Dogs are called “man’s best friend” because of the unwavering loyalty and love that they give to their owners. Our canine companions are always there for us – they cheer us up when we feel blue and they never fail to show us their affection in ways that only they can.
When we come back home after being gone for a while, our pets would come jumping at us with their wagging tails as if we were gone forever. They give us the sweetest greeting every time we come home because they’ve missed us terribly – and that is just for a few hours of being away.
But what if a dog owner never comes back? What would it be like for his best friend – who eagerly waits for him by the door every night?
A senior Labrador named Sam knows this all too well – her owner just passed away last week. In her case, however, her human was beside her, but he never came back from his sleep.
Sam, who is thought to be close to 20-years old, was found sitting beside her lifeless owner who had raised her ever since she was a puppy.
Maeghan Olsen, founder and director of 1 Day Ranch in Bethel Acres, Oklahoma, met Sam when she received a call from the local sheriff’s office asking for help in moving the dog from her home. She had to be transferred so that her owner’s body can be removed from the house.
There was no Animal Control office near 1 Day Ranch, so it is the animal rescue and other nearby animal welfare groups that help local authorities with various animal cases. Maeghan usually gets calls from the sheriff’s department about hoarding situations and neglected pets, so a call about a grieving animal was the last thing that she expected.
Maeghan says the sheriff’s department was having a hard time moving the senior dog from the home because she refused to leave her owner’s side. Authorities believe that Sam stayed with the body for a day before anyone arrived. They only learned about the situation when a concerned neighbor, who was also the owner’s close friend, checked in on him after not hearing from him for several days.
When she arrived at the house, Maeghan found Sam exhibiting clear signs of stress. The lonely dog was panting, shaking, and looked “very upset”. She knew it wouldn’t be proper to force the dog out of the home, so she sat with her instead and fed her treats.
After gaining the dog’s trust, Sam allowed a leash to be put around her neck and she let Maeghan lead her out of the house. Even with the absence of words, she knew that Sam was able to say goodbye to her beloved owner.
According to the neighbor, Sam’s owner was very ill, but he left the hospital against medical advice because he didn’t want to leave Sam alone in the house.
“His main goal was to be home with his dog, and to try and outlive her,” Maeghan says.
Sam was extracted from the home and moved to 1 Day Ranch with a few things that belonged to her owner, such as blankets and pillows. The senior labrador was a special case, so Maeghan let her sleep at her house found within the ranch’s premises. She hopes that staying in a real home will allow Sam to decompress easier.
Aside from a few issues brought about by old age, such as hearing and eyesight problems, Sam appears to be extremely healthy for a 20-year-old dog. When things finally settle, Maeghan hopes that Sam will be checked by a vet to determine the best housing situation for her, and to have an idea of what medical costs to expect in the future once she’s taken in.
Maeghan also hopes that the Lab will be able to attend her owner’s funeral so that she can “honor the relationship they had.”
After the funeral, Maeghan will be looking into adoption opportunities for Sam. Given her age, the dog is not a likely candidate for full adoption, so there is a possibility that she will be placed in a foster hospice home. But if it turns out that Sam has health issues, then Maeghan will be the one to take care of Sam permanently, where the dog had befriended her therapy-dog-in-training in the ranch.
For sure, whatever happens, Sam will be showered with the love and care that she deserves in the golden years of her life.
“Obviously the man did something right, a lot of love goes a long way,” Maeghan says.
May this story serve as a reminder to all of us to love and cherish our loyal companions. Dogs may not live as long as we do, but the few years they spend on this earth are devoted to loving and protecting us – their best friends.