Sam has issues

Sammy 01“I’m not sure if Sammy did something really bad in a previous life, which is why he is the way he is, or if he did something really good, which is why he has the owner he does.”


So pondered Charly, my friend and the previous occupant of my room, as we walked the dogs around Oakland prior to the tenancy transfer. Her massive donkey of a dog was smiling at the world, Lucy was monitoring the shadows, and Sam? Sam was nervous and happy and adorable and disgusting and oh-so-concerned.


This is Sam.

Sam with hot spots

Sam has issues.


The first thing I noticed about Sam was his grin, then his brown eyes, followed by his enthusiasm, earnestness, and charm. Then I noted the big bleeding patches of oozing flesh on his paws.


Sam has allergies. Specifically, he’s off-the-charts allergic to dust mites. His owner bought a big air-purifier that runs in the hallway 24/7, and we clean the hardwood floors at least once a week, no carpet here, but there is no escaping dust mites.


It probably doesn’t help that Sam’s kind of nuts. He’s an anxious pup and a determined one. Bandages last a few minutes, and that bitter spray that’s supposed to keep animals from chewing? He puts that stuff on his breakfast. And the sores go bleeding on.


Sam is a sweetheartSo Samwise wears the cone when his spots get bad. As good natured as he is, he seems to actually kind of like it. Sometimes when we take it off, he’ll go over and lay by, or even on it, as if asking to have it back on. The bad news is that after years of doggy yoga, he can get his knee inside the cone, and soon the skin there is raw and dripping. It gives his paws a chance to heal, but just relocates the problem to his knee. And after a while, even with daily removals and frequent washing, he gets a yeast infection on his neck from it. Poor little guy.


The cone doesn’t solve the problem, so Gamgee is also one medicated little pup. He gets allergy medicine twice daily, plus a steroid. These help with the wounds, but allergies and anxiety are as close in dear Sammy as they are in the dictionary, and the pill that makes the biggest difference is his serotonin reuptake inhibitor.


Yes, when his sores get really bad, Samster pops puppy Prozac, and the mellow blossoms.


SammyvestThat stuff ain’t cheap, and we want as naturally happy a Sampler as possible, so his wardrobe includes a Thunder Shirt. Have you seen these things? A compression vest, you put it on, and the constant hug mellows the animal out considerably. When you first put it on him, he’ll stand in the middle of the room, Zen and peaceful. Just kind of stares at the wall, in love with the world, observing the flow of the universe. But one can grow accustomed to all things, and the effect diminishes over time.


So to alternate, Samwise’s current attire is a soft cone, made of fabric instead of the familiar hard white plastic. It’s supposed to restrict less and breathe more than the plastic one, though I’m not sure if the Emperor Palpatine vibe is an asset or not. It also limits his peripheral vision more, giving him a habit of running into people (he knows where the walls are, but your location is anybody’s guess) and pushing doors closed when he tries to squeeze through them.Sammy softcone


Walk Sam past a bus stop, and he’ll try to get on the bus. No one knows where he’s trying to go.

Samson loves Animal Planet, watching intently while the show is on, getting bored during commercials, and perking up again when the animals come back. His favorites are dogs (of course), cats, and meerkats.


I got home yesterday and Samwise was nowhere to be found. Just as I was starting to freak out, I noticed the bathroom door was closed. I opened it to find a very relieved Sammypants, chilling in the bathtub.


When you get home, Sammy brings you a shoe, but that day he chose a sock for some reason.

When you get home, Sammy brings you a shoe, but that day he chose a sock for some reason.

There’s one other advantage to the soft cone over the hard one. Sam’s not one for fetch, but take him outside in the sun, and you will be treated to one of my favorite things on Earth. The Sammysault. This is a ninja dog, who takes a few loping steps, lowers his head, rolls over a shoulder, then breakdances his exultation on his back before jumping up and grinning at you. Repeat.


Good boy, Samwise.