Being a Better Human
She made Lassie look like an amateur. Her face, with all its speckled imperfections, could change a bad day to beautiful in an instant. The tricks she was trained to do paled in comparison to her innate ability to make things more fun simply by being around. Through her blind devotion and affection, I learned to believe that animals teach us how to be better humans.
At the fierce age of seven, I was introduced to Samantha Susan Solesbee, later to be called “Sammy Sue,” in a whirlwind. She terrorized our home and ripped socks and chew toys to shreds with little mercy. Though she immediately frustrated my mother, none of us could deny those devoted eyes. With one brown and one half-blue, Sam was an Australian Shepherd with a heart bigger than most folks ever dream of having. She bonded to us and became our family dog for the next fourteen years.
We were a military family, so we moved around a lot. We’d pack up our lives into those same smelly brown boxes every few years and leave faces and places behind like it was nothing. But it wasn’t nothing-not to a kid. Sam made it possible. She was the constant companion to our ever-changing family and I knew that I could count on her no matter where we went. We’d traverse state lines from Texas to Louisiana and up the coast to South Carolina, stopping only so Sam could breathe the air and smell the trees. I believe she taught us to do the same. Instead of focusing on how hard this next move would be, or figuring out how to charm the crowds at our next school, Sam looked at each move and managed to find beauty in every single part. She’d bound into our new home with little hesitation; retrieve the new daily paper with the utmost excitement. It occurs to me now that she spent nearly her whole life excited, and I am sad that I can’t say the same.
Sam passed away when I was 21 years old, and everything stopped. In my head, she was still there. I could still feel her soggy tennis ball in my palm and see those ever-devoted eyes focused and ready to retrieve whatever I had to throw at her. But my world without the dog who taught me so much about living a positive life was much different than I had expected. I’d had family members pass and felt sadness and despair. Never had I felt so empty. She was a part of me, of my world. As a testament to all the good she did for my family, I decided to live positively. I believe that she showed me how to do just that. I believe she showed me how to stop focusing on what’s wrong and instead see all the things that are right. Because of Sam, and all devoted animals who simply love life and little else-I am a better human being.
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