Sampson’s Adoption Story

So I haven’t written much here this week, but I’ve been pecking at an old story that I started a few years back. Every time I read the first few pages I get sucked back into the story of it and want to write more, but I’m really not sure where it is going yet. It doesn’t help that its futuristic sci-fi stuff. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I started it, but somehow it pulls me back in every time.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

One of my favorite pictures of Sampson.

Anyway, I’ve been kind of worried/depressed the last couple days because we found a lump in Sampson’s armpit area. The next day we made an appointment with our vet to make sure it wasn’t anything bad. She took a needle biopsy of the area and put the cells under a microscope. She was pretty confident that the cells would just be fat cells, but when she came back she had bad news. Apparently there are several big nasty cells and several cells that looked like they were attempting to fight the nasty cells, oh and a few harmless fat cells. Our vet doesn’t claim to be an expert at looking at things under a microscope, but said that we could either pay $100 to have the lab look at it or we could go ahead and remove it. Based on the fact that there were bad cells in it period, obviously we’re going to have it removed. Sampson also has another knuckle sized lump where his umbilical cord once was, but the vet says that fatty deposits there are routine, and not a concern. Since the armpit one came back with bad cells we’re going to biopsy the other one while Sampson is on the sleepy time meds. His surgery is Tuesday, so that will be a long day for Jason, Ariel and I.

Since his lump is being removed from his armpit area, it will be annoying to clean and monitor because you have to lift his leg and poke around in his armpit flaps. He was none too fond of that after having it poked with a needle on Wednesday, so I anticipate he’s not going to be amused when it is stitches. Luckily it’ll be tucked up in an area that he can’t lick, so we might not have to keep the cone of shame on him as much.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

I figure now is as good of a time as ever to tell Sampson’s adoption story.


If you’ve talked to me about my dogs at all, you know that Sampson is my baby. I love Ariel, don’t get me wrong, but Sampson is my dream dog. Growing up I always wanted a Great Dane and his goofy merle color was one of my favorites. Once Jason and I got married and moved into our house, one of the first things on my agenda was that I wanted a Great Dane. I’d met a couple that belonged to a friend and had done my research enough to know that the lazy, good natured breed was a good fit for our lifestyle. Of course I looked at puppies online. Puppies are cute. Puppies need training. Puppies pee in the floor. Puppies are expensive.  So I started looking at rescues because an adult dog sounded like a better bet.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

Because adult dogs never destroy things.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

And they never learn new things like how to pull tissues from boxes.

Jason was mostly on board with this endeavor. He pretty much stands back and watches me orchestrate things, then deals with the consequences. On December 18th, 2012 we went to Charlotte, NC because the dane rescue I’d been facebook stalking was having a meet and greet at a Barnes and Noble. We went with a dog in mind, but upon arrival, it was being introduced to its new owners. We didn’t expect to come home with a dog that day because we knew that we had to fill out an application, have a home check, and build a fence first. This was more of an adventure to see what Jason thought of the idea of a dane once he’d met one himself. There were several volunteers with danes on leashes outside the bookstore and a donation/information table inside. Jason and I petted basically every dane that wasn’t already surrounded by people, and when we were standing petting a female dane that was up for adoption, Sampson stuck his head in between our legs for love. We petted him for a little while. He wasn’t even on our list despite being one of my favorite colors because he was heartworm positive. I wanted a nice, simple, healthy dog. I figured we’d be taking on enough with the transition from never having had a house dog to having one that weighed over a hundred pounds.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

Sampson when he came to the rescue. He was a stray in Georgia that was picked up by animal control.

We were smitten. We stood talking to his foster mom about him for a while, basically asking the same questions everyone else had already asked her. Why was his tail tied between his legs? How old is he? He’d busted his tail on something the week prior, so it was wrapped in vet wrap with a loop so it could be snapped under his belly so he didn’t do more damage to the wound. He was somewhere between 2 and 4 when we met him. We left that afternoon with intent to build a fence as soon as possible so we could adopt Sampson. Luckily another family who wanted him already had another dog and the initial meet and greet between the dogs had been tense at best.

So we went home, worried our way through Christmas with the “what if someone else adopts him first?” in our minds. After Christmas (and Christmas money) we started construction on our fence. And when I say we, I mean Jason and a guy from his work. I’m not sure what you know about December/January in Virginia, but it is the opposite of ideal fencing weather. My husband was outside digging post holes in frozen ground that was covered in snow. He had more than passed the point were he watched me plan, he wanted Sampson.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

Obviously the fence was a good idea.

After we built the fence, we sent in our application, stating that Sampson was our first choice and naming a couple of others as backups. We had our phone interview, then were told that Sampson may not be the best fit for us since he challenges his handler occasionally and we’d never had a house dog before. One of Sampson’s issues upon coming to rescue was that he doesn’t get along well with other dogs and needs slow introductions. He also didn’t trust people in that if he was crowded by multiple people, he’d get kind of snarly. We knew about the dog aggression thing, that wasn’t a big deal to us since we didn’t have other dogs, but his trust issues were something that didn’t come through when we’d met him initially. The recommendation that we consider other dogs hit us hard. Jason was frustrated. He obviously had a visual goal when he was building the fence. Sampson.

So they came for our home visit and all went well. We stood in the kitchen with two ladies from the rescue and discussed several things, and I talked about how raising young horses could be challenging sometimes because of their lack of respect for their people and how I’d worked through that with both Copper and Robin. That turned into a discussion about how we would handle a dog that had some issues with authority and trusting people. I really don’t recall what was said that made them believe in us, but before they left, they told us that provided that we took a little course with the trainer that he’d been working with, we could adopt Sampson, assuming all went well.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

We bought a crate, bed, and lots of toys for him between the home visit and picking him up.

It was now mid-January and we booked a hotel room in a town near Charlotte for the night. The next morning we were to meet at the trainer’s house to see how things went with Sampson. He seemed happy to see us, but he was pretty happy to see everyone if I’m being honest. We were shown how to walk him on his leash and what to expect of him. They handed Jason the leash first and he followed their instructions well. When it was my turn, I was nervous, though not because of Sampson. He was perfectly content to wander around the woman’s driveway as if we were going somewhere. Any time someone watches me do something in a situation like that makes me nervous. I’d compare it to horse show nerves. After demonstrating that we could walk Sampson on a leash, ask him to stop, sit and lay down, they showed us how he reacts to other dogs. The brought a deaf and blind Catahoula mix, Sapphire, out to let us see how Sampson acts. Poor Sapphire was oblivious to Sampson’s tension and completely ignored him when he growled at her. Sampson settled down after Sapphire had been there for a while without eating him. His dog aggression issues are totally fear based, and honestly the concept of the size of the dog is lost on him. He’s been as growly towards a tiny pomeranian as he would be to another dane. He’s oblivious to his own size as well.

After that they asked if we’d brought a halti and had us sign all the paperwork concerning the adoption-Sampson was ours! The halti is great for Sampson because while he’s excellent on a leash, if he sees another dog, it is nice to have that extra system in place to be able to turn him away from whatever he’s focused on. It works similarly to a halter on a horse in that you can use as light of pressure as the horse/dog responds to, but have the option of redirecting their face, and subsequently their path without exerting as much force as you would with a collar. Well, when we were putting the halti on him, we realized that the swivel snap on the halti was too small to hook to the D ring on his collar. When Sampson realized that 3 or 4 people were clustered around his head inspecting his neck, he had a claustrophobic moment where he demonstrated his lack of trust in people. He basically shook his head and growled like he meant business. We all jumped back and the trainer asked who he’d bitten. I looked around and he’d not made contact with anyone, just warned the group that he was uncomfortable with the situation. We snapped the little swivel snap to his collar on another metal piece and took him home with the realization that there were going to be some instances where we’d have to work him through his anxieties.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

On the way home.

The first few months he had a few tense interactions with certain people. He didn’t trust my mother in law or my best friend. Luckily he got over his phobia of my best friend over the course of a few months since she came around so often. For a while he’d growl (from a distance) at her whenever she got up out of the recliner to go to the bathroom or to the kitchen. As the months passed and he got more used to her, the growls decreased in sincerity to the point that he was basically over it. Now his relationship with her and my mother in law is like his relationship with everyone. He greets them at the door when they come into the house, he sits on their laps on the couch if they don’t protest, he shoves his head between their knees wanting his neck scratched. We even left Sampson with my best friend when we went to the beach that year.

A Soft Spot for Stars-Sampson's Adoption Story

He is obviously terrified of her.

Sampson still thinks strange dogs may kill him, but we managed to successfully get a second dog last year with only minor altercations. His anxiety about people is pretty nonexistent at this point. It is hard to believe it has almost been three years since he came to live with us, but at the same time it feels as though he’s been with us forever.

Needless to say, he’s been pretty spoiled since Wednesday when we found out he’d have to have surgery. I follow a blogger who’s dog is going through chemo now and a blogger who recently put down their senior dog, so I’m really not thrilled with the fact that Sampson is now considered a senior dog according to our vet because of his size+age. He’s been given pieces of steak, pieces of chicken, some yogurt, and lots of cuddles this week. (Though in my defense, we’re trying to convince him to eat his antibiotics, so the steak/chicken helps with that.) I anticipate the spoiling will continue through next week when he’s gimping around being sore.

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As I’m sure you can imagine, there is much more I could say about Sampson. This is my longest blog post to date though, so I should save some of his story for another day. Cross your fingers and wish us luck on Tuesday (and the following days when he’s likely to be a diva princess about his ouchy armpit)!

7 thoughts on “Sampson’s Adoption Story

  1. He is so beautiful. Great that you have adopted a difficult dog and given him such a loving home. Fingers crossed the surgery goes as smoothly as possible.

  2. Must be something in the air, my doggie has been very sick the past few days, and my friend just lost her cat to kidney failure. I hope Sampson has a speedy recovery!

  3. I couldn’t have picked a better home for Sampson!! So happy your guys found each other. Prayers for an easy surgery and fast recovery!

  4. Awww poor guy. He’s a beautiful boy, and I’m glad everything worked out. You guys are clearly the perfect home for him! I hope all goes well and he recovered quickly. I love that bottom photo of you two, it’s so sweet!

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