Sam was a sorry sight when I first met him. His big brown eyes were full of fear and his bony, flea-ridden body had large bare, sore, cracked patches of skin from having nothing better or lie on than the concrete floor of the tiny, filthy, stinking kennel that had been his prison for twenty four hours of every day for many months, maybe even for years.
I will never forget that day when I helped in the rescue of Sam and several other greyhounds from these appalling conditions. I was told by one of my fellow
volunteers that this was one of the better kennels that greyhounds had been rescued from. I shudder to think what the worst ones are like. The dreadful smell of Sam's kennel and the sight of all those terrified dogs is something that I will never forget.
After an anxious hour long drive, my son and I arrived home with Sam. As I led him into our home, he showed the first signs of calming down a little as I introduced him to our greyhound Jack and lurcher Jo. He devoured his first meal with such speed that it was obvious that he was ravenously hungry and the way that he emptied the water bowl left me in no doubt that he had not had a good meal or drink for a long time. He was in such poor condition that even a short walk left him exhausted.
Slowly Sam began to relax and realise that not all humans are cruel. He began to show a great interest in his new surroundings, especially the garden. Each morning on waking, he would stand up and use his paw to pull the curtain back and look out into the garden. I'm sure he was checking that it was still there and it wasn't all a dream. Sam would spend as much time as possible lazing on the lawn. He was obviously an outdoor dog and must have hated being trapped in his kennel prison.
We have a small pond in our garden, in which Sam quickly took an interest. Not having seen a pond before, he thought it was possible to walk on water and looked very shocked when he found himself in about eighteen inches of water! Completely undeterred by this experience, the following day he decided to try to jump across the pond from the lawn to the flowerbed. Well, he almost made it, but not quite! Definitely time to put a fence around the pond.
Like all greyhounds, Sam loves to lie down on somewhere soft, like the settee or bed, but not having had the opportunity to experience this before becoming part of our family, it took him some time to realise that if you roll over too near the edge of the bed or settee, you are very likely to fall off, which he did - several times. Fortunately none of his falls resulted in any injuries and after each one he just stood up, shook himself and climbed back up to resume his rest.
We decided that Sam's bed at night should be an old duvet on our bedroom floor, near the radiator, which was, of course, not switched on as it was still summer time. All went well until one morning I was woken by the sound of Sam crying. I leapt out of bed to find that he had managed to get his foot trapped between the radiator and the pipe that was on the floor next to it. I gently eased his foot free and he was none the worse for his experience.
I thought that Sam had got over being just a little bit accident prone until when, on the one and only day when we had snow last winter, he managed to cut his paw on one of the few sharp pieces of ice that were on the ground. He was very excited about being in the snow, I don't think he had ever seen it before, but we had to cut our walk short when we noticed blood coming from his paw. Fortunately the cut was not a serious one and after a bit of first aid, Sam felt a lot better.
Sam still does unpredictable things sometimes, like the time we were walking in the fields with him and he decided he wanted a drink from the water trough at the side of the field. Instead of leaning over to get a drink, he decided to climb into the trough - then out of the other side. I had to run to the gate and call him back from the adjoining field where he was running around quite happily!
On another occasion, we bought Sam a new fluffy toy and noticed that it seemed to have disappeared, until my husband spotted it sticking it out of the mud in the garden. After giving the toy a wash I gave it back to Sam, but the next day it turned up buried in the garden again. Do you think that Sam was trying to tell us that he didn't like that particular toy?
When I look at Sam now, it doesn't seem possible that he is the same frightened greyhound that I brought home over a year ago. His beautiful brown eyes sparkle, his coat is soft and shiny, new hair has started to grow over the sore bare patches and his bony frame has been transformed into a sleek, healthy body.
Despite all his ill treatment, Sam is the most loving dog. He loves people and other dogs, his tail is one of the waggiest I have ever seen and it is so lovely to see him running across the fields and having a wonderful time with his friends.
Sadly, last July, Sam's breathing caused us concern and an x-ray showed that he cancer of the sternum. We brought him home and for a while he was still able to go out and enjoy short walks, but on 13 August his breathing got so bad that we knew that it was time to make the decision to let him go. I rang the vet, who came to the house and helped Sam to find peace. Run free, my special boy, free from pain.