A New Orleans man has written a powerful Facebook posting in tribute to his late German Shepherd, Sammy.
David H. Baldwin made headlines last year when he lodged a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination at work because of his sexuality (later settled out of court).
At the same time as the lawsuit was pending, he was diagnosed with oral cancer and had to undergo a grueling treatment program, including surgery. In the middle of this, he lost his beloved pet.
He reflected on this on Facebook on the anniversary of his dog’s death.
‘On July 12th of last year my best friend Sammy died,’ he writes.
‘To most he was just an old cantankerous German Shepherd, but to me he was the best friend I ever had. He wasn’t always my dog but was left to me by a former partner, who no longer wanted him.
‘At times we had a difficult relationship, but as the years went by Sammy and I became best friends, as only other dog lovers truly understand.
‘He would shamelessly flirt with everyone, just like his Dad’
‘When we lived in Wilton Manors, I often took him for long walks around the neighborhood and down Wilton Drive.
‘We went in thrift stores together and he would insist that I walk past the bars at night hoping to get some attention from the guys hanging out front, and often he did! He would wag his tail, ham it up and shamelessly flirt with everyone, just like his Dad.
‘If I tried to by pass the bars he would just sit down in the street and refuse to move. I always gave in, and he knew I would.
‘By the time we moved to New Orleans, Sammy was getting very old, and eventually went lame with degenerative myelopathy, but mentally he was all there.
‘Most people would have let him go, but Keith, the ever industrious one, found a harness on Amazon that we modified it so that we could assist him and he could easily walk again.
Sammy with his dads, David and Keith
‘Once Sammy realized what we were doing for him, he came back to life and embraced his new ability. For over a year I carried that dog around like a briefcase everywhere I went.
‘At least five or six times a day, rain or shine, up and down the New Orleans street car tracks we would walk. Sammy loved it too, all of the street car drivers got to know him and would stop their car if empty and say hello.
‘Sammy became a famous dog, and was immortalized on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, in an article about me. The paper wanted some pictures of me to accompany their article, and I requested that Sammy be included.
‘He taught me so much about life’
‘Sammy fully adapted to his disability and was a very happy old dog. Something very special happened during that time with him too. We developed a unique bond unlike I’d ever experienced with an animal.
‘We sensed each others feelings and emotions and he taught me so much about life. I was able to see the world through him, and it became my mission to make him feel loved and happy.
‘Taking care of Sammy gave me the will to live in my darkest hours of my depression following the first cancer surgery, when I truly felt like giving up.
‘On July 9, 2016 I was scheduled to have my second cancer surgery, thyroid removal, at Ochsner Hospital. We spent the weekend in Pensacola and all weekend long my intuitive side kept receiving a strong and powerful message, from my spirit guides: “You must make a video of Sammy before you leave!”
‘Over and over this kept up until I asked my neighbors and Keith to help me make one. We did, and Sammy died five days later.
‘Dogs have given me comfort and hope when I didn’t think I could go on’
‘It’s been a difficult year for me and I still mourn his loss but have finally come to accept it. To those of you without a pet, you are missing out on one of life’s most precious gifts: unconditional love and acceptance.
‘Over and over throughout my life, my dogs have given me comfort and hope when I didn’t think I could go on.
‘Somewhere near you there is a shelter, with a dog desperately waiting and calling out for you. Hopefully you will go visit, even if to just to bring comfort to the animals there.
‘If you adopt, you will be saving a life, but ultimately the life you save maybe your very own. Please make that visit, it may be the best decision you’ll ever make.’
‘He taught me the real meaning of hope, empathy, love, caring’
In a message to GSN, Baldwin said that when Sammy became disabled, ‘he taught me the real meaning of hope, empathy, love, caring and so many other emotions on a deeper level because he was totally dependent on me and I wanted him to know that I would always be there for and never let him down.
‘I was devastated when he died but finally came to accept it as part of the cycle of life.’
He says that if sharing his story encourages others to consider adopting a dog it would be a fitting tribute to the pet he so loved.