My first dog, whom I vaguely remember, was a German Shepherd named Sam. He was my buddy. He was my protector.

My first dog, whom I vaguely remember, was a German Shepherd named Sam. He was my buddy. He was my protector.

Sam was actually my parents’ dog since I was too young to seriously care for any type of pet — except maybe a painted turtle or a goldfish. Regardless, he was my best friend in the world at the time.

I remember little of his short life, other than he and I would sit side by side on the front steps and talk. Rather, I would talk and he would listen, but I’m sure he understood.

He always sat at attention, with ears pointed skyward, tongue dripping doggie saliva, and his head swiveling on alert.

My parents shared two stories with me from our (Sam and I) time together, though I only remember one. Their favorite is the time my mom overheard me say in a moment of panic that, “!@^%$# Sam, get out of the flowers here comes your dad!”

I don’t remember the incident, but I’m told the expletive deletive I chose for the moment involved misuse of the Lord’s name.

Shame on me.

But Sam lived a short life.

In Hamburg, dogs and kids roamed freely. It was a small town in the 1950s and there was no fear of kidnapping, or child molestation or any other sordid crime. It was a great life.

My parents were taking my sister and me (she was just a toddler) out of town and I was given the charge of calling for Sam to come home before we left. I called and called and called his name.

No Sam.

I called some more, and peered down the street.

No Sam.

My parents assured me he’d come home when he was ready, so we left plenty of food and water near the sanctity of his homemade doghouse. When one or the other of us was in trouble, we’d take shelter in his house.

I remember worrying about my buddy while we were gone, but the assurances of my parents were soothing. When we came home a couple of days later, there was no Sam. No evidence he’d eaten his food or drank his hose-fresh water.

Now concerned, my parents canvassed the neighborhood. I called his name, this time with an air of concern in my tiny voice.


Two days later, a neighbor found Sam in their back yard. He’d been poisoned, the vet said, with strychnine. My buddy was trying to get home but never made it.

My parents notified the police and county sheriff, but nothing ever developed. Sam’s killer went free.

Two hunting dogs — German Shorthaired Pointers were our next pets. We assume they were stolen for their value as bird dogs. Chris and Hildi disappeared forever more.

My last dog before heading to college was a miniature Yellow Lab, aptly named Taffy. The roly-poly mutt lived about 10 years before succumbing to a heart attack in the midst of a frigid Iowa winter while trying to climb the steep hill home. His Standard Operating Procedure was to carouse the neighborhood in search of free food handouts, or scrounge through peoples’ garbage.

He was a toad, for sure.

We found his remains in the spring.

The moral?

Life is short, life is fleeting. What is in your life today could be gone tomorrow.

Embrace it all.