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Sammie: a Heartbreaker and a Great Adventure


“If you close yourself off to love because it might hurt someday, you close yourself off to one of the greatest treasures on earth.” So says Rita Lockwood, long-time Kerry owner and adopter of Sammie, who came into Rita’s home as one of the oldest Kerry rescues in history, at 17+ years old.

Rita adopted – or was adopted by – Sammie almost exactly two years ago, in late October of 2016.

Initially, I felt empathy upon learning about her situation when Sammie was first posted as a rescue, but she was well over a thousand miles south and too old to fly, so I didn't consider her as a possibility. As time went on, I'm told that the Kerry rescue team was talking about how no one yet had been able to step in for Sammie, and the conversation was something like, ‘You know who would be perfect for Sammie: Rita!’”

Sammie arrived in Oregon shortly thereafter, to a resounding welcome from her new mom and from her new brother, Casey, a 3-year old kerry. It was apparent at first meeting that there would be no adjustment issues. Sammie responded to Rita as though they were good friends already, and then she stood calmly while Casey gave her the sniff test and wagged his tail. The two kerries were an unlikely couple, but with mom Rita focusing on fun, love, and comfort, they bonded quickly.

I gave Casey beef bones often, so naturally I offered Sammie one at the same time. Casey always accepted, she didn't. Then one day after I gave him one, she watched him gnawing it, walked over, and took it away from him. He didn't object as she took it back to bed with her, but he did seem disappointed. She didn't chew it, just kept it on her bed until she moved a couple of hours later. When she walked away from it, he retrieved and enjoyed it. “

Sammie clearly still had her kerry pride, but she had cognitive dysfunction (dementia), she was almost blind from cataracts, had hearing loss, arthritis, and untold other undiagnosed or untreatable ailments. Sometimes she was confused about direction. Casey was readily nearby to help. Rita often saw him block Sammie from steep slopes or stairs when Sammie was confused, and witnessed Casey gently sideswiping her, nudging her a particular direction. Then she would follow, head high as though she knew exactly where to go.

Yes, it put a lump in my throat,” Rita confesses.

She needed to go to the vet more often than Casey did, especially toward the end of her time here, but Rita always had both of them in the car. At the vet hospital, she would leave one in the car, walk the other, and then go inside. Casey was usually left in the car, and always sat and waited quietly until his mom and kerry sister returned.

Until the last time.

On Sammie’s final trip to the vet's, I got out with her and walked her a bit, then we headed in to the reception area. Casey started howling from the car. There is no other word for it. The receptionist looked at me, shocked. ‘Is that Casey?’ I nodded my head and we both got teary.

On the way home, with Rita in tears and Sammie’s spot in the car empty, Casey was silent. When he and Rita got home, Casey immediately got on Sammie’s bed, still in its rightful place in her home of the past six months.

All along, Rita had tried to be realistic about what it meant to adopt such an elderly dog, affirming that she “wasn't trying to reach some milestone to brag about. I wanted her to be here as long as she was comfortable. When I made her last appointment, I thought she was ready to leave, but I wasn't sure. The vet examined her and said, ‘Well, we may not be ready to let her go, but she's ready.’”

Was loving a very senior, very vulnerable rescue kerry worth the effort, the dollars one doesn't gets around to getting reimbursed for, the time, the tears, the frustration? Rita says yes.

I knew it would end in heartbreak. Was it worth watching my son, my granddaughter, and Casey all grow attached, then watch their grief when she left? Yes. I wanted her to feel loved and wanted and as happy as possible. One way for me to guarantee her that was to offer her a home.

We had her in our family only for six months, but Sammie’s story isn’t really over. Certainly at the end of her time with us I just sat crying, but still, I was able to go online and tell her fan club: Sammie has left on Her Next Great Adventure.”

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Today is July 18, 2019

In this month in 1926:

The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America established the first standard for the Kerry Blue Terrier in the US.

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