On hands and knees I cleaned slobber off the walls and baseboards. With a flurry of emotion and wet hot tears I scrubbed furiously, feeling completely present in my own skin. My own reality grabbed ahold of me as I was cleaning my dead dog’s slobber off the walls. We adopted Samson at 4 months old, and in this moment I realized we had fully embraced life with a GIANT breed dog. A bit of a reverse stockholm syndrome. Over the last twelve years, our lifestyle shifted from sleeping in quiet peace to sleeping soundly through window-rattling snores. When he looked at us with those puppy dog eyes requesting an invitation to join us in bed, we moved over and let him hog the bed. As hot and claustrophobic as it was I enjoyed being sandwiched between my husband and the 170 lb beast. We marveled over the size of his head, tongue, paws, and 12-hour bladder. And when we noticed slobber flung as high as the ceiling we commented “Wow, that’s a good one!” as if slobber-flinging was a trophy sport.
We’ll eventually paint these walls to cover evidence of the saliva and his body rubbing along the corners and walls. We already painted our bedroom Snowflake white and traded dark linens for bright white sheets and bedding. We pulled up the carpet which permeated “dog” and replaced it with wood floors. In our previous home we incurred a major expense to sand and restain the scratched floors before selling. Lesson learned, I laid Flor carpet tiles as runners throughout this house. It wasn’t pretty or stylish, but functionally it protected the wood planks where he once lumbered like a bull in a China shop. In a weekend I peeled away those carpet tiles and scrubbed the floors on my hands and knees, old-fashioned like my mother used to do. For the last twelve years I lost my ability to be uptight about a spotless house. To be honest, I am not sure I ever was spic-and-span clean, but I really do love seeing a pristine home. Embracing life with an English Mastiff slowly stripped away any perfectionistic ideals I once had for my life.
Samson was my first dog. Apparently we jumped right in by adopting the biggest breed possible and embracing concessions that came along with him. His presence filled the house like a whole other person. Expense, inconvenience, and being a “pain the butt” can not even eclipse the best of what Samson delivered. He knew how to be present, he waited when we left and was there for us when we arrived home. He smiled and wagged and treated us like we were the best people in the whole wide world. He never destroyed anything of his own volition. He wanted to be with us even when we were in the bathroom. He loved playing hide-n-seek. He loved our cats and socializing at a good party. He always protected me and sensed my emotions. He was the first one to comfort me when I cried. He was always eager, always happy, always grateful, always trusting us to take care of him. He never complained, he knew how to be a dog, and he just loved us unconditionally well. He taught us how to embrace others (quirks and all) and to live life full of love and intention.
Today marks a year since Samson passed. I have slowly scrubbed and cleaned away proof of life with that big love of a dog. Layer by layer of dirt, debris and big dog smell has left our home. I am finally feeling like I live in a home that is stylish and clean. With death comes rebirth, an endless cycle of letting go and starting new. Ever since my dad passed away I have struggled with how the world never stops when someone dear passes, it just keeps on moving. The old is gone and replaced with other. While those grieving want to pause and rest in the place where we are left before we are able to pick ourselves up and start anew. I have recently had an inkling that it is time to get another dog. I think I would like one but I am just not sure I am ready to embrace everything involved with inviting a dog to be a part of your family. I used to say he was the best dog ever and “everyone should get an English Mastiff because they are the best dogs.” I amend this statement. Not the “best dog ever” part because Samson really was the best dog ever, but I have learned English Mastiffs are not the best dog for everyone. Just as they are a special kind of dog, they take a special kind of family. Maybe that is true of anyone who thinks they want to adopt a dog.
We decorated the tree last night. Amongst the trimmings was this sweet Samson ornament. “Last year me” was very good to “this year me.” I had a photographer friend come and take photos of Samson a week before he died. I forgot I ordered this ornament from the pictures. Finding it was such a bittersweet surprise. In my head I imagine him the happy-go-lucky dog with his tongue hanging out. This photo reminds me though his body was old, he was still happy and he lived a very, very, very good life.