Monday, March 7, 2011

Who We Are

   Life is a crazy sport ! We play this game of life hoping that if we win we will be truly happy. Most of the time we don't even realize that the clock is ticking until something traumatic happens that makes us call for a time out. Unlike the sports we enjoy on TV, our time outs in life can, at times bring us to our knees and shake our souls. After my 20 mile run yesterday I realized that my life was in one of those time outs over the past week.

   It's funny how the solitude of a run can help me deal with my thoughts and emotions. So at the crack of dawn, on a Sunday, when the world is still fast away in their beds I headed out hoping to start my game of life again.This past week I had to make one of the hardest decisions in my life and I was hoping that somewhere along those 20 miles I would make peace with my decision.

   In 1998, looking for an addition to my home I ventured out to the local dog pound after seeing a cute picture in the paper. Something about that picture of a mixed boxer, head cocked to one side sucked me right in. She was just a pup maybe 8 months old. She was abused and malnourished and slated to be euthanized if she wasn't adopted. There was something about her dominate personality that almost said
"Well Mr. Vanek I choose you so let's do what we have to do and get out of here."

   Home now, and her official name became Samantha (Sammy) Vanek. The first few years were eventful to say the least. This loving pup was growing up to be a gorgeous dog. One that loved to test me and test her boundaries. Those first few years were scenes right out of the movie "Turner and Hooch" minus the slobber and drool. She loved to test me daily to see who was the boss and she learned very quick to talk back just like a sassy teenager. It'd be a lie to say I won all of these disputes. The fact is that I have a soft heart when it comes to my animals and sometimes I would just give in to that adorable grin.

   As the years moved on so did our relationship. We moved to Kentucky and back. I was in a relationship one that Sammy seemed to love. She became protector of the home. To some degree I think that because she couldn't have any puppies herself she protected the kids as if they were her own. That sense of protection almost cost her life. On a late summer day the mailman came to deliver the mail. Sammy jumped full force against the front window and it shattered. Her front legs going through and as she pulled back sliced them up. She was in bad shape and we didn't know if she was going to make it. I will give credit and thank my now ex-wife for making the decision to spend the money to try and save her. Sammy recovered months later with only a slight limp. This was just another testament to her will to live and survive.

   Time seemed to just slow as life just played out. I watched her face turn grey, as the game of life played on. We lost our friend Buster my old golden retriever and then we lost our family when my marriage fell apart. Sammy took it hard when the kids weren't around anymore. She spent weeks laying in their beds until she decided to let go. This heartbreak was one that made our bond stronger.

  It was evident that my old girl lost a step or two. Hunter (my chocolate lab) came into our lives and being a typical Lab kept Sammy on her paws and worked hard at keeping her young. The winter of 2010 was fast approaching and in my heart I could also see Sammy entering the winter of her life.

   On Thursday, my trusted old dog gave me a look from her spot on the couch that I understood. She was tired and was ready. With tears in my eyes and my heart shattered I knew what I had to do for this dog who gave me so much love. Friday March 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm my faithful partner of the past 13 years passed while laying in my arms leaving behind a loving dad and brother (Hunter).

   During this time out in my life I started to think about who we are. With some very kind gestures, comments and support during this hard time it hit me that friendship makes us who we are. Taking time out of ourselves to give to one another is what we are placed on this marble to do. Sometimes it's a helping hand or a gentle smile that gets us through a tough day. Sometimes it's that simple gesture to let you know you're not alone and you can lean on someone and sometimes, on that rare occasion you are given the precious gift of time and companionship that touches every fiber of your heart and soul.

   Unconditional love is what we all are looking for in this game of life. Dogs were put here to show us exactly what it feels like to have that touch our hearts. That is why it's so hard to say goodbye. Sammy, Hunter and I miss you everyday. I miss you talking back, I miss you stealing my shoes to sleep with or my dirty clothes to lay down with. I am going to miss looking over at you on the couch when we are watching TV. Most of all I'm going to miss you as my friend and all of the little things you did that just made me smile. Sammy you taught me how to be a friend, how to do the small things that may mean the world to someone, and in the wake of you moving on, you had the power to bring out the kindness and compassion from the people in my life. You were an amazing friend Sammy, I will never forget you. Thank you for sharing your life with me.
Samantha Vanek 1998-2011