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The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic.” ~Henry Ward

I was never much of a dog person, until we got our Old English Sheepdog. We named him Sam Wise Gamgee, after Frodo’s best friend, since he was about to become our family’s new best friend. Tim and I were living in Iowa at the time, and I was sad and resistant about being in a town that felt way too small for my ambitious 20-something year old heart. I traveled a lot for work, flying in and out of Chicago, so we had Sam shipped from a breeder in Montana, and we picked Sam up in the cargo section of O’Hare International airport after one of my work trips.

I was instantly in love. That fluffy puppy sat on my lap the whole 3-hour drive home to our house on the Mississippi River in Iowa. He was a mere 40 pounds then, only half the size he would become. Sam settled gently into our lives during that tough season  when our marriage was being tested in new ways, my faith was being strengthened, and I was discovering that hope really is stronger than my fears. Sam was great comic relief for us in the midst of all that loneliness, tension, struggle and tears. That was 12 years ago.

Since that first day, Sam has been a constant presence and has moved with us 8 times. He was there to welcome our son Russell home from the hospital. Sam watched and comforted all of us through Russell’s many  “firsts” and through our parenting “firsts.” Sam taught me so much about the value of play and companionship, rhythm and routine.

Over the last few months, we noticed Sam losing his energy and his ability to walk. We watched him getting increasingly uncomfortable. We slowly and reluctantly recognized that Sam was dying…

Earlier this week, we had to say goodbye to Sam. I cannot remember the last time I cried this much!  Even though Sam’s health had been declining for some time, nothing could prepare us for saying goodbye to a dog that had become family.  We miss him already. We are so grateful for the special years God gave us with our fluffy puppy. A friend gave me this quote, which sums up one of the many gifts God gave us through Sam:

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace.” ~Milan Kundera

Sam, we love you, and we are so glad God gave you to our family. You will forever be in our hearts.