Friday, July 4, 2008

Samba’s Last Day

From the moment he entered our lives as a nine week old puppy, until the moment he left us on Tuesday, July 1, 2008, nine years later, Samba was special. He was graced with intelligence, power, humor, and most of all love. Our lives are richer because of him. It’s hard to find words to convey what he was like: how magical he was. I think the best I can do is relate his last day with us.

Samba was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) at the beginning of July 2007. Most dogs with the condition live for only a few months. Samba motored on, just as he always had, for nearly a year. He was that strong. In June, he started going down hill. He wasn’t having a lot of pain, but he was resting more than he ever had and moving more slowly. We realized the cancer which had first appeared in his left front leg had spread to his hindquarters. On Monday, June 30, Samba didn’t want his breakfast — a first for him. We knew in our hearts the time had come to let him go peacefully. The day was so beautiful, we decided to spend it with him and made an appointment for the following day, Tuesday, at 3:30 PM to have him put to sleep. It was such a sad moment for us. Something we had dreaded.

When he got up Tuesday, Samba wanted to lie on the back porch. He hadn’t wanted to do that for some time, and we were happy to sit with him. Samba loved our kitchen and was most comfortable there, so Elly and I stayed in the kitchen. Whenever Elly left the room, even for a minute, Samba became anxious, looking for her until she came back. Around noon, he wanted to go out in the backyard to lie in the sun: something he started doing a few years ago. Usually half an hour is enough for him, but he stayed out for an hour. Elly and I sat with him.

Samba was panting when we came back in, which was nothing unusual. We have often laughed at how a black dog liked to lie in the sun until he was panting so much he had to get up. He seemed to be having trouble cooling off, so Elly suggested closing the doors and windows and turning on the kitchen AC to help him be more comfortable. We did that and Samba lay down near the air conditioner. Elly had to go upstairs for a minute. I was sitting at the kitchen table writing in my journal.

When Elly came back, she sat down with Samba and started petting him. A moment later she told me Samba was passing away. I did not believe her, at first. I came over to look at him and he was breathing deeply. I said he was just resting. Elly said when she had sat down he had been breathing rapidly, but when she started petting him his breathing had slowed way down, and now he was only taking occasional breaths. A minute later Samba took his last breath with Elly and me sitting beside him. He had been waiting for her to come back before leaving us. He passed away two hours before we had planned to take him to the animal hospital.

We had been so miserable at the thought of having our beautiful Samba put to sleep. He spared us that pain. He said goodbye to us on his own terms, where he most loved to be. That was Samba.

When he was about fourteen months old, we had taken Samba to visit Dianne Moore, who owned Samba’s father, Cory. Samba was a massive dog. Not fat, but at the maximum height and weight according to the Rottweiler breed standard. Dianne had commented to him: “I don’t think you’re going to be losing too many fights, Samba.” And the truth is he never did. Even his last fight, with cancer.

The three pictures above were taken while we were sitting out with Samba on his last day with us, an hour and a half before he passed away. The following picture, one of our favorites, was taken a few weeks ago on June 14 at sunset.


Karlaandhergang said...

Samba was a true warrior! What a wonderful rottie he was. Godspeed Samba, and peace to you and your family you had to leave behind for a little while.
Karla and HEIDI
9yo rottweiler in St. Louis
DX OS rt. front leg 2/29/08
amp 3/12/08
Satraplatin chemo study for MU
Bone Cancer Dog group member

Diana Sudyka said...

Oh this breaks my heart. I am so sorry that Samba had to leave you, and he did it in the most brave and dignified manner. What a gift to have been able to have a such a creature part of your family. It is obvious he knew that he was loved.

Eloise said...

My deepest sympathy goes to you both.