From mid 1990’s
In the mid-90’s, Kay and her husband attended an obedience match at Stetson University in Deland sponsored by the Mid Florida Golden Retriever Club. She was considering doing obedience trials with their young Golden, Sunny, when she met – and immediately liked – another Golden named Sam who was being fostered by Sharon of GRRMF.
“Luckily for us, Sharon chose not to keep him herself, and we promptly adopted him,” says Kay. “Believed to be between 3 and 4 years old, Sam was the sweetest dog. Absolutely obsessed with racket balls, he could play with them all day. We even put boards under our couch because he enjoyed pushing the ball underneath it, forcing us to get down on the floor and fish it out – only to have him stuff it back in.
“One day, I came home from school and Sam didn’t greet me at the door as usual. I found him stuck under our bed! Apparently a racket ball had rolled underneath it and his collar had gotten caught on the bed frame. “His ball obsession stopped, however, at the water’s edge. He would never go into the water. And as much as he loved our camp on the Suwannee River, he didn’t love the car rides there and back.
“Although I’d gotten him an AKC ILP with the name Second Chance Sam to do obedience trials together, he clearly didn’t enjoy it. But because of his sweet and docile nature, he was tested – successfully — and registered with Therapy Dogs International. I brought him to nursing homes for visits and demonstrations, where he would sit, still and calm, whenever anyone simply touched him.
“After one particular demonstration, I approached a gentleman in a wheelchair and introduced Sam to him. As the attendant explained that the man never responded to anyone or anything, she suddenly touched my arm and pointed at Sam. The man had moved his hand slightly and was barely scratching Sam’s head with one finger! I still cry remembering how powerful that moment was.
“When Volusia County Animal Control needed a photo for their new web site, they sent over a photographer who took several of Sam and Sunny in our backyard. The one they selected stayed up for several years.
“When Sam was around 10, he had a seizure. The vet told us that he probably had a brain tumor. A second seizure irrevocably changed his personality. We chose not to pursue any interventions at that time and had him humanely put to sleep. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Suwannee River along with a racket ball.
“All Goldens, by definition, have sweet, loving natures. But of the seven who have shared our lives, Sam was one of the sweetest.”