our lives forever. Christmas time was approaching, and we wanted to go to the same no-kill county shelter to see if there was a dog there that we could rescue — in her memory.

I looked online and found a picture of a dog with eyes like universes. Her name was Sammy. On December 23rd of 2013, with my daughter, I drove up to the county shelter to visit her. We had no expectation of adopting her that day, as it was Christmas time, and there are certain restrictions and requirements for adoption usually. So, we went only to see if we clicked with her. If we did, then we would consider filling out an application for adoption, if possible.

Sammy’s eyes! Feb 2017. Photo by CS Sherin

The shelter had been given some love via donations since we had last been there in 2005. It was a lot nicer in the shelter, but it was still cement kennels for the dogs — pretty standard. The two women working there were eager to show us Sammy. But first, they wanted to tell me her story:

Samantha had been among just over 40 dogs that were rescued from a serious hoarding situation. The dogs were being kept in an unheated shed in the winter. One of the older female dogs had somehow gotten out, found a couple walking in the neighborhood, and had led them to the shed, where the couple found all the dogs. All those poor dogs were neglected and had never been socialized. The county rescue handled the situation, and it took them a long time to process all the dogs. Samantha was one of the younger ones. The older ones were in rough shape with strange behaviors. The younger ones had more of a chance to recover and bounce back. They found that Samantha, though young, had lost enamel on many of her teeth from being kept in a kennel. Once Samantha made it to the shelter, one of the volunteers fell in love with her and adopted her. The volunteer lived on a farm of sorts where Samantha was socialized and remained very close to the woman — going everywhere with her. Samantha learned to get along with horses and chickens as well as other dogs and cats. Two weeks before we got to the shelter, the woman who had adopted Samantha surrendered her to the shelter. This was because of a divorce, change of residence and job, and the inability to be home with Samantha.

After telling me Sammy’s story, the shelter worker let me walk back through the kennels to where Sammy was. I was surprised to see an enormous dog bed pillow in her kennel. She looked depressed, but lit up when she realized that we would let her out with us into the main room. She was wearing a beautifully knit rust-colored sweater that hung on her skinny frame. As we sat down in the lobby with her she stayed close to us at all times, moving back and forth and all around to get pets. Those two weeks in the shelter had left her in the aftermath of abandonment, and the trauma of being in a kennel. She was thin, but generally healthy, bright, and so pretty! Her eyes are a mixture of white, blue and brown, and are absolutely filled with beauty.

All in all, we clicked. I told the shelter workers that I would like to apply to adopt. They were very happy about this…for Sammy and all involved. They went through the paperwork with me, and then they began checking on it to move forward while we were still there visiting. After a while they surprised us very much by saying that everything checked out, and that we “can take her home today!” I exclaimed that, “I didn’t expect this right before Christmas at all!” They explained and agreed that things don’t usually happen this fast, but that it did this time and that — it is meant to be! We were dumbstruck, and so thrilled to be taking Sammy home with us for our first Christmas in our new house (we had moved that past summer in 2013). Jeff was surprised, but quite happy. He had welcomed dogs back into his heart, this one included.

Now this is where we started to realize that Sammy wasn’t a usual type of dog. Before we left with Sammy, the shelter worker said that they would help us load up Sammy into the car. I was a little confused about that. What they meant was that — they would bring out all of her belongings! Samantha came with a bag of clothes, a bag of toys, and a dog bed that was big enough for a very large dog. Sammy is a petite medium-sized dog. Miss Honey was a medium-sized dog, but larger than Sammy is. It was wild seeing all the things packed in with her…all the love her former person left with her, we could tell.

She came home with us, bearing much pain and grief from loss, abandonment, high expectations for companionship, and dysfunction and suffering from her origins. We embraced Sammy with compassion and joy, deepened by our own grief, along with the wish to bring goodness to her and our family — at a time of year that can be challenging for many of us anyway.

This is Samantha, 2 years old, not even a week after we had adopted her, Dec. 2013. We can’t get over how her tan color has faded into white in the last six years!

How Samantha responded to being in a household that includes three cats: The moment she set paws in our house, the cats wanted to inspect her. She laid down on her back by Boris to let him, and all of them, know that she would not only respect them, but would be submissive to them, as needed. This was an incredible gesture — so smart! The cats approved. She forged friendships of various sorts with all the cats.

And, she went on to tune in to us, and as she did, she went out of her way to be a clown and to make us laugh. That is what I most remember, is that we were laughing all the time. And I remember being aware that she was facilitating a lovely way for us to process our grief (and perhaps her own), with play and laughter. What we discovered is that Sammy is a comedian and healer. She is the most funny and odd dog that we have ever known. She is also the prettiest!

That first Christmas she met my mother and my siblings. Everyone lit up when they met her — and people still do. There is just something about her energy and beauty, combined with her eyes, that is uplifting. The one thing that everyone also did was to feed her. She had all but starved herself at the shelter — so we made sure that she was getting the nutrition she needed to be well. It turned out that she had some really strange eating habits. She didn’t want to eat if we weren’t by her. And, she would take scoops of food in her mouth and carry it near to wherever we would happen to be in the house, to eat it. It took at least three years to get her to stop moving her food (she does it very rarely now), and to sit in one place to eat it.

Like most dogs, Sammy adores toys. Back then, even with the belongings she had with her, she felt like she needed more. So, in the first two years of her life with us, she would sometimes steal. If one of us would come in the front door in the winter, she would steal one of our gloves or a hat as we were taking it off. She would grab it and run off with it…and if we ran after her, all the better. That kind of stealing was harmless and pretty funny. Later in life now, she simply grabs one of the toys from her big basket of toys to celebrate someone coming home for the day. She doesn’t seem to need to steal hats, gloves, socks, or paper anymore.

She did also make tiny ventures into more serious attempts of stealing a few times. One time, my niece came to visit, and had a little stuffed animal in her purse for some reason. Samantha was not above sticking her nose into a purse to claim the stuffed animal as her own. We stopped her, but also had to put the purse up and away from her. Samantha wasn’t above stealing a stuffed animal from Samara’s room either. Samara is past the age of having a bunch, but there was one small bunny I had given her back in 2013, and, well…Samantha has that in her basket now.

Sammy with one of her favorite toys, monkey. This is from 2017 when monkey was pretty new. Nowadays poor monkey has no face and his head is inside out. Eek.

Sammy also took on some of the mannerisms of the horse she knew at her former home, we think. She snorts like a horse quite often, for instance. She also seems to have fond memories of chickens and chicken eggs, judging by her responses to each of these at different times through the years.

Although she is quite different from our Miss Honey, Samantha is the perfect and fitting spiritual descendant for her in our family. Miss Honey was a Beagle-Terrier mix. Samantha, we found out via a small DNA test, is a mix of Toy Fox Terrier and Italian Greyhound, and a mix of other breeds as well from each side of the family…but those are the main two that are most immediate. Some of the Terrier traits can make a dog hyper and reactive on a leash. Miss Honey was, and Samantha is. We are constantly working on that issue. There is a general shape to their faces, as well, that is kindred. They both, in their own ways, desperately needed a home and family — and were/are able to bring great joy and healing to that home and family. It all feels like a continuity, like with our cats.

Rescuing and adopting animals is a part of our family, and our family’s legacy. If we had the means do it and sustain it on a bigger scale, we would!

With Samantha there are many tales to tell. The grossest…let’s see…how I can say this the most delicately? We discovered that we need to separate her from the kitty litter at all times. She is not to be trusted by kitty litter. If you can’t figure out why, I won’t tell you. Suffice it say, the reason is absolutely disgusting…yet a part of dog nature. As mentioned in Part One and Two, there is always the rubbing in dead things type of gross that crops up with dogs from time to time, followed by a bath of necessity. These are small annoyances, though.

Of all the things about Sammy, I would highlight that she is the most affectionate, personal, fun, and loving dog I know. And…there is also something really strange about her. Not bad-strange…just different and enigmatic. Sometimes she doesn’t seem like a dog. She seems like….a person? a seal? a fairy? an alien? or….like a house elf! Yes, maybe that’s it. She’s a free house elf, of course — she came with her own clothes! And, oh, she loves clothes, but only in cool and cold weather.

In the days before J.K. Rowling introduced us all to house elves, and, particularly, Dobby…I would have said that she is most like a helpful house spirit — like a brownie, elemental, fairy or something. But, in reading about and seeing Dobby on the big screen, I would say that she definitely has some kind of house elf energy! She has magic about her, and sometimes, when she looks at us humans with a long steady gaze, so many of us feel that she is more than a dog, and is trying to tell us something important…if only we could understand.

It can be unnerving and mysterious! It has happened to me, my husband, daughter and many of our friends and family who sit with her.

The cute way Sammy lifts her ears reminds us of a house elf; 2018.

It wasn’t lost on me that both she and Miss Honey spent exactly two weeks in that shelter, and then they came to live with us. They both experienced an abandonment scenario that scarred them for life (Sammy has never fully healed from being left, and still is scared we will leave her), and they both came to us as adults, with great need, and lots of love to give. And where Miss Honey only tolerated the cats, Sammy respects the cats, and has some real cat traits herself.

Our cats are kind of doggish-cats and our dog is, well, cat-ish. This comes from the Italian Greyhound side of her, it seems. This also makes me think of Shaun and Aubrey (from Part One) and how my experience of dogs, from the beginning, was a merging of cat and dog energies. It was meant to be…

Sammy likes to cuddle in our laps, stands on the back of furniture, hates getting wet, and likes to be pet like a cat. She even cuddles with cats sometimes. Still, she really loves a playful dog as well, but prefers being the only dog at home — that is for sure.

A funny story: about a month ago I was walking Sammy in the neighborhood and a couple across the street were pushing a double stroller of little boys that looked like they were around 1.5 years old. One pointed at Sammy and said, “Doggie!” The other boy looked long and hard at Sammy and then said, “No, that’s not a doggie. That’s a weird kitty!” Then they laughed. I also thought that was strangely insightful, and hilarious.

Samantha hanging with Wesley and near Gilbert, two of our three kitties. I would say that Wesley is kind of in love with her!

All in all, Sammy is a delight and so special, and we are so lucky to have her! Her story continues…

Our dear Samantha, this past August of 2019. We love our walks and hikes together!

Right now, she is happy and cozy, on a pillow wrapped in a big blanket as the weather gets chilly this October. Me working from home is what makes life right for Samantha. She actually can’t bear to be left for more than 5-6 hours at a time. It isn’t always easy to accommodate her needs, but it is worth it. We understand the kind of harm that she experienced early on. We understand the needs she has and why. Thankfully, we are able to meet them.

It is my honor to be here for her, and my joy to tell a little of her ongoing story to you. I could actually write a book about Samantha — but now is not the time! So, I’ll wrap this up. Thanks for taking the time to read these stories. I hope you enjoyed them.

Until next time…find a dog to walk and hug if you can. And, live for your dreams, and honor your heart! 🙂


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