My sister’s dog died last month. They are heartbroken. It was their dog, Bandit, a hypoallergenic Portuguese Waterdog, yes just like the Obama’s dog, with a big benign lump on his side that finally convinced me to give in to my children and get our family a dog.
My sister’s story was, when her older son, Ben, was five years old he asked for a dog. Frustrated, and thinking he would quickly forget, she told him when he was ten they would get a dog. Well, you know the rest. He turned ten. And he did not forget. Her husband and her younger son are both severely allergic, the deadly asthma kind, not the annoying itchy eyes kind. So, it took some research to find the right kind of dog for their family. Ben turned 11 and the big day arrived.
By the time Bandit was four they knew all the hypoallergenic dog types and they thought Bandit was lonely so they got another, Cody.
So, now both my sisters had a least one dog and my daughter Sophie was dying for one. She’s been asking, okay begging, for a dog since she was six years old and we bought our first house. Really, she’s been begging since birth, but didn’t understand the rules of a rental house. My excuse was always with two kids I had enough poop to clean, mouths to feed and toys to clean up. But now my kids were 14 and 17. My son had one more year until college. If not now, when.
We made plans to go the shelter. I was looking for a 30-40-pound dog, hopefully a Cocker Spaniel mix, over a year old, house broken, and female. Sophie wanted a Beagle mix so as far as size we were on the same page. Bryan didn’t have anything in mind, more of a I’ll know it when I see it kind of guy. My husband wanted a German Shepard but we nixed that. So, with four completely different ideas we schlepped to the North Shore Animal League, an hour away, because it is the largest no-kill animal shelter in the country. Nothing grabbed our fancy. Sophie was more than a wee bit disappointed. We went the next week, I saw a couple I liked but no one else did. In between weeks two and three I changed my mind. I didn’t want a dog, but how could I say anything. Everyone was all set for a dog. So, it came to week three. I wasn’t concerned considering the last two weeks were a bust. But the last two weeks we went on Sunday and missed all the new dogs that arrived on Friday so this time, we went on Saturday.
Again, I saw a couple of older dogs, age two or three, on the small size, female that I liked, but I got nixed every time. The story goes (I don’t know because I was far behind the rest of my family) my husband saw a dog in a cage and said, “That guy’s kinda cute.” Then Sophie laid eyes on him. It was love at first sight. In her eyes, he looked like a giant Puggle one of her favorite kinds of dogs. He was a little over 30 pounds and five months old. Yes, you heard right, he was male, a puppy and not housebroken. To me he looked like a boxer, cute, but not exactly my type. At the shelter, the procedure is if you see a dog you’re interested in you get to take him out of his cage and play with him in a big playroom. So, Sophie got her dog out to play with him and I got my dog out. Everyone ignored my dog, and I don’t even remember what she looked like. But the 30 pound five-month-old was a hit. He was licking everyone’s faces and playing and just being cute. They brought him over to me. I was stand offish. He was nothing I was looking for. But I picked him up in my lap and he just kept licking my face. He didn’t bark when other dogs came out and he was just so playful. So, we asked the volunteer how big he would get and she said, get this, oh about 80 pounds. 80 pounds!!! What? Bandit was 50 pounds and I thought he was was too big! My other sister’s dog was a boxer and she was 60 pounds and she was way too big. 80 pounds! Are you kidding me?!
But look at their faces. They love him. Sophie couldn’t stop playing with him, Bryan was smiling and laughing, even Paul was having a good time. So, what could I say. Sophie gave me an out. She said, probably 100 times,”If you don’t like him Mom we won’t get him. Mom be sure. If you say no, it’s no.” She said this in between being licked on the face and giving him hugs.
So, I said., “Only if we call him Sammy.” I always wanted a dog named Sammy. Okay, so I wanted a little black Cocker Spaniel female dog called Sammie, but at least I got the name.
So, we asked the volunteer to get the paperwork. Oh, my God. What am I doing? I can’t believe this. Well, Sophie had a party to get to and we brought two cars, so the kids left. Paul and I were left in the waiting room, while all the references were checked. I was so nervous. It was like having another baby, without the labor.
They brought us back, put Sammy on a leash and handed him over to us. He was cute, but still not my type.
He didn’t walk on a leash very well and you pretty much had to drag him. They had a little shop on premises where you bought necessities, food, leash, and a crate. They said the people in the store would know what size crate to get him. Well, Sammy couldn’t make it up the steps to the store, so I waited outside with him while my husband went in to get him his stuff.
The crates were outside. There was a little tiny crate that he was already too big for, and they progressed to get bigger. Then there was a huge crate that had to be for huge dogs. My husband and a store clerk came outside. My husband had the dog food and the leash. The store clerk led him over to the crates. He looked at cute, little 30 pound Sammy and walked right passed the tiny crate, all right we knew that. Walked by the small crate, kept walking, walked by the midsize crate which I was sure would be Sammy’s and walked right to the huge enormous crate and said something like, “Folks, you must use half the crate at first, then he will grow into it.”
I must have misunderstood. This giant crate?! He will get big enough for this giant crate?! This just couldn’t be right. Could we bring him back? I don’t want a dog that big?! My husband just looked at me. What could we do, we promised.
We loaded everything, including Sammy into the car. I sat in the back with him, just like he was one of my babies.
We brought him to see the world’s biggest dog lovers, my parents. He was a big hit, but they couldn’t get over that he was five months old, because he was already so big.
We brought him home, and showed him around. The kids came home, everyone was thrilled.
The next day hubby left on a business trip, to Hawaii of all places. I had a part time office job, so I was off to work and the kids had school. Sammy went in his crate.
I walked Sam at 6 am. The kids took turns walking him when they came home from school, then few minutes later I came home.
The dog peed on the floor. We yelled at him and took him out to the unfenced in yard. Then brought him in. Then, guess what, he did it again. And again, and again, and again, well you get the idea. And to top it off, at the shelter they told us he was having a digestion problem and sent us home with medicine. Well, “digestion problem” translated to diarrhea everywhere!
He needed constant attention. In addition to working part time, I was freelancing when I got home, which means interviews over the phone. The dog would have none of this. He would jump on me, chew on my shirt and rip it while I was on the phone. Days went by, not getting any better. I realized if I gave him a rawhide bone, I would get about 45 minutes to work.
I was done with little kids; I couldn’t believe I did this to myself. Poor Sophie was frustrated too, but so in love. Bryan would just toddle off to the gym for two hours. My husband came back from Hawaii four days later, but a regular work day for him is 6 am to 8 pm. No help there.
Even my mother, who always puts me first, wasn’t very helpful. I would call to complain, and she would say, “He’s nothing you wanted, bring him back to the shelter.”
I couldn’t do that. My family would hate me.
We hired a trainer to come to the house. He told us to change his food. Which cured his diarrhea!! It was a miracle. He gave us tips on house training. Give him a treat every time he goes. He taught us ways to get him not to pull on walks, which to this day, three and a half years later, we haven’t mastered.
He grew, and grew, and grew. We had to go to PetSmart every week and we would weigh him every time. Every week he gained 2 pounds, when was it ever gonna stop? He got up to 40, 50, 60 and kept going!
We signed up for Puppy Kindergarten. He loved it because of all the other dogs. He was already too strong for me to control. My husband handled him. I guess he learned something there, but I couldn’t tell you what.
And he kept growing.
At the shelter, all they told us was that he was part Bulldog, they didn’t know what else he was.
Bryan looked at pictures online and found a breed we had never heard of. Bull Mastiff!!!!!!!!! He looked just like them! The problem was small Bull Mastiffs were around 150 pounds and large ones were around 200. No, stop, this just can’t be.
Well, after around 4 months, he was house trained! We fenced in the yard and even trained him to ring a bell whenever he wanted to go out. The fence made all the difference, because you could let him out by himself.
We would put him in his crate whenever we went out because he was still chewing and he slept in his crate.
One day, he was about a year old, I let him stay out of his crate when I went out for 15 minutes. He destroyed a couch pillow. We called the trainer at the shelter. She suggested putting change in a can and shaking it whenever he nipped or chewed. It worked. He was afraid of the noise! It worked!
I stopped giving him rawhides because I was told how unhealthy they were. And, look at that he settled down when I was on the phone.
When he was about a year old, he started laying around during the day, instead of being Mr. Crazy. I was so worried we took him to the Vet. She said he was just in a new stage.
Now at three and a half, and 100 pounds we never use that crate anymore. He has the run of the house when we’re out and he doesn’t chew a thing. He sleeps in our bed at night.
He is the biggest mush in the world. Bryan is off at college in Boston, Sophie, now a senior, has a million after school activities and stays late, and hubby still comes home around 8. I no longer have a part time job. It’s me and Sammy all day. We both love being outside so we spend hours in the yard. He watches TV with me, and doesn’t bother me on the phone. He loves being pet all day long, and now I’m the one getting kisses all day. He has a special relationship with each family member for different reasons and everyone loves him. Especially me. Just like one of the kids, he is the love of my life.