Montgomery joined the family in the Summer of 1990. A cute little brown striped bundle of easy going puppy fat who very soon had us quite well trained. Monty is politely referred to as a mixed breed. He has a lot of German Shepherd with some Retriever plus lots of charm. He now weighs more than one hundred pounds.
A couple of weeks after Monty came into the picture some good friends dropped by one Sunday with a four year old female dog. Alana told the story of the dog being in a big battle with another dog at the stable where she rode and although this dog had won the battle she came out of it a little "dog-eared". The dog's owner now wanted to find her another home. The dog was timid and cowered when approached with anything that resembled a stick. We still don't know the whole story. Alana wanted to rescue the dog and if we did not take her she feared that the next stop was the Humane Society!
And so Samantha entered our lives.
Montgomery the pup with Samantha in July 1990.
Sam is an Alsatian, which some might say is a "French-German Shepherd" - the breed originally came from the Alsace-Lorraine region. She is really quite gentle but at the same time also very territorial. We had a few anxious moments at first as her natural instincts came to the fore and she would lead young Monty - someone else's pup - away on very long treks. Sam was trying to lose Monty and so she would cheerfully return without him and curl up with the place all to herself. There was more than one bottle of wine passed to distant neighbours in gratitude for their trouble and phone calls.
At first Sam would discipline Monty and often playfully give him a nip or bring him to his knees with his whole head in her mouth! Gradually she adopted him, protected him, and now they are inseparable - but Sam is still the one in charge. Although Monty now has a thirty pounds advantage, he always lets her win.
Samantha is really my dog and Monty is Michelle's. Very soon with patience, kindness and clear expressions of love a firm bond was established. Nowadays Sam follows me everywhere and if I have to leave without her for any reason I have to offer my excuses. She watches and if I so much as reach for my hat or coat in the usual routine of preparing to step outside, she is ahead of me, nosing at the door.
Let her come really close to you and most likely you will be rewarded with a gentle kiss.
Montgomery and Samantha in January 1997.
It was Tuesday 16th February 1993 - the temperature was around minus ten degrees Celsius (15 degrees F.), overcast with a bitter wind. It was just after 8.00 am, I was working in the home office and Michelle, had gone to the nearby city. The snow was in deep drifts around the house. We are situated about 300 feet back from and out of sight of the road. The driveway had been cleared and was quite passable but snow was piled all along the sides. I use a tractor and big snow blower for that task.
Sam was outside, which is not unusual insofar as she likes the cold. Monty was inside the garage which is within the home. One dog in, one dog out is the rule. Suddenly Monty started giving his warning bark
which usually means someone has arrived.
I went to the lower entrance off the garage expecting to see a vehicle in the driveway but saw nothing. Monty insisted that I should go out and look around! So I stepped into some outdoor shoes and went outside. I immediately saw Sam with a small child further down the driveway. I looked beyond thinking that my eyes were playing tricks - I expected to see a vehicle or at least an adult accompanying the child.
The child was hanging on to Sam's collar - both arms were around her neck - apparently hugging for warmth. The child was moving towards the house but Sam seemed to be moving very slowly to keep pace and almost nudging the child along. I believe that Sam had called out to Monty because there was no way that he could have heard the child's voice.
I was astonished to see the pair - we have no immediate neighbours and I knew of only one house in the area with young children. This child was not one of those. I approached them and as soon as I got close Samantha turned and started to lick the child's face. Then in a really motherly way she licked his runny nose. The little one did not object. I now saw that the child appeared to be a boy. He was dressed only in an unbuttoned light jacket with no hat and a pair of mittens hanging on strings. Underneath were what must have been his night clothes, a tee shirt and some fleecy pants now tucked into untied snow boots.
I spoke to him to ask his name but he appeared to be unable to talk although a little sound came out! He was not crying but was shaking - much more so than simply shivering - with cold. Later I was told that this was the first stage of hypothermia and the medical opinion was that at that point he had perhaps as little as another twenty minutes under those conditions...
I had no choice but to take everyone inside. Sam continued to lick and comfort the child. As Sam licked the cheeks I massaged the hands. Monty joined in. At this point I got a word or two out of the boy - ".?'nolal - ..ommiee" - which at least was a start!
I left everyone inside with "Nolal" in Sam's care and rushed down to the road to see if (what had been going through my mind) I might find a car in the ditch - the roads were very icy. But all I found was a little yellow battery-operated child's riding car sitting in the middle of the deserted road. I picked it up and placed it in the centre of my driveway at the road as a signal to anyone who might come searching.
Back in the house I sat the little boy in front of our blazing fireplace and he soon began to thaw out. A couple of cookies seemed to really help a lot - plus one each to Sam and Monty.
I kept talking to the boy and at the same time managed to reach Michelle in town on the phone: "Do we know anyone with a little boy called "Donald"?" - which by then I had figured was his name. We knew of no such family.
Not to make too much of this - I was naturally very cautious in suddenly finding myself with a strange child in my care alone in my home...
The consensus was that I should waste no more time but contact the Ontario Provincial Police - OPP. The reaction of their dispatcher was disbelief - was I pulling their leg? So I had to tell the story directly to an officer who said he would dash out to our country location in a cruiser - it is normally a twenty minute trip and
with the very icy conditions I expected it to be much longer.
Knowing that I would have to wait some time I decided to put the time to use - and also to get out of the house with the child - so I placed the boy in my pickup truck which was nice and warm as it is kept inside. I drove down to the road and parked in view of any traffic - especially the expected OPP.
After a short while I spotted in the distance a truck which seemed to make an unusual maneuver at the distant intersection. It drove up to me and I realized that it was Tom, a neighbouring farmer. He had a passenger - you guessed it - the father of the child. Tom had found him desperately wandering the area in his shirt sleeves frantically searching for his young son. I did not know the family and had never seen the father before.
Tom had understood - saying to himself that it is not like Holmes to park at the end of his driveway! I quietly spoke to the father - he was speechless - and it was a very emotional moment for him as a I placed Donald in his arms. I turned away to chat with Tom.
At that moment the OPP arrived and the officer interviewed the father (I assumed to see if any neglect charges were appropriate). As far as I know there was no need for a medical examination of the boy - he seemed quite perky by now. The OPP officer said "That dog - it was mother's instinct - the dog must have sensed something was wrong. Another half hour, and we could have been looking at a very different scenario."
Apparently the boy had been missing over one and a half hours. The father had been worn out and sleeping after having been up very late the previous night visiting the hospital where a second baby had been born a couple of days before. Three year old Donald had decided to get up, dress himself and then set off on his own to go see Mommy and the new baby - about thirty miles away! He got far enough to be totally lost before the battery on his buggy died.
As far as we were concerned that was the happy end of the incident. But, very early the next morning the OPP called to say that they had put out a press release on the Samantha and Donald story because they felt it was so seldom that they had good news to report. (By the way, this was exactly the same point in time that the two kids in England had kidnapped and murdered the young child on the railway tracks - remember that? This explains some of what followed.) The OPP warned me that I might get a few calls!
That morning the phone did not stop ringing with calls from the media. By 9.30 am there were two TV crews in the driveway. There were radio interviews from as far away as Australia. The first interview was a twenty minute three way conversation with the mother on the cross Canada CBC programme that same midday. The magazines were on the trail of the story for months afterwards.
A couple of months later Samantha was honoured as the Ontario SPCA (Humane Society) Hero of the Year - again in the papers and on TV.
Meanwhile, Monty basked in the reflected glory and quite naturally shared in the treats which arrived from the grateful parents.
Samantha with a properly dressed Donald the following day.
An update: Eight years have passed by since Samantha arrived and here she is with her very best friend, Alana in late May 1998.
It seems that whenever Sam sees Alana she immediately reaches out to her with hugs and kisses. It is difficult to photograph Sam and Alana together like this - all Sam really wants to do is roll over in front of Alana and "pose" for a tummy rub!
A very sad update: Sam has lost her "pup" and buddy. On Monday, 31 August 98, Monty went looking for Michelle and, after passing through the woods, put his nose out onto Thunder Beach Road and was killed. It must have been a speeding gravel truck.
We miss him very much indeed. Dealing with such a sudden loss was very difficult for us all.
The photograph was the last one taken of him just a few days before he died.
It has taken me over a year to get around to adding this final sad chapter...
After a long, and we are certain, happy life - we finally had to say goodbye to Samantha for the last time on 23 March 2001. Now she is resting alongside Monty in a quiet, shady corner of our property. There is a rustic bench and we find it a good place to spend a few moments in reflection.
But knowing this decision was near at hand we had found a new pup and raising him was fun! Sam had time to show him a few useful tricks! He has grown up to be, in many respects, something of a mirror of Monty. Shaddo is a very, very good dog - he even helps me watch the sky! B.
If you like stories about animals -
Karleen Bradford wrote about Samantha in her book:
"More Animal Heroes" - all the details are at: Scholastic Canada.
|The "Holmestead" is located at:|
|140 Thunder Beach Road, 17th Concession, Township of Tiny,|
|ONTARIO, L9M 0T3, CANADA|