So. I know this is blog is usually reserved for art, but canine friend of mine died this weekend after a long illness. Sam was a large-ish Akita owned by my aikido sensei and his wife.
If you go by the usual definition of 'good dog', Sam wasn't a 'good dog'. He rarely did what you told him to do. He was willful. Praise and criticism bounced off him with an equal lack of effect. But, he was never, ever a 'bad dog'. He was a good guard with a resounding bark that, in the lonely days when I sat him at his home, would cause me to jump. He was wary, but when he recognized a friend, his ears would go horizontal ("airplane ears") and he would run towards them with a goofy bouncing lope that made just made you want to pet him. And, by the way, he loved the ladies; if he had a choice between being pet by a guy and being pet by a girl, he'd choose the girl every time.
We spent a pretty good amount of time together and got along well after he placed me in the hierarchy of his world. We'd go on walks in the woods that unfortunately got shorter and shorter as the years went on. Once, we went for a quick jaunt that turned into a four hour hike when I got us lost in the Proctor Maple Forest. Sam got fed up following me and decided to head out on his own. Since he wouldn't come, I had to chase him; right back to the road we were looking for.
When I house-sat, he'd fall asleep on his dog bed in the living room, but around 5 am, he'd jump onto the futon bed I used and, after 3.5 revolutions, lay down and napped. By the way, he snored. When he did his business, he'd walk a few feet away from the spot and scrape huge gouts of dirt with his massive front paws to cover it up. The only thing was, he was never ever pointed in the correct direction and sent the dirt at least off on a forty-five degree tangent.
He loved carrots and would take them ever-so-gently from your hand. He loved chewing plastic soda bottles (to be taken away from him immediately when he started to take them to bits). He loved tearing the bark off of sticks. He also loved Ronin the Cat, of that I am sure. They would sleep together often and Sam was so jealous of him, if you wanted Sam to come, all you had to do was call Ronin and start petting him. Sam would come running. He was the dojo dog at Aikido of Champlain Vally and had a basket full of toys to keep him occupied. He would 'clean' the faces of certain members after a good long class. He seemed to prefer John J. above all others.
Even though he only obeyed me grudgingly, I will miss Sam greatly. Now that he is gone, I will share something I'm not entirely proud of: I gave him a pet name that I only used when I house-sat with him. That name (ugh) was "Sam Bam-arino". I would also make up dumb songs to sing to him. Songs about getting his food ready, songs about peeing, songs about anything. He really couldn't have cared less, but I did it anyway.
Sam is survived by his 'Mom', Heidi, his 'Dad', Ben his 'brother' Caleb and his brother 'Ronin'.
An early picture of Sam:
A bit later. On his deck.
Sam and Ronin in their usual positions :
This is the last picture I took of Sam last December. Interestingly, it looks a great deal like a relief print I did for his 'parents' a year or two before:
and an artsy picture of the two friends hanging out on the deck:
Sam was laid to rest in the ground of his "grandfather's" flower farm in central Vermont.
He will be missed.