Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lessons from a Golden

How a Rescued Golden Retriever Prepared me to be an

 LE Wife

My husband and I were still in college, newlyweds, having just discovered a Blue Heeler puppy does not go well in a condo with full time school and work. After a week of sheer hell (we found a great home for the puppy on a ranch), we decided to check out the local animal shelter and discuss adopting an adult dog. Scanning through the online database of dogs available, we found a listing for a one-eyed Golden Retriever named Samson. Being the animal lover I am, I pretty much fell in love instantly.

When we arrived at the shelter, we were welcomed and brought to the back where they kept the adoptable dogs. The facility was really nice, the staff kind, the dogs well cared for. As we walked through the kennels I kept an eye out for the Golden listed online. Dogs were barking, the staff person was jabbering on about things and all I could concentrate on was finding Samson.

Walking around the last corner of kennels we saw him. A golden blob of hairy cuteness, laying on the floor, too lazy to get up but still wagging his big tail in greeting. As we came to his kennel we noticed his missing eye but despite the missing eye, his face was kind and friendly, a sweet sparkle in the eye still there. He seemed healthy, though he never sat up but rather laid with his head on his paws, seeming tired and quiet. Not knowing if he was friendly, I nervously poked my finger through the grate to touch him. Ready to jerk my hand back if he bit, I was relieved when out popped his pink tongue for a friendly lick. We asked if we could play with him and as the staff member left to get a leash, my husband and I talked about Samson. 

He seemed really sweet but we thought it was odd that he just laid there. Maybe he was sick? Did we really want a sick dog? Arriving with the leash, the staff member took us outside to a pen to play with Samson. The big blob of fluff that had initially lazed in his kennel suddenly exploded with playful energy. He ran here and there, peed on everything, rammed us, begged for scratches, only to dash off again. HE WAS AWESOME! But then we saw his chest. Shaved, covered in bleeding sores and scabbed. What the heck was wrong with him?

The staff member explained Samson's story. He had been brought into the shelter many times as a runaway, only to be reclaimed by his family every time. He was not neutered and liked to roam away from home. Not to mention, his family neglected him to the point of mats and frostbit toes. On top of that, he had severe food allergies which was why his chest was shaved. They were in the process of healing his sores and trying a different food to see if he could handle it. No one knew how he lost his eye and upon his most recent arrival at the shelter, the staff was able to convince his family to give him up as they were clearly unable to properly care for him.

Our first day together!
Despite all the information, we fell in love with Samson. Like really, madly, deeply loved him. We clicked and it was about two hours later and the ball of fluff was loaded in the backseat and riding to his new home. Before taking him home, we made a detour to PetSmart for a spa day and some education in food allergies. He settled in wonderfully to our home. Though he seemed potty trained and obedient, we weren't totally sure about our new addition. We gated him in the living room for his first night with us, only to be kept awake for hours by his mournful crying. Feeling bad for him, we brought him upstairs to our room and the rest is history. He slept every night by our bed and proved to be an amazing part of our family. I will NEVER forget that dog, and to this day, he will always be a part of our family. 

At the time of Samson's adoption, he was 5 years old. Through the next year we battled his food allergies with ceaseless dedication. Literally. We spent many afternoons at the Vet's office, bought expensive allergy specific foods, endured skin treatments, medications, steroids, hours of research, you name it...we did whatever we could for Samson. He deserved it, he deserved an awesome home and one last chance at a happy life. Despite all our trying, Samson developed cancer at 6 years old and we chose to put him to sleep. By far, the WORST memory I have was watching our dear friend fall asleep forever. He may have cost us a lot of money and many hours of worry, but Samson also gave us a purpose and a friendship unlike any pet we've had. It was like he knew he had been rescued and tried to be the best he could. Years later we still keep his cremation remains in a box on our bookcase in our living room. Call us silly, or way too sentimental, but though he had only been with us for one year, he changed our lives, and taught me the most important lessons which to this day, help me as an LEOW. How you ask? Let me share. 

Unconditional love- That's sort of a no brainer. A dog like Samson looked a little worse for wear. He was missing an eye and always had a patch of hair shaved where sores had erupted. He cost us a ton of money, a ton of stress, and a ton of work. But he was worth it. I learned to look past ALL of it, to see the beauty in what I had, a really stinkin' awesome friend. In my LE life I have learned to look past the weird schedules, the messed up plans, the worry, the fear, and see what it is we are working for. People's safety, my husband's joy, a colorful life full of great stories and lessons learned. I have learned unconditional love for a goofy dog and it prepared me to love my LE life unconditionally, despite all the negative. Samson taught me to look past the obvious negativity and embrace and love the goodness...even if it felt like there was more negative than good. He was worth it, my family and my LE life are worth it.

Courage- Samson taught me the courage to keep finding new ways to deal with his allergies. There were times Samson was so sick, he would throw up or have diarrhea all over the house. He couldn't eat anything but his special food, not even a single table scrap or a dog treat. He couldn't be bathed with soap, he had to have his feet dried with a towel after going outside so he didn't lick them raw because they were itchy. He took 5 different medications three times a day in order to get some relief. Every time we thought we had it figured out, something else began to bother him. I found the courage to keep researching solutions, to keep taking him to the Vet, to keep adding things to the list no matter how much more work it meant for us. In my LE life I have the courage to keep finding ways to cope. I have the courage to see a hard situation, like being alone on a holiday, and find a solution. I have the courage to get through the hardships and fear. I have the courage to never take no for an answer and to always keep going.

Hope- This same courage gives me the ability to hope. When we thought we found a new treatment to help Samson, I never was afraid to hope it would work. I learned to always get my hopes kept us trying. In my LE life I always hope. I hope for tomorrow that we will be strong as a married couple. I hope for my husband's safety and that it will continue until retirement. I hope for success, I hope for my own happiness. I have hope in the hardships, that there will always be a path out.

Dedication- Again, sort of a no brainer after you've read what we did for Samson. We never missed a medication, we never gave up his comfort routines. We were dedicated to his health and well being because he was like our kid, and because we felt like it was our duty to keep him healthy since we had adopted him. We took on the role knowing what we were going to have to do for him. In the same way, I took on the responsibility of being an LEOW knowing full well it would be hard. But I choose to be dedicated to thriving through this life. To not just survive it, but to come out on the other side better and not bitter. I'm dedicated to supporting my husband and fighting for our family. I want my kids to see someone who never gives up fighting for what is important. I am dedicated to coping, taking responsibility, and finding ways to be joyful in my LE life.

Enjoying the moments- Samson's health was always up and down and that taught me to enjoy it while I could. When he was well enough to go for a walk, we took a really long one. When he was well enough to swim, we bought an awesome floaty toy and spent all day at the lake. In my LE life, when my husband has a day off, we make the most of it. When he is home for lunch, I shut off the TV, stop what I'm doing and spend time together. It's the little details of life that give it its unique beauty. We need to find the ability to stop and take in the moment, instead of always looking ahead. How much do we miss because we only focus on the big picture, instead of focusing in on the little things that actually make the whole picture up? Samson taught me to love the moments and not worry about the future. The future will always arrive whether we know what's coming or not. Spend your life living in the'll never get the same moment back.

Staying Positive- Many times when a treatment didn't work or Samson got sick on a new food, we would feel so discouraged. I was tired of researching why. Why was he sick in the first place? Why didn't this work? Why is this happening? On and on. But if we hadn't stayed positive it never would have worked out at all. We never would have gotten over the first hurdle if we hadn't been positive. Being positive allowed us to hope and to find the courage to be dedicated. In my LE life I choose to stay positive because it benefits myself and my family. It makes things easier, not more difficult. It allows us to hope, be courageous, and find the dedication to keep going. Staying positive is my fuel to come out on the other end of my husband's career still faithful, still happy, still whole, and still thriving.

Working together- I learned to work with my husband. We were a team to get Samson through his bouts. We tag teamed giving Samson his medications. We took turns letting him out in the middle of the night when he was sick. We both researched, we both fretted, we both loved him, and we both worked to keep him healthy. In the same way, we both fight for our marriage. We both are dedicated to making our LE life work. We both focus on each others needs and make the other person a priority. When times get hard we BOTH fight for a solution. Neither of us takes no for an answer and neither of us goes through this life alone. We are a team, working together to make our family a happy, healthy, thriving success story.

Letting go- Finally, Samson taught me to let go. The night we put him to sleep I laid at his head and talked him through it. I kissed him and cried and felt pretty much horrible. But I had to let him go. I had to give into the realization that he was too sick and in the same way he deserved to have a good life, he also deserved to no longer suffer. I couldn't control it anymore. I had to let go of the fight. Sometimes in our LE lives we have to learn to let go. I am still learning to let go of my husband. To give him over to the Lord so that if something ever happened to him, I could go on. We have to let go of battles and fears. We have to let go of certain expectations and requirements. To survive in an LE marriage we have to fight for it, but also know that sometimes bad things happen and we may lose our Officer. We may have to let go of dreams and plans. But the hope, courage, and dedication that got us to this point will also keep us going if our Officer were to be taken. Sometimes letting go of what we already have enables us to live life fuller because we are freer. 

So in the end, Sweet Samson taught me 8 important lessons that gave me a head start as an LEOW. All of the things I learned because of him, I use as a LE wife. I try to operate in unconditional love. I try to look to the future with hope. I try to have courage to get through whatever faces me. I try to be dedicated to my family and choosing to stay positive. I try to put aside my fears and worries and enjoy the little moments. I try to stay positive so that our family never fails. I try to work with my husband to keep our life together instead of thinking I have to do it all myself. And finally, I try to let things go and give them up to God. 

Samson was just a dog but he left a huge impact on my life. He was my first test at fighting for something worth having and I'll love him to pieces forever because of it.

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