Today is a very sad day for the Sanders Family. Our nine-year-old Saint Bernard, Samson, died today. Jason found him as he went to routinely give Sam food and water. I had just opened the door to shake out a rug as I saw Jason walking towards me from Samson's kennel. The look on his face, coupled with the words 'I need to talk to you,' made my heart sink. I knew immediately something was wrong. And tears flowed upon hearing the words 'Samson died.' He was not just a dog to us. He was a family member. He was my first baby.
Jason and I had been married just over one year when we drove to Illinois to pick up our new pup. I fell in love with him immediately. He sat in my lap the whole way home and stole my heart from the start. It was less than six months after we had him that he began to limp. Upon taking him to the vet, we discovered he indeed had hip dysplasia, a disease that causes crippling arthritis, leading to severe pain and loss of the ability to walk. The choice was ours: put our pup to sleep or pay for him to have a hip replacement. Of course, it was no choice at all...we scheduled his surgery right away. He wasn't just a dog, he was like a child to us.
After a short recovery period, Samson went on to live a long, healthy and happy life. We knew large breeds life expectancy is shorter, 8 to 10 years to be exact. But still were not prepared for today.
And neither were the kids.
Because, how can you prepare for the death of a family member.
This evening as we buried Samson and said prayers to put him to rest, Cooper prayed, "I'll miss ya boy." Gabe said quietly, trying to hold back the tears, "I can't wait to walk with you in heaven Sam!" And as we said amen, we all had tears in our eyes. He was a good friend.
Tonight, Chloe is still oblivious. She kept saying things like, 'Samson's sleeping? He's never waking up?' But really, didn't 'get' it. But we all know that a few years of age makes a big difference. Cooper at almost five-years-old and Gabe at seven are taking it hard. Cooper cried, saying "I just want to walk with him, one more time." And Gabe sobbed in his bed. To him, not only does he miss his dog, but he has also started thinking further. After all, if Samson can die, and Great Grandpa & Aunt Fern can die as they both did within the last few years, then mom and dad could die too.
I tried to reassure him that mom and dad aren't going to die for a long, long time, until we're old and gray, but the fact is I don't know that. From the moment sin entered the world, so did death. As the Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death..." Everyone dies. That's why it's important to live each day to the fullest. To not take our loved ones or our pets, or the opportunities that God places in front of us to love on other people and make a difference in the lives of everyone we come in contact with for granted. Because tomorrow may be our last. All we can do is pray that with the Lord's grace, we live our lives for His glory, and with purpose.
But to the tender heart of a seven-year-old missing his pup, all of that doesn't resonate the way the pain of losing a best friend does. It hurts. And the tears continue to flow, as I pause to comfort Gabe coming out of his room for the third time crying.
So tonight, would you please say a little prayer for my kiddos, missing their pup. And for their parents too ;) Because Samson is a dog that could never be replaced. A little hole will exist in all our hearts where he once was. He was gentle, and playful, and kind-hearted. He loved us and we loved him. And he will be greatly missed.
I leave you with the last photos of Samson, taken about three weeks ago. The photos, snapped as Sam walked across the backyard are nothing special, but the dog sure was.