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The Story of Sammy: Why I Got a Dog After My Diagnosis

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There are two things I have wanted all of my life: a drum kit and a dog.

The drum kit never really panned out because they are ginormous, expensive and loud. I tried getting my hands on several other musical instruments instead, but as a professional master of none, I am less than mediocre at playing every single one. It seems unlikely I will get a drum kit now, but given my history with instruments, it wouldn’t have been a good investment anyway.

While growing up I was never allowed to get a dog because my parents (understandably) didn’t want to have to deal with the mess or stress. Simply put, my parents weren’t dog people (plus, their house has beige carpet).


My desire to get a dog grew after my pulmonary hypertension diagnosis, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to fly the nest anytime soon. It became very lonely feeling as if I was living an eternal sick day from school, and I truly thought that having a dog to keep me company would help with some of the more difficult emotions I was working through.

Eventually, I had to retire from my professional grown-up job, which left me feeling more lonely. It was then that I finally saw my chance to make my dream of having a dog a reality. I told my parents that getting a dog would be my “Make-a-Wish.” (Obviously, they couldn’t say no once I pulled out the “I’m reeaalllyy sick” card.)

It was decided I could get a dog. However, pulmonary hypertension makes it really difficult for me to bend up and down, which means it would be very difficult for me to train a puppy. There is no way I would be able to train and chase after a puppy as it destroyed one side of the house to the other. I would need a trained dog to avoid all of that bending and cleaning.

Determined to get a Boston terrier (my favorite breed), I sent an email to every breeder within a four-hour drive from me. In my email I explained my situation: I am a young adult who is retiring from work because of a serious illness, and I am looking for a Boston terrier who is ready to be spoiled and enjoy retirement with me. I soon had visions of me and my would-be dog wearing Hawaiian shirts and drinking iced tea on the deck.

Although a few breeders got back to me, only the right dog would be my perfect match. His name? Sammy, a former show dog and a soon-to-be retired stud. The whole process was a bit like online dating. After exchanging several emails with Sammy’s owners, I swiped right, and I finally got to meet Sammy to see if we were a fit.

Upon meeting him, Sammy jumped all over my dad and me. For me, it was love at first sight. For anyone who has never had the pleasure of meeting a Boston terrier, they can easily jump several feet. His former owner explained that he was about 4 years old, and that they were his third home. She was surprised by how excited Sammy was with us, as she said this reaction was unusual for him.

After meeting Sammy, I feared my dad would say we couldn’t get him. I am sick, and at the time I was pretty frail, and here was this cannonball of a dog jumping all over me like a crazed beaver. As soon as the car door closed, my dad smiled and said, “We gotta get that thing. He’s awesome!” Apparently, it wasn’t just me who experienced love at first sight with Sammy. It was clear – he was our dog.

Eventually, Sammy was re-homed with us. Because he was used mostly for breeding and as a show dog, he didn’t really know how to “dog.” I had to teach him how to lie in a dog bed and how to play with toys. Thankfully, these were two things I could teach him, even with my physical limitations.

This summer marks two years since I officially retired from work due to pulmonary hypertension, meaning it has been two years since I got Sammy.

woman posing with her boston terrier in front of a christmas tree

Having a dog like Sammy has really made my retirement more enjoyable. He is my companion while the rest of my world is busy during the day at work. He oinks like a pig because of his short snout and will perform acrobatic jumps to receive a cold, crisp carrot from the fridge. Sammy will curl up in my lap each morning before I start the day, and he’s always there to greet me at the door when I come home from a doctor’s appointment.

Can a drum kit do all of that? Didn’t think so!

Needless to say, it is hard not to smile when Sammy is around. I think both of us are excited to enjoy another lazy summer together.

This post originally appeared on Pulmonary Hypertension News.

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Originally published: June 19, 2017
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