A Story of Love & Loss

Oh my golly, I could not be more in love with Titan.  These Mastiffs, they are sensitive babies.  And Titan has been thru more than his share of stress. 

At the end of my Saturday volunteer stint, I went in his cage to love on him.  Poor baby was shaking so hard. I petted him and did things to his face that my English Mastiff, Sampson likes, like circling his eyes, scratching underneath his chin and rubbing the sides of his face.  All the while I told him that Sampson liked it, it made him sleepy and I hoped to help Titan relax.  I decided to ask for a furlough and I felt in my heart I needed to “save” him.  

Having adopted a very frightened, emotionally scarred Mastiff the year before, I know how delicate they are and how much positive they need.  It was storming and I’m sure it brought back bad memories for the poor fella with his door issues.  When I got home it was thundering and lightening and raining and he would not go inside.  I prayed for Titan and just as I was ready to give up (after 40 minutes) and borrow some neighbors’ husbands, I decided to get Sampson and see if Sampson could convince Titan to come inside. Sampson is a very happy doggy and he loves everyone.  So Sampson came bounding out and the two instantly bonded.  Titan followed Sampson 1/2 thru the door and realized what had happened and backed up.  So I fed Sampson a treat and then that cutie patootie Titan decided he wanted some too.  

The very first night, I was sitting on the couch and Titan jumped up there, put his head in my lap and we both fell asleep right away.  We went to bed and Titan got in bed like he had been doing it all his life.  He got real close and I hugged him.  Sampson was on the other side.  I woke up several times to Sampson crying and I could not figure it out.  I woke up alarmed and then reached for Sampson and was relieved, kissed him and went back to sleep.  

The following Wednesday out of the blue, Sampson had a lump on his “wrist” inside his left leg.  I thought maybe he had fallen or something so thought okay nervous mom, give it a couple of days.  By Saturday Sampson was limping quite a bit.  Sampson loves to ride in the car so I decided we would go to PetSmart for the first time to share an “alone” moment so he wouldn’t feel jealous/threatened by Titan.  Sampson had a ball, was a total ham at Petsmart, had his picture taken and was the belle of the ball.  Sunday Sampson’s limp was quite a bit worse.  Monday I called the vet and was able to get an emergency appointment that night.  

The vet asked to take him for an xray.  I thought that was odd but okay.  She was gone a long time.  When she entered the room her face looked very sad.  She said she was 95% certain Sampson had osteosarcoma.  I thought okay, how do we treat this.  She told me it is a very aggressive form of bone cancer, very painful and any treatment would basically keep him around longer but stretch out his pain; there is no cure.  And the lump on his leg was a tumor that had exploded out of his leg, that the leg could fracture with minor trauma and the cancer had likely metastasized throughout his body and into his lungs, soon to cause breathing problems.  I said I don’t want to be selfish and keep him around for me when it’s painful for him and burst into tears.  She had to leave the room to talk to another  patient, as they had worked me in.  Then she came back, showed me the xrays, said the radiologist would confirm or dispute the diagnosis on Wednesday and I could decide what to do then.  She said she was immediately going to put Sampson on a mild form of opium and an anti-inflammatory, but warned me not to be surprised and think Sampson is cured when he could walk like all was fine the next day.  Sure enough, he walked like all was well.  

I keep bursting into tears.  I don’t understand this.  Sampson was adopted last year, August 19th.  I thought we had lots of time left.  And Titan adores Sampson; Sampson was teaching Titan how to be a dog and not to worry about doorways, etc.   Titan reminds me so much of Sampson before Sampson got sick.   

In retrospect, I see now some things that indicated that Sampson wasn’t well.  Titan makes me laugh because when I take a shower, he pushes aside the curtain and looks at me, to make sure I’m behind there.  He also follows me everywhere, which I love, and which Sampson used to do.   He shows fear in various situations but I tell him it is okay, he’s a good dog and love on him.  I am certain I can help him build his confidence.  He is so fun –  acts a bit like a puppy yet at times I mistake him for Sampson.  I think Titan has a lot of love to give and needs a lot of love which is a perfect match for me, as my dogs are surrogate children.  

I was reflecting this evening (in between tear bursts) how blessed I am that Titan is here now when I need him most.  It’s almost as if he was a divine appointment.  I felt like it was right from the get go.  Now I know why I felt that way.  I think he will help me get thru this.  

Part 2

Sampson went to doggie heaven today and will soon be laid to rest in the Wayside memorial park so I can visit him each week at Wayside.  I frequently go there, walking the bully breeds and big energy dogs that need to “work it out” and always wondered what the white crosses signified.  Call me crazy, but I always feel a peace when near the crosses.  Sampson will be cremated with other animals, which is very fitting because he loved everyone and every being, he even stopped to smell flowers on our walks! 

This past Saturday was another good one for Sampson – he and Titan and I played ball and frisbee and barbequed.  Over their two weeks together, Sampson and Titan grew close and would frequently rest side-by-side.  Sampson taught Titan that yards are good things, and walks are even better (so much to smell!).  Saturday I saw the two walking side by side in the yard, with Titan glancing at Sampson to make sure he got the gait just right.  It is amazing how far Titan has come in their two weeks as friends. Several times last night I heard Titan’s footsteps and mistook them for Sampson’s; I believe that thinking one was the other was a transition of sorts because I did not know today would be the day.  As my neighbor Anne put it “Isn’t that just like Sampson – doing one last good deed – helping to restore another injured soul.”  I know Sampson has helped restore mine. 

Written by Sara Henning
Wayside Waifs Volunteer

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