Behind the lines…Samson

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He was pointing on grasshoppers at just a few months old. The runt of his litter, Sue Powell gave him the name Samson since he’d have to be strong just to survive. His mom developed mastitis and Sue stayed up for two nights feeding him with an eye dropper. Against my advice, our son Brian sold a steer to pay for him. I thought it was a foolish choice, but in retrospect, it may have been the best deal I’ve ever witnessed.

Sam outlasted the rest of his brothers and sisters, reaching the venerable age of 100 (in dog years) before we had to say goodbye earlier this week.

Samson – h/t Randy Tucker

For those privileged to be owned by a German Shorthaired Pointer, there is no better breed of dog. They’ll hunt all day, jump in the chair, bed, or seat with you thinking they’re much smaller than they are, and best of all, they’ll be your best friend forever. Shorties offer unconditional love and are loyal to a fault.

Brian was Samson’s boy, and vice versa. He enjoyed the rest of us, interacting, playing, and snugging, but he was Brian’s through and through.

His name, Samson, was fitting, he was a pup who faced a lot of challenges and met them all with an infectious grin, and a “motorboat” style wagging of the little stump we called his tail. Shorties have their tails snipped soon after birth, so the motorboat analogy is an accurate one.

He became part of the family soon after Brian graduated from Dickinson State University in 2009.


Aside from his “boy,” I spent more time with Samson than anyone else. He was my constant companion through the day, and many nights from the time I officially retired from education in 2012.

While the accolades of this wonderful pup are many, his athleticism, and hunting ability were beyond anything I expected.

I’d never hunted pheasants with a dog before Samson arrived. The difference is astounding.


Many other hunters who have gone out with us describe him as “birdy.” That might be an understatement.

He located, locked, and flushed better than any dog I’ve worked with. In a testament to his athletic prowess, I witnessed him take pheasants out of the air after they flushed.

Sam would lock on a hidden bird, moving cautiously forward, and soon the bird would break into the air.  He was so quick and could jump so high that he caught an occasional rooster in his mouth about four feet in the air, then turned and brought it back to us.


He did it more often with Brian, and at least one other hunter quipped, “Why do you need a shotgun when you have Samson?”

Perhaps more than his hunting ability was his personality and ease with melting people’s hearts.

Our daughter Staci was not a dog person until she met Samson, and now she is most assuredly a “dog mom.”

Samson and Shoni friends forever – h/t Randy Tucker

Staci came home from the University of Wyoming one weekend and met Samson for the first time. She didn’t put him down for two days, carrying the little pup around like a baby. A year later, she brought her own Shortie, Shoni, home from a breeder in Colorado and the pair became fast friends.

A little while later, Sue Powell had another litter of pups available. Staci and her husband Adam came back home to pick up Crosby, a half-brother to Samson.

Since then, Dixie and Hugo arrived here, and Molly became Crosby’s annoying sister after Shoni passed a few years ago.

Dixie also crossed to the other camp, leaving just Hugo here with us and Crosby and Molly in Pennsylvania.

When you lose a friend, snippets of memory come to the fore.

In October one year, Brian was at a trade show in Indianapolis for work. I let Samson out to run in the big yard as we often did. He ran around back towards the haystacks and the corral. I walked leisurely around the deck to call him back, but he wouldn’t come, and I couldn’t find him.

Concern quickly escalated to panic. Sue and I searched frantically around our place and stopped at all the neighbors looking for Sam, but no one had seen him.

We called our friends Angie and Dennis to come up and help look. Nothing, it seemed the 70-pound bundle of muscle had simply disappeared.

Sue called Brian in Indiana, and he was quickly ramped up with worry.

I walked back towards the haystack by myself and called Samson, then listened quietly for a response. On the third try, I heard a faint bark but couldn’t locate the source.

Brian called and said, “Let Hugo out, he’ll find his buddy.”

Sue opened the back door and Hugo bounded off the deck. I heard the faint barking again and Hugo made a beeline for the haystack.

I tossed about 40 bales off the west end of the stack and there he was, pinned between a couple of bottom-row bales against a chicken wire fence. The culprit was nearby, he’d chased a cat down the narrow path between the stack and the fence and gotten himself stuck. That day was forever enshrined in our family history as “Hugo the Hero Day.”

Other stunts weren’t so dramatic, but they were fun to witness.

On a few afternoons, when I turned onto Gasser Road on the way home from work he would be down in the pasture east of the house when he’d spot my truck.

He knew the truck by sound, sight, or whatever magic dogs possess and dug in to race me. I hit 35mph many times with Samson in stride with me.

There was truth to what my Dad said about him, “He’s just four legs and a set of lungs.”

Those four blazingly fast legs got him into a predicament once with a fox. Samson spotted the fox in the hayfield late one summer. He closed on the sprinting fox in just a matter of seconds and was about to tear into it when the fox veered right like Barry Sanders in the open field.

Samson was faster but didn’t have the agility. He tried to turn at full speed but ended up rolling end over end four times. We thought he might be hurt, but he sat up, shook his head, and trotted back toward us.

One night wasn’t so fun. Brian called late and said something was wrong with Samson. We hurried over to his place and the pup was recovering from a grand mal seizure. He suffered from epilepsy for the final 11 years of his life, but thanks to the wisdom of Drs. Glen and Gunda Gamble at G Bar G Veterinary it was manageable.

Sam had several surgeries under their care, including a twisted bowel from a botched operation by another vet, cuts on his ears and feet, an abscess or two, and many other ailments. Glen and Gunda were kind, knowledgeable, and skilled beyond measure with Samson.

They both were there for his final moments, and we can’t say enough good about them and their practice.

When you love a dog, it’s hard since you usually outlive them, but you are there for their entire lives and the rock of their world. Rock on Samson.


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