This month marks nine years of living with Samantha, my canine companion. Nine years and she still never ceases to amaze me.
When I found her in a shelter in northern California, I fell in love with her as soon as she tried to crawl inside my coat. I knew right then that she was the friend I had been looking for. I was told that she needed to be spayed and have a check-up done by a veterinarian before I could take her home. I was told that I could get her in one week. During that week, I bought Samantha a leash and a doggie bed and toys and food and treats. I was ecstatic on my drive to Redwood City to pick her up. When I got there, I was told that Samantha had luxating patellas in both of her hind legs and would need knee surgery on both legs, a surgery that would cost no less than $500 per leg. I was told that I had to sign an agreement, promising that I would get this surgery for her as soon as I could. As a girl working her way through college, paying rent was a struggle as it was and there was no way I could afford double knee surgery for a dog! They let me take Sam for a little walk while I thought about this. I thought about the home I'd made for her at our apartment, as well as in my heart. As I watched her prance along the sidewalk, I began to bawl. I mean, full out sobbing. Even though my ex had said absolutely not, that we were not taking on that kind of responsibility, I knew that I couldn't leave without her. I went in, signed the agreement, and took Samantha home with me.
It took me a year, but I scrimped and saved to pay for her $1200 surgery. The veterinarian told me that it would be best to do both legs at once and get it over with, even though I had no idea how she would get around with only 2 front legs. After the surgery, I brought Sam home, a big cone around her head to prevent her from chewing on her stitches. The first night, she just wanted to lay in her kennel. The drugs began to wear off around midnight and I awoke to hear her wailing from her kennel. I went out, gave her the prescribed medications and slept next to her kennel until I had to go to work a few hours later. The next day, she was feeling much better. When I came home, I opened her kennel, not expecting her to come out, but that she did! She walked out on her two front legs, her hind legs lifted up in the air. She would walk a few feet, sit down, then walk a few more feet and sit, cone around her head the entire time. That's how she got around for the next couple of weeks.
A couple of years later, when I was going through my divorce, Sam was the most consoling being on earth. My first night alone (away from him and as an adult), she was glued to my side. She even followed me into the bathroom and sat with me in there. She found a way to sleep on my pillow, curled around my head. I imagine that was her way of comforting me, just as I had when I slept next to her kennel.
There's other things too. If you play a harmonica, she will struggle with everything she has not to howl along with you until she can no longer contain herself. Then she just howls along with the harmonica until you're laughing too hard to continue. She knows that as soon as I pick up the quarters off of our dresser that it's laundry time and she races to the front door so she can keep me company in the laundry room. She demands Chris's attention by crawling into his lap and tapping his chest with her paw. If that doesn't work, she hits him in the mouth, then reaches in for a kiss. Sam pretty much just understands everything I say, every command I can think of. She doesn't need a leash when we go for our walks. She recognizes our faces, our neighbors' faces, our neighbors' dogs' faces and runs to greet them when she sees them. Except for the dog upstairs. Sam avoids him like the plague because he, to put it mildly, has a little crush on her.
Sam is also the most delicate eater. She lays down to eat out of her bowl. If you feed her a treat, she is so careful to very gingerly take it from you. And if you intricately style a meal for a photo shoot, and run to the kitchen to retrieve the main course, she can, more slyly than a ninja, crawl on the table, and eat an entire bowl of crumbled tofu chèvre without disrupting any other part of your set-up. True story. Such was the case with these tacos. I had tofu chèvre leftover from this pizza and I went to the market to get ingredients that would pair with it beautifully- kabcoha squash, chanterelle mushrooms, white beans- in order to make the tacos of my dreams. I set everything up, perfectly placed my little bowl of crumbled tofu chèvre, leaving Chris to stand watch and ran back upstairs to get the rest. When I returned, nothing looked different as I sat the other food down. Then I saw. Sam had been so sneaky that Chris didn't even notice! I was irritated with myself for leaving the food there, but more than that, I was amazed at Samantha's untapped sneaky talent.
That night was a truly great night. The tacos were still incredibly delicious. The kabocha squash, roasted with nutritional yeast (an idea I got from Gabby), steals the show. Along with the sautéed chanterelle mushrooms with white beans and spinach, these tacos are not only super tasty, but very hearty and filling. Sam's stunt also served as a reminder of her strong personality, her amazing character, and the fact that she's an animal, doing what animals do. When you can see an animal as having their own distinct personality traits, doing the things that they were created and put on this planet to do, you will know true love. Samantha has taught me what honest-to-god, true, unconditional love really is. And she showed me that these tacos didn't need the chèvre after all- they're pretty perfect on their own.
Do you have a companion animal? Tell me about them!
Photography by Chris Miller
I love love loved learning more about Sam in this post. She sounds like the most sweet and loyal dog ever! I love her ninja skills! Our dog Lucky, isn't so stealthy, but has been known to steal a whole bunch of bananas from the pantry, and expertly peel ever last one and eat the delicious centers in the back yard. Clearly, he was meant to be vegan 😉
I've gotta try roasting squash with nutritional yeast! 🙂 Those tacos look so yummy!
Thank you, Somer. Samantha really is just one of the greatest people I've ever met (she just so happens to not be human 😉 ). That is amazing that Lucky could peel the bananas on his own! Wow! And I truly believe that dogs, though they are omnivores, actually thrive on a plant-based diet. Sam went vegan shortly after we did, and her coat has never been shinier and she has so much more energy. It's amazing. 🙂
And yes- do try the nooch on the squash. It's got that salty/sweet/umami sort of thing going on- I can't get enough!
reading this post, i cried. how amazing is sam and your unrelenting love for one another. she sounds like the definition of companion animal and i am so happy you found each other.
i used to roast sweet potatoes with nooch and totally forgot until just now! i need to do that again. everything looks delicious and beautiful. i love when tacos are filled with unexpected ingredients.
dod you have sam when you lived in europe? i need a timeline of your life, lady 😉 maybe i'll start one, haha. that wouldn't be creepy at all, i don't think 😛
I am so sorry to have made you cry, Caitlin! As you know, though, I cried while I wrote it. I get a lump in my throat when I just talk about her to Chris. Aside from Chris, she is the closest friend I've ever had.
I did not have Sam while I was in Europe. She stayed with my parents while I was away. My mom was so bummed when I took her back. 🙂 But feel free to start a timeline, hahaha! I can just picture you with a giant chalkboard, diagramming it out. No, not creepy at all. 🙂
Isn't squash with nooch the best? It's got to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy roasted squash now. 🙂
I loved reading about Samantha! It seems like you two were meant for each other. 🙂 She sounds like such a sweetie - reminds me of my two dogs, especially Honey. Honey is very perceptive, and also sneaky when it comes to food. I wouldn't even know she ate anything, except she acts so guilty! And of course, I am horrible at disciplining her. I start out firm but always end up breaking into laughter.
Thank you, Amanda! Sam and I were meant to be together. She's probably, aside form my husband, my closest friend. 🙂 Your Honey is adorable, though I can imagine her being a sneaky one! That's so funny about her acting guilty! I know what you mean, though, about disciplining- the most I can ever say to Sam is "no." But she gets it. 🙂
Add me to the criers. I love this story, Kristy - I am SO glad you took the plunge with Sam even though your situation made it very hard. She's a love - you can see it in her eyes.
Thank you, Annie. She is just love on legs. 🙂
Aw, Sam! What a sweetie. I am glad you found each other 🙂 She reminds me a lot of my Rosie in coloring and with those cute little eyebrows, my favorite! I don't blame her for taking that tofu chevre, that stuff is magical!
Thank you, Sarah! I think that same thing every time I see pics of Rosie on Instagram. 🙂
This was beautiful and made me cry. I'm so glad you and Sam found each other. Isn't it amazing when an animal understands us so well? I am blessed to have two animals who I have that relationship with: my German Shepherd, who died in July 2010, and my male cat, who is almost 17 and has a whole host of health problems that require significant care. But I don't care -- I take care of him like you take care of Sam, because why wouldn't I? He loves me more than any creature on earth. I had major surgery in 2005, and the first morning I woke up at home after I came home from the hospital, my husband came in to wake me and give me my medicines. My cat had spent the night right next to me, watching over me, and he hissed at my husband when he tried to wake me up. He still sleeps right next to my face. His body is starting to stop fighting against some of his ailments, but I try not to think about him not being there.
Thank you, Beth. It is amazing isn't it? It strikes me with awe every time I think about the fact that we are two different species but she communicates with me and understands me on a level that many humans can't. I am so sorry to hear about your cat. I love how much he loves you- it is so touching. It makes my heart so happy knowing that he has you there, loving him right back. 🙂
I got teary-eyed reading your story. We have two beautiful dogs also and one had to have surgery on her knees. Although expensive, we couldn't imagine life without her or our other one. You are right about them teaching us what true, unconditional love really is. Thanks for the beautiful post and delicious looking food!
Thank you, Jenna, and thank you for being such a good friend to those two dogs. 🙂
Beautiful story! Brought tears to my eyes. Certainly Sam knows how blessed she is that you gave her such a loving home, and shows her thanks with her unconditional love. My boyfriend and I have 2 amazing Pomeranians, Yoshi and Harley, that I insist we rescued even though they came from a breeder. We heard this breeder (a young, naive college girl looking to make some quick cash) was going to sell the last 2 in the litter to a guy going around town to scrape money together and buy them to impress his new girlfriend for Valentines day. He even told the breeder "I hate dogs but..." then explained his story. Wow. As soon as we saw them, our hearts melted. We couldn't really afford to take on 2 puppies, but, we made it work. I just couldn't imagine them going to an irresponsible owner and likely onto a shelter from there.
When my mom passed away last year, Yoshi and Harley were by my side day and night. Even though they are high-energy with big personalities and crave tons of attention, in those days, they would lay with me on the couch for hours. Lay on the bathroom floor when I sobbed in the shower. Sleep beside me all night, and wake me up with kisses in the morning. Their demeanors changed completely -- dogs absolutely have a 6th sense. I can't imagine my life without them!
Having dogs has taught me a lot about having compassion for living creatures. A big part of the reason I became vegan and pursued animal rights has been because of my experience as a dog owner. Thank you for sharing your story AND this wonderful recipe!
Thank you, Stephanie, for your kind words and for sharing your story. I totally know what you mean about rescuing dogs from breeders. Last year, on a bike ride, we came across a guy selling an entire litter of pit bulls. He claimed that the mom got pregnant on accident, yet he was quick to tell us "Don't worry, they're pure-bred, though," as if that mattered to us. He was telling us that he needed to get rid of them because his landlord didn't allow more than one pet and yadayadayada. I could tell this was just his gimmick, but I so badly wanted to take those babies away from him and help them find good-fitting homes, rather than have them just get sold to anybody on the street (and this was Venice, so the people on the street can be pretty sketchy), but there's no way I could take home 5 pit bull puppies. I ended up giving him the names of several rescue organizations that would help him find good homes for them, and I later notified a couple of the organizations about the guy so they could keep an eye on the situation. I think you did the right thing in taking those puppies, though, even if they weren't what you had planned for.
You are so right- dogs do have a 6th sense. How they know how we're feeling and then try to tend to us the best that they can is absolutely amazing. I am so happy that you met Yoshi and Harley and they inspired you to change your life. Such a wonderful story, Stephanie! 🙂
i love the idea of the spicy and cheesy kabocha! and these tacos minus the chevre;)
Samantha sound slike the sweetest companion..:) i am so glad you two found each other.. chewie is the same way.. in fact he is such a smarty pants. he will sneak close to my set up and if i notice him from the kitchen and yell. he will still pick up a portion and run, coz he knows i wont be able to reach him in time.:) some days he will listen to me to leave it alone some other days he just knows he can get away:)
vivek used to be scared of dogs. so when we went to meet chewie at his foster family home, i told him to meet chewie first, coz if i meet him i wont be able to let him go. chewie was all bouncy, tail wagging cuteness.. and 2 minutes later, vivek says.. he is such a fluffball and he doesnt bite, lets take him home.
Thank you, Richa! I love how Chewie won Vivek over! That is too sweet. I get so happy whenever I see Chewie pictures on Instagram- he's such a cutie-pie! 🙂
That is a very sweet story! Sam is so lucky to be so loved and well cared for...and so are you! I have a very handsome Japanese Bobtail that I rescued who was abused by his previous owner. He is so sweet and innocent that the thought of anyone hurting him breaks my heart. He was skittish for several years. I have now had him for 11 years and he is so affectionate and loves to snuggle! It has been wonderful watching him learn to trust again and to feel safe and loved enough to be himself. I feel so blessed!
Thank you, Carrie. Thank you so much for rescuing your sweet cat! It is so rewarding and amazing to watch an animal learn, grow, and mature, isn't it? 🙂 I agree with you- it is such a blessing.
This one hit pretty close to home Kristy as I can SO relate to the ties that bind between two souls during extraordinary circumstances (another story for another time!). You two are so lucky to have found one another!! She is so beautiful...you can see her heart - it is in her eyes! xo
Thank you, Shira! You hit the nail on the head- She really is all heart. But now I really want to hear your story! 🙂
Awe, this is such a wonderful post Kristy 🙂 I loved learning more about your puppy and the relationship you have with her. Made my heart so very happy. I am very much a dog person and feel like dogs become very much part of the family. My family dog, Mickey, is almost 16 and I just cannot imagine my life without the little puff ball. We've been through a lot together! Almost all of my teen years and my 20s! He's been there for every thing. He always makes me laugh and cuddles with me when I'm sad. I'm so glad you have a companion as special as Sam. Sounds like you spoil her rotten and take wonderful care of her. Sounds like you take wonderful care of each other. Loved this post.
Also, these tacos looks amazing. I'm a huge fan of making tacos during the week. Looking forward to trying a new filling for them! 🙂
Thank you, Courtney! 🙂 It is amazing, isn't it, how much an animal can become part of your family? Micky sounds so sweet and I'm so glad he has a family like yours. 🙂
Gabby @ the veggie nook
What a lovely story about such a special friend 🙂 I have never had a dog (allergies) but I am determined to have one one day!
So glad you liked the idea for the squash! And it looks perfect in these tacos!
Thank you, Gabby, and thank you for the squash tip! 🙂
Love this post...so sweet! In love with your blog too, btw!
Thank you, Treesa! You are so sweet! 🙂
Only you can make people cry in a post about tofu chevre. LOL 🙂
No matter HOW many sweet, anecdotal stories I hear about people's fur babies, I am NEVER ceased to be amazed at how COMPLEX (and AMUSING) animal's personalities can be. (They're like little people trapped in a furry body. 🙂
Pets are AMAZING. The loving reciprocity that occurs between pet and owner is SUCH a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling, soul nourishing experience that transcends most human relationships. It's one of those gifts that everyone should give themselves, ya know?
Thank you, Liz! I couldn't agree more- I never tire of hearing about people's companion animals and their relationships with them. It is truly remarkable how these animals learn to communicate with us and understand us without ever speaking a word. And the bonds we form with them- it's absolutely amazing. 🙂
Samantha sounds hysterical, and I'm pretty sure after all those stories about her, you NEED to post a video of her in action. I want to see her smacking someone in the face. LOL (That sounded much better in my head. 🙂 ) But, honestly, it sounds like she needs a Youtube channel.
Hahaha! I should try to get a video of her- it is pretty adorable. She interacts with Chris in a much different way than she does me. She's much more demanding of his attention and he's the only person she'll play with. Their relationship is amazing. 🙂
Two angels live with us right now: Melody (old grey tabby kitty) and Phoebe (fat black kitty). I adopted Melody from a shelter when I was 24 and living alone (sans roommates) for the first time. She was 3 months old and was curled up quietly in the corner of a large cage full of squirming, mewling kittens. My eye went straight to her and I knew she was meant to be mine. She's been my constant companion for nearly 17 years.
We've moved cross-country 3 times together, moved many times within the same city, seen different roommates, boyfriends and friends come and go. She has always been by my side--she knows when I'm sick or sad or need comfort and she's right there, snuggling up to me, purring in my ear and nudging me with loving head-butts. She loves to be held. She's very vocal and she makes me laugh. I sing to both cats constantly and they wink their affection.
Melody will be 17 next month and has kidney disease. We've had to learn to give her fluids subcutaneously at home (not successfully as of yet!). I know we don't have much time left together and there's just no way to prepare for her not being here. I'm just trying to enjoy her and make her as happy and comfortable as possible in her remaining months. She's had a long, happy life and I know I will miss her terribly when she's gone.
Oh my goodness, I completely understand your relationship with Melody. It so amazes me how well animals can communicate with us without speaking a word. It sounds like you have a wonderful little family! And I sing to Sam too. She gets worked up when the gardeners come, running around the house barking and growling. So I sing to her and she just sits calmly by my side while I sing. If I stop, she reaches up and taps my leg.
Melody is such a lucky cat to have someone like you who loves her so endlessly. What a great life you've given her. 🙂
I also have to mention Skylar, the amazing golden retriever I had growing up. I was 11 when we got him; he was 6 months old and the most adorable, playful little furball on earth. He was a purebred who belonged to a friend of ours who could not keep him.
Skylar grew up right alongside me, my sister and my brother--he was as much a sibling to me and child to my parents as any of us. He went with us everywhere and was the most well-behaved, gentle creature who ever lived. He trusted us completely and was extremely protective of the family. He comforted all of us through illnesses, injuries and sad times. He was goofy, sweet and smart as a whip. He knew dozens of words ("cookie" was his favorite, but he also knew "paper" meant "go fetch the newspaper and bring it to Mom"--he'd run to the driveway, stuff the newspaper in his mouth, bring it inside and not let it go until he found my mom to drop it at her feet). He even saved my 2-year-old cousin from drowning in our pool by barking like mad to alert the family that she'd fallen in. We knew something was wrong instantly by the frantic tone of his barking. It was amazing.
Sky lived to be 15. To this day, we talk about him constantly and my parents have photos of him all over the house. He was and always will be a much-loved member of the family.
I had a golden retriever growing up too! His name was Bronson and I got him when I was 5. He lived till I was 19. Skylar sounds very much like Bronson- very smart, protective, gentle, trusting. We had a pool out back and he would be in the pool all day long, swimming or just sitting on the stairs. When my brother and I were little, we would hold on to his tail and he would pull us around the pool. He was such a sweetheart. And my family still talks about him all the time.
My mom got a cat when I was about 12 or 13. Bronson and this cat were never super friendly but they weren't enemies either. They just kind of tolerated each other, it seemed. The odd thing, though, was that the day after Bronson passed away, the cat died of congestive heart failure. My mom still to this day says that her cat died of a broken heart.
What an amazing Doggie Love Story! Samantha is one special pup, you are so lucky to have one another 🙂 Isn't it amazing how a little creature can fill our hearts with so much love it makes you want to cry...I actually came into Anna's life when I met Justin- Justin and she were attached to the hip, he raised her from a puppy and they were inseparable- it took her a little while to warm up to me and trust me fully, I gave her the space to get to know me and I would make an effort to take her on hikes and long walks and play ball with just the two of us. Our bond is strong, she is a very independent pup and strong willed- I love when I hike with her that when she can no longer see me she will wait on the trail for me to catch up or make her way back down to hike by my side. She definitely learned early on that I would let her getaway with a ton more than Justin- Anna, Spencer and I refer to Justin as the enforcer or the boss 🙂 She is one of the smartest dogs i have ever met- like most dogs I really believe she knows exactly what we are saying!
Anna sounds so sweet! I love that she waits so that she can hike by your side. And that's funny that Justin is the boss- if I had to say, Chris is definitely more of the boss when it comes to Samantha. He's only known her for 1/2 the time that I have, but she loves him just as much as she loves me, but in a different way. She's very playful with him (If I try to wrestle with her, she just lays there) and he's the only one she insists on kissing on the mouth (otherwise, she's not a kisser). It's been amazing to see her build this relationship with him, just as I'm sure it was amazing to see Anna build her relationship with you. 🙂
Grace @ FoodFitnessFreshAir
Lot's of good ones on here. I'm excited to check out those chickpea sloppy joes! I always have beans and grains on hand. Nutritional yeast is also a staple of mine - definitely my favorite popcorn topper! And peanut butter. I'm guilty of eating PB & banana twice yesterday. I also like to keep toasted sesame oil and sesame tahini in the fridge. The combination, along with soy sauce, makes such a quick and easy seasoning for an array of grains.
Oh heavens, Grace, you don't even know what a nut butter fiend I am! I have to have a little each day because if I deprive myself, I end up eating way too much all at once. 🙂
I'm going to have to try that sesame oil/tahini/soy sauce trick the next time I cook up some grains! Sounds wonderful!
Aw. Animal stories always give me a little tear in my eye. I love my dog so much. My old dear dog, Goldie, died in September and I spend most of the winter sobbing. Then in January, I found this crazy little mutt, Abbie, who is the most social dog, quite opposite of Goldie's calm, shy self. I have one million stories, but I'll just point you to her Flickr set - you'll get the idea.
Oh. My. Gosh. I love Abbie! What a little sweetheart! Thank you so much for rescuing her and sharing these pics with me- I seriously am just in love with her! 🙂