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Sam settled in well. For the first few weeks he just made himself comfortable and watched what went on around him. His big, brown eyes followed us wherever we went. After a couple of months he was able to walk reasonably well, and he had no hesitation in nosing up for a pat. His owner had obviously trained him well, as he would instantly respond to commands such a “sit” and “lay down”. And on the words, “shake hands” he would happily raise a front paw.

The longer Sam lived with us, the more affectionate he became. Rolling over onto to his back for a tummy rub was the highlight of his day. But we soon began to realize that Sam was also becoming very protective of us. So much so, that strangers (and friends) were usually ‘warned off’ at the gate by his aggressive snarls. Even when we took him for long walks, he strained at the leash to try and frighten off joggers and other walkers.

One day my wife phoned me at work. She was very distressed. We were having some trees lopped, and one of the workers asked if he could use the bathroom. My wife told him he could get into the house via the courtyard, but she would need to tie the dog up. “Don’t worry about that lady”, he said. “I’ve got dogs myself”. Sam had different ideas. As the tree-lopper reached for the door handle, the dog hit him full-force, grabbed him by the overalls, and pinned him to the wall. “It’s not the dog’s fault,” I reassured my wife. “He thinks he was protecting you. We should be giving him a medal.” Deep down, we knew that Sam needed a different home. Like a farm, or a ranch, where he could run all day, and burn up some of his supercharged energy.

At the beginning of winter, I organized for Graham, a nearby resident, to do some decal work on a Jeep we had for sale. He was a wizard on custom decal work, and the fact that he lived only a block from our house made things easier.

On the way home from a workout at the gym, Graham decided to call in and ask a few questions about the job. He opened the gate and trotted down our driveway. Sam went on Red Alert. It was nearly dark, and here was a big, sweaty stranger aiming straight for our front entrance! Sam stopped him six feet from the door; his teeth imbedded in the top of Graham’s leg. When we heard the scream we raced out and slapped the dog off; but he ricocheted and bit deeply into Graham’s knee.

I raced Graham to the nearby hospital, where they treated him straight away and assured him that no long-term damage had been done.
That night, we had to make an awful decision. Sam was probably the world’s most-loyal dog. But, he was also a ‘loaded gun’. If his latest attack had been on a child, or an elderly person, rather than a fit, six-foot tall man, the result could have been catastrophic. We called the local veterinary clinic, explained the situation, and went and gave Sam a great big hug.

Like most dogs, he loved riding in the back of a wagon. When he was ‘working’ he probably spent most of time on the back of an open truck; so carpet, air-conditioning and big windows must have seemed like paradise. Tonight was no different; he happily jumped up into the back of the ‘Cruiser and off we went.

It was only when we went through the door of the clinic that Sam realized something was up. He hunkered down; possibly remembering how he felt the last time he was in one of these places. I paid the receptionist, and the vet took Sam through the door to the surgery.

On the way home I could hardly see where I was driving. Tears streamed down my face.

By Ray Barker

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