Tasha was an 8 year old samoyed (who turned out to be actually 10) who had lived in a barn for her entire life. since she was a puppy. Her owner had a stroke and a family member contacted me about placing her. In January of 1998, I hooked her up with someone who had just lost their female sam and wanted one badly - she heard of Tasha's plight - each party drove 4 hours one way and met in a tiny WI town for the exchange. Alice is what I consider a guardian angel. She knew Tasha would probably be euthanized because she would be hard to place. She took her sight unseen - just because she wanted her to enjoy the rest of her days in a loving home. She knew ahead of time also that Tasha looked pretty bad - had some skin problems and probably wasn't particularly healthy but didn't care. But she was worse than she expected when they finally met. Tasha is flourishing in her new home.
I want to stress the joys of an older dog. Tasha came to us shaved and full of sores, timid and underweight. She wobbled and stumbled on her oversized feet and getting up was a chore. On the way home, she sat on the floor between my legs and as I stroked her she tried to take in everything at once... cars, birds, trees, cows, telephone poles, it didn't seem to matter. About half way home, she rewarded us with her first Sammy smile and we've been reaping the rewards ever since. Curious and enthusiastic, she was so easy to train we wondered why we'd waited so long to adopt an older dog. Somewhere in her past she'd had some rough handling, as she grabbed my arm the first time I tried to guide her by the collar, but she responded so well to our attention that she soon learned to trust us and it never became a serious problem. Ollie, our 2 year old male Australian Shepherd, seemed to take Tasha on as his own personal project. He gently held out tugs and toys and taught her how to play. Our household is very sociable with people and pets visiting frequently. Sensing Tasha's vulnerability, Ollie protected her from our rambunctious visitors until he was certain she could handle herself. Tasha grew into her own each day, learning from Ollie and becoming more confident. The two of them spend hours playing and exploring the creek and brush piles behind our house. She's learned that rides and walks are full of high adventure and never misses an opportunity to come along....she's even been known to attempt to climb aboard when guests depart. Each day starts with Tasha rousing the troops for our two mile morning walk. She frolics and plays along the forest road full of the sounds of spring and fresh scents from the night's creatures. She's full of herself and teases Ollie by stealing his tennis ball.
We had recently lost a 90 year old member of our household who found great love and comfort in Tasha in the last few months of her life. Tasha would check on her first thing in the morning and sit by her chair for hours. We thought we were giving a gift of life to Tasha, but it is she who brings us so much life and joy and laughter every day. It's true she's getting cataracts, her hearing is not what it used to be and we cheer her on each night as she struggles to climb the stairs for bed, but she's got a lot of heart and love left to give. We're glad we took a chance on an older dog.
We hadn't seriously considered an older dog and if it hadn't been for Julie Dunkle, from Minneapolis Samoyed Rescue, who referred us to Playing Again Sams of Wisconsin, we may not have been "ready" for Tasha. After our experience, we'd never hesitate to take an older dog and hope if others see such success stories, they too would consider it.
Regretfully, we had to put Tasha to sleep today. Here's her last story.
I thought it was the big, organic, very expensive, portabello mushroom she ate. I knew she was the culprit, not only because of her past history of grocery bag rummaging, but because of the telltale piece of kale hanging from her nose. And now she had a stomach ache no doubt. There was no bouncy flag tail and she couldn't make her usual walk. Everyday we'd walk down the road a mile and a quarter and back, over 400 times we made that walk together. She'd poke and putz and sniff and prance and have the time of her life. She wasn't above shaving the mileage off a bit as she knew we'd be coming back the same way, and she'd catch up with us then smiling and laughing at her own little trick.
A year ago we were taking care of another family member -- holding her, feeding her, stroking her face, letting her know she was loved. It wasn't so different with Tasha. The first night we didn't think she'd make it through the night, she was so weak when Monica called and gave us the news...a bleeding tumor on her spleen. We slept on the floor on each side of her so she would know she wasn't alone. We could give her water and comfort her. I wondered if it really gave her solace or if we were just needing to do something when there was absolutely nothing to be done. As I was thinking this she leaned over and cuddled up next to me and licked my face as she'd done a hundred times. I'd have given anything at that moment to have just a few more weeks or months...anything but put her through one minute of unnecessary pain. We weren't even tempted when Monica told us she'd had donor dog and with a transfusion could have operated that night.
I was surprised the next morning when I looked up through the greenhouse window and saw her casually making her way down to the creek. Over the next week I watched as she wrung the most out of life. She'd look up at us with those sparkly eyes and those heart warming smiles through her weakness. She even found a few moments of strength to enjoy Ollie's antics and growl at him when he got too close to her bowl. She helped me plant trays of seeds and transplant seedlings into little pots. We shared popcorn, and hugs and tears. And when there were no more smiles, we shared one last ride. Ollie in his captain's chair ready to pounce on speeding trucks, grandma in the front and Barry driving. We sat on the floor of the van and I scratched her behind the ears and she gave me her last smiles.
That afternoon, we buried her on the knoll by the creek in a grove of fir trees where she loved to explore and play. And now everyday when I look out over the creek from my kitchen window I'll remember the little white flag tail on the sweetest little girl that filled our house with love.--Alice Hanson