Sam Stewart RIP 2007-2014


Sam was born in Picture Butte, Alberta 7 years and one month ago today. He was the grand-nephew of our previous Bernese Mountain Dog (Zeke) and we flew and drove out there to pick him up. He was the last of the litter to leave home, and he was kind of nervous to meet us. The fact that Hank (the breeder) had washed and blow-dried him to floofiness probably didn’t help, but in the picture below, that ain’t water on the deck! But you can see him looking up at me bravely, ready to make a new life.


On the drive back to Calgary Airport we stopped in Vulcan, AB, where he had his first ever leash walk. Must have been scary for him, but he was brave again and did really well. I love this photo: Berners are very fuzzy from some angles, and we always thought this picture made it look like Barbara was walking a BEAR!


Perhaps it was the early hair-dryer trauma, but he was often nervous at the dog groomers. They always sent back a report card: sometimes he was “a perfect angel” but most visits he was a “brave little bear.” We knew what that meant – he was doing his best, was nice to everyone, but you could tell it was maybe a little tough for him.


He always came back pretty good looking: Barbara always called him the “Brad Pitt of dogs.” And not the scruffy more recent Brad: she was thinking the Thelma and Louise version!


But being handsome is just genetics, and no one can take too much credit for that. But his inner self was his own making. I’ve known and owned many dogs, and they each have a core character. Some are puppies for ever, other are old and mature animals from early on. Sam was like a 3-7 year old kid: they know what the rules are, and they know about being good and bad. And they choose good – helping Dad chop green beans, smiling when going into surgery, playing with the other kids.

That was Sam: he always wanted to help, he wanted to be around the family, he was never cynical, and he lived each day in order to be a “good dog” and make his Mum and Dad (mainly Mum!) happy.

The lymphoma was only diagnosed three months ago. We tried chemo, and while the side effects were minimal, it didn’t make the tumours go away as it does in 75% of dogs. We tried another kind of chemo, and it didn’t help either: by yesterday afternoon he was having trouble breathing, walking, getting up, and had stopped eating. We talked to the vet, and gave all the people who mattered to him a chance to pay a last visit. My kids, the Neray dog-walkers, Uncle Jim.

But a funny thing happened after dinner last night. A very sick and dying dog came to life for 20 minutes of play. In our back yard, where the photo up top was taken, he chased his orange ball like a pup, barked up a storm and squeaked the ball madly, all with massive tail wags. An hour later he was having trouble breathing again, but I think those 20 minutes were HIS last gift to us. He knew we were sad for some reason, so he pulled up his white Berner socks, and had the courage and willpower to make us happy for a very little while.

This morning, just before noon, Sam had the catheter put in. We said goodbye, and held him with me patting his back. As the plunger was halfway down, his head dropped to his paws for the last time. After the vet listened and told us his heart had stopped, Barbara and our dog-walker (also Barbara) couldn’t stay in the room and left with the vet.

I leaned across him, nuzzled into his fur, and told him: “you really were a brave little bear.”


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11 responses to “Sam Stewart RIP 2007-2014”

  1. Martha says :

    I am so sad that you had to say goodbye to such a dear sweet dog. My sympathies as you deal with your loss.
    Love Olden

  2. Norma Nickerson says :

    A beautiful story, they really are one of the family. Sorry for your loss but happy for the joy he gave you. I am watching the toll of aging with my dog Jake, he is now 15. He was Don’s walking partner and stayed close by him. They sure do tug on your heart strings.
    Love Norma

  3. Gail says :

    I’m sorry I never met Sam personally but he sounds like he was an amazing pup! It’s so heartbreaking to have to say goodbye, but unfortunately it’s one of the sad realities of pet adoption as they just don’t live as long as us! My heart goes out to all of you. RIP Sam!

  4. Vince Mazza says :

    So sorry for your loss, Duncan.

  5. infosourcer says :

    I know how hard it is to lose the furry faces…especially if there is illness involved, but it sure seems like Sam gave his last hurrah to you and the family as a parting gift-nothing beats the pooches….:(

  6. Rob Dilworth says :

    Losing a best friend is very tough especially when he is such a brave little bear. A few days before we lost Lizzie, our welsh corgi, she took us on a tour of our island from a dogs point of view. The video is in 4 parts, and is much too long, but the funniest part is about 3 minutes into “lizziecam 2” when she tries to get a drink of water. Fortunately, we are left with fond memories of our best buddies.
    With best wishes,

  7. Sylvie Perrin says :

    I am so sorry for your family, I have been a rescuer of lost pets (mainly cats) all my life, and I KNOW how it feels to loose one we love, everybody will say it is just an animal… they don’t know! they don’t have pets or even shared the bond with them. Duncan, you told a beautiful real life story. I cried.

  8. Karin Dean-Williams says :

    Duncan: I am sorry to hear this. I know that Sam was so much a part of your lives. It is odd how pepole and pets who are in their last hours do seem to rally to leave us with a better memory of who they really are!

  9. Derrick Hanson says :

    Thank you Duncan for helping me remember my own ‘puppy’ Data, who I lost to illness 5 years ago, after 15 years of close friendship. Sometimes I wondered who was the adult in our relationship. Your beautiful words and terrific pictures helped me remember the amazingly happy times we had as a family. Sincerest sympathies for your loss.

  10. Vinnie Krieger says :

    What a beautiful tribute to a beloved dog. He was handsome to the end.

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