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Chandra's Blog


Entries in Sampson (21)


Pond Hockey

I live about a hundred yards from the house where my family moved when I was three. At the center of the property is a large, spring-fed pond that nearly a hundred years ago was dammed to soak the timber for the Cathedral. For many years after, this pond was the town's winter skating rink. 

However, the shift in climate and the constantly running water means that in all the time I have lived here, it has not been safe to skate on the pond. My grandfather, whose job it was as a boy to check the ice on his local skating pond outside Chicago, shut this pond down and built a safer, outdoor skating rink where we all currently enjoy our hockey season

Last weekend, J flew home from Utila. The temps had not gone above the teens for the past twelve days so after Max's early game he and Sampson set out with his drill to test the ice. My grandfather, now almost 93, drove by to see what he was up to and assured him that 4-6 inches was safe for backyard skating. What followed is one of the best winter days we have ever had. Friends and kids arrived at the house all day. Gear bags exploded on the grass. I tied a dozen skates at least a dozen times. Max braved his first day out of goalie pads. Hot chocolate and soup bubbled and flowed. The ice held, singing its unique pond hockey accoustic twangs. Sampson was in his puck-stealing, kid-chasing glory. Youth hockey boys got back from their early NJ game, and some left to head up to the home rink for their late games, and came back to play more. Little girls alternated between skating on the side rink and indoor Valentine creations. Baby Harper snoozed, and the big boys played hockey until J brought out the construction lights. As darkness fell, the parents shivered outside in shifts, sipping hot soup and cold beer. 

By Monday, it was raining, and yesterday, a warm wind from the south melted the last of the ice and whipped the water into waves.

It was a day we may never have again; one which we won't soon forget. 


J and Max prepare the icesweeping the snow 

 Mama Max and Pip play early morning Piper in "full gear" Max's first day out of the pads the big boys get back from NJ and join in

Teams are made and the games go into the night



hot cocoa on tap and endless chips and queso

Niece Quinn joins in!



J shovels a side rink so the girls are out of puck range

Sampson takes a break from playing defense


pond angel* *** * 



It's a Christmas miracle. Again.

Let's be honest. Every Christmas is riddled with miracles, not the least of which is that we pulled it off, again. Moms and Dads (and grandparents and generous aunts and uncles everywhere), we did it. This was what J said as he raised his mug of late night coffee to me. We did it. This time last night, we were creeping upstairs knowing the kids were waking up to this:


Christmas eve 2012

I don't just mean the STUFF--the tree and the nativity, the advent stockings, the Elf, the wrapped books and art supplies, the coveted goalie pads and iPads.

As my favorite holiday, I take Christmas very seriously. I have written odes to my favorite books of the season as well as my favorite songs. I carefully consider the impact of gifts, from every aspect. Equitable, environmental, developmental, and of course, the WOW factor.

So when I say we did it, I mean that we followed our family rituals in hopes of creating tradition and maintaining a sense of the magic. This year, that felt extra miraculous. And not for the obvious reason that we hit the ground running from our Utila Vida Tranquila three weeks ago. 

In a whirlwind short span of time, we went from lazy days of hermit crab races, slow snorkeling and boat commutes to fast food, a dozen hockey games and a tank of gas in two jam-packed weekend days. 

Piper, back on the ice

The first wrench in the holiday works was Sampson, who must have gained twenty pounds (fifteen of it fur!) under the loving care of Aunt Kim and Uncle Matt. What's Christmas without a little dog blog drama? 

A week ago, we experienced some unseasonably warm weather and hockey practices were canceled, so the kids took Sampson fishing. What is more idyllic than kids and their dog, fishing? I put down the presents I was wrapping, opened the window and snapped a photo. Shortly after the below photo was taken, Hayden came running to the house and confessed tearfully that as he was changing his tackle from catfish bait (hot dog and hook) to bass lure, Sampson lunged and swallowed the bait--literally hook, line and sinker. 

I'm going to give away a little free veterinary advice, in case this horror happens to any of my dog-loving friends: if your dumb dog swallows a fish hook, you do not rush him to the vet for emergency surgery as we were imagining. Instead, we were instructed to feed Sampson a dozen cotton balls slathered in peanut butter. And bread too, if we could get it into him, also with the peanut butter and American cheese. The idea being that these items would form a protective barrier around the hook and it would pass through safely.

freshwater fishing--kids and their dog




Then, you wait. And watch. And sift hopefully through every cottony turd. Hayden took on this task with me, and sometimes as we shivered outside with a flashlight and some plastic forks, mouth breathing from the steaming stench of it, he would say that this was all he wanted for Christmas, for Sampson to be okay, for the hook to pass through without damage. A Christmas miracle. 

As of Christmas eve, the last time we officially looked, we had not found the hook, (non-chrome hooks can actually be dissolved by a dog's stomach acid) but it looks like Hayden may have gotten his wish, freeing us up to enjoy Christmas. 

This morning, when the kids crept up the stairs and into our bed to wake us for stockings-breakfast-presents, Piper did not say, "Merry Christmas," but instead, "My stomach hurts." We led her down the hall, video camera rolling, to show her the big gift, what had kept me and Mr. Claus up banging around and socket wrenching until all hours of the night, taking the king size family bed out of her tiny room and assembling her new bed. The boys, who were in on the surprise, threw open her door for the big HGTV reveal, and in what is destined to become a home movie classic, Piper promptly threw up.

From then on, Christmas took a slight veer off the predicted path of our usual ritual. Instead of stockings-breakfast-presents, everything was punctuated with vomiting. Poor Pip insisted the show go on, with her bravely participating. She would open a present, give a weak smile, and then yak a little more foamy barf into her bowl. Midday, the two patients retired to try out her new bed. This is how they spent the rest of the day:


The three boys went off to play some family hockey, and I rattled around the house, reflecting and cleaning up. Peeking in on the two of them, counting my blessings that Sampson and Piper both seemed to be resting comfortably, I said a small prayer of gratitude.

We did it. Again. Another year; Christmas miracle. 

* *** *




DOG BLOG -- A letter from Sampson

While we have been on our international adventure, Sampson has been with his foster family in the middle of Pennsylvania, the human parents of his canine sister, Mercy. Kim, a first grade teacher, regularly writes letters to the children about Sampson's antics and sends photos and great updates. We are so lucky to have found this big-hearted family willing to open their home to another giant, hairy, slobbery Newf.

I could not resist sharing the most recent letter from Aunt Kim: 


Dear Mom, Dad and Kiddos,

Just got back from a long walk. Yup! This town is going to miss me. It's hard being a rock star. All the people, hugs and the pictures. Like tonight. I had to walk up on a porch of a lady yelling “Sampson, come say Good Bye before you leave.” Then… just a few steps later a little girl comes running up to me. I can always tell when Aunt Kim gets nervous, she holds my collar tight. So let me get this straight, she is nervous and chokes me!?

But I have to tell you about today! I let A.K. get an extra hour of sleep. Between us, she could use that beauty sleep. She is looking a bit weary since Uncle Matt left to go shoot Bambi. (Don’t pass that rumor on, but it is what I heard!) So, about 4:41 I thought it was time to get up. I saw something out the window. It sorta looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. So Aunt Kim suited me up and out we went. All around me was falling wet, white, cold stuff! A.K. said it was snow and I saw it before. I don’t really remember, I must have been too young. But oh… guys… how I wish you had been here! It was wonderful! I couldn’t get enough of it! So Miss Sissy Mercy Pants, I mean my sister and Aunt Kim went back to bed. Me? I watched the snow falling from the front window. Now that I removed the curtain you can see so much!

Well Aunt Kim stumbled down the steps. Now before we take this story any farther, I want to make a few comments. I know my basic color is black. I am not exactly Clinton Kelley, but I do know a few things about fashion….. Since Uncle M left, Aunt Kim has been wearing his Long John’s. Do not ask me why. I think for the same reason the kids wear Dad’s shirt when he is gone. Something about their scent?!?! So when Aunt Kim walked down the steps today I thought.. “Is that really the best she can do. It looks like she has some junk in that trunk!” Fast forward this Project Runway scene. So both Miss Pesty Pants and I want to go out at the same time. I knew that wouldn’t happen. Every SINGLE time A.K. takes us both out at the same time she SWEARS she will never do that again. She grumbles it under her breath. (Like I can’t hear?) But nope! There she is, strapping us both up, grabbing the reigns and opening the door. I am trying to give her the Newf Eyes! “Are you crazy? This never ends well! Mercy will not behave, she never does!” But… the teacher knows best.

Mercy, Kim and Sampson on a less hectic walkWell, my Forever Family! When we hit the cold air, with snowflakes swirling everywhere, so beautiful, so white, so wet… what could we do? We HAD to run! It is in our blood. We are from Newfoundland where it snows all the time! We had to live up to our heritage! And did we ever run! We ran, we rocked, we rolled, we tumbled and stumbled… and so did Aunt Kim. It was sorta like a dragging, sledding, slipping dance she was doing. She was trying to roll the leashes, but we would have none of it. The only thing that saved us was when Mercy had to poop. Now Mom and Dad… cover the kids ears…. At that very moment Aunt Kim called Mercy’s poop 'holy' and she took on a potty mouth about the word poop. Me? I stood there like a gentleman, enjoying the scenery.


It was just about the time Aunt Kim was taking out the 1,000,000,000 poop bag of the week that that darn bicanine starting jumping around. You will never believe what happned. Try NOT TO PICTURE THIS! Aunt Kim’s Long John’s fell right down to her snow boots! I knew they were sagging earlier! What was she thinking! There she was two leashes, one holy poop bag, a long coat and Long John’s down to her boots!

Well… I could tell she has been working out because did she drag, and I mean drag the two of us in the house! When we hit the porch she took off her coat and her sagging issues were all pulled up by now. Guys, you have to understand… beauty is meant to be shared! Aunt Kim picked up the towel and for a second I thought she was coming towards me. No way! That is only for rain, not snow. So I thought, share that snow! I dug down deep and shook that snow in Aunt Kim’s direction as hard as I could!!!!!

And I heard her exclaim and she gritted her teeth tight…
"Samps I would strangle you right here… but it’s not worth the fight."

As with that my family, I am taking my Mallard duck with me and saying “Good Night!”

Love, Licks and Drool!

* *** *

How do we thank the family who have taken such loving care of our hairiest son? How can we show our appreciation for the tender care, the tolerance, and the rapt attention they have given him? 

Before this, we were strangers, acquaintances connected only by the fact that our dogs had the same mother, like distant cousins of the bride meeting the groom's secretary's mother in the bar line at the wedding. And then one day, Kim wrote me a letter, and offered to be Sampson's foster family while we traveled, for as long as we needed it. She said she remembered being a young mother, and how the generosity of others made things possible.

Next week, we travel home, and there will be a long-anticipated, joyful reunion between Samps and his family. Piper has been talking about this, drawing it, dreaming it. For the first time, we will get to meet Mercy, who was recovering from surgery when we first left for Honduras. We'll have brunch, and try try try to convey our gratitude. Kim has promised there will be tears. I have no doubt. 






Dog Blog--Sampson's 1st Birthday

A year ago today my phone rang early with news from Opening Heavens Doors that our puppy had been born, and though we didn't meet or take him home for seven weeks, it feels like he has always been a part of our family. Just on the other side of his recent naughty streak and an ear infection that left him a little grumpy, Sampson is back to his old self. J and I notice more mellowing, a delight of the breed, and an eagerness to please us all. He is totally devoted to his kids. He followed them vigilantly on their Easter basket and egg hunts last Sunday--them on the golf cart, bikes and boat, Sampson loping and paddling after them like a circuit training course, sniffing their scent hound-style when they took off through the woods, and lying patiently outside their closed bedroom door while they glutted on the winnings. (He was the recipient of a lovely ham bone and many lamb scraps--better than chocolate for dogs!) 


While his relationship with the cats started out rocky, things are smoother today. This morning I spied Sophie weaving in and out of Sampson's legs under the bird feeder and Sporty and Samps were curled up in the bushes when I got home last night. Only Catty T, our elder stateswoman West Bay toothless rescue kitty who turns sixteen this year is not to be swayed--she exits our bed with an annoyed switch of her tail whenever Samps bounds in.


We have no idea of his stats these days. We will say that he is taller than Jonah was; we know this because he can graze at and rest his head on our kitchen counter without any effort. I imagine he won't grow much taller, but he is a lean, lanky guy right now so I think there is still weight to be gained. We are estimating him around 175 right now. 

His birthday began with poached eggs over dog food (he ate the eggs and will ignore the food until we're not watching later) much canoodling and affection from the kids, and now that they're off to school, some contemplative time on his bed. We'll take a walk later, there should be some pond swimming, and then tonight Piper has dreamed up a meatball cake for Sampson's celebratory dinner. Photos to follow. 


Happy birthday to our lovable, destructive, affectionate, slobbery hairy baby! 

in his favorite thinking spot


Samps comes in from a swim Easter Sunday 2012



Dog Blog--Sampson, 11 months old 

Sampson and Piper

It's hard to believe but Sampson's first birthday is fast-approaching next month. Piper (right) has the cake all dreamed up: there will be tiers of ground beef and meatballs, possibly a sausage and bacon layer, and a McDouble on top. We have no idea of our big boy's current stats. Big. Heavy. When he jumps up in the bed and lies on top of you, it can kind of press your bones togehter. I'm guessing he's around 160? 

Personality-wise, he is mellowing beautifully. He loves his kids and has taken Jonah's old place at the base of the trampoline, or herding them away from the water's edge. He loves swimming, much to the chagrin of our fisher-friends at the pond. He has built up incredible strength in his hind legs (an original concern of mine) and can now paddle around behind the boys in the canoe, assuring all painted turtles sunning on the rocks an easy warning and escape. 


There are still vestiges of his puppyhood status in his personality: Sampson can still take a game too far with Hayden and is oblivious about his size and superior strength when it comes to wrestling. It is still not safe to leave things lying around, as one of Sampson's most classic attention-seeking behaviors is to saunter by you and dangle whatever he thinks you might want (that running shoe? this nice permanent marker? a mangled Barbie?) out of his mouth, then break into a delighted, head-high canter when you react. 

With the help of the gentle leader system, he is a good walking companion and though he is not perfectly trained--my brother-in-law suggests a refund is in order on obedience school--he is the perfect dog for us. A little naughty, a little budgy, a whole-lot-lovey.



Fisherman's Friend


Stay tuned for the photos of Sampson's spring home hair cut and his brother's matching 'do--we sheared Hayden's Anthony Michael Hall curls at the same time. Also coming up is Anna Cole's training lesson with her eager, intelligent German Shepherd 'Claude Giroux'.