Missing Sam

It is early. Lightning bugs drift around in the morning light like drunks after closing time. I was always a night creature too. Parenthood makes that a time gone. Long after our son is grown I got up early because the dog needed me. The dog is gone now too but I still get up early. I water and weed the garden instead. Plants that thrived on neglect (the plants outside and the dead orchid on the mantel inside a.k.a. “ole brownie”) are shocked by the attention. I garden and think about how I used to roam all over at this time with Sam, our dog.

Mourning the loss of a dog is sad but common. However, there is the loss of something I mourn that I never expected: freedom. Freedom to roam at all hours in all parts of our hamlet. A dog gives a woman permission to be out at any time. When I needed to go exploring at 11pm to see stars and listen to the owl I’d wake Sam from the beguiled slumber only a dog knows and at once he was all nose and stubby tail. “Too much dog for us,” I said to my son in a weak attempt to pass on the rescued Australian Shepard, but for a child the sale begins when the customer says no. An aussie, in case you don’t know, is a herding dog. As a herder, he loved to chase other animals and people, children in particular. Sam wanted them to stop, then he’d circle and sit down to keep watch over his little flock. Terrifying to a small child. A definite downside. He thought hives of bicycles riding on Piermont Road needed to be rounded up too, something upon which a lot of us agree.

Sam required A LOT of exercise so hike we did. To the east up Oak Tree, down Washington Spring. To the north along the rail trail looping into Piermont. One of our best walks was south behind the Industrial Park in Rockleigh. We picked our way along over there behind Crestron. There are all sorts of interesting things to see, broken structures and paths made by woodland dwell- ers big and tiny. More than once we’d felt the stone cold stare of an animal. Sam often knew something was out there. his stubby body arching snout first up into the air, but woodland creatures are cunning and invisible.

This freedom meant we came across lots of different people too. Like Clyde Baker, we met him the year he turned 100 on Sioux Court. Warren, his son, would stop his car and jump out to greet Sam. Shelly, our neighbor, stopped her car in the middle of the street to say “Hi” too and Rick, her husband, gave Sam many a treat. We’d see Mr. Tigue up on Horne Tooke and Eileen Larken. Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan on Broad invited us in for a cool drink. There was Wade and Laurie and Max, their dog. Sam loved Max beyond all understanding; knowing Max was a paw length away set Sam whimpering, his longing was so great. Max, for all his wonderful qualities, did not share Sam’s passion. Thus, Sam’s love remained unrequited. Sam’s most steadfast friends though were humans, especially Mary Ann and Hannes Brueckner and their old dog Brutus. They invited us into their gardens, into their woods, and eventu- ally their home. We led a magnificent rambling life. Now things are different, I garden. It’s fine. However, I’ve read recently cats can be trained to hike. Yup, they can. I think I’ll buy a little harness for my cat, Jeter. He has maybe never heard an owl.