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Samson’s Story

By: Gary Wynn Kelly

In Rescue, we see the entire spectrum of human behaviors. We are often delighted by the generosity, love, and extraordinary kindness afforded our dogs when placed, and thoroughly enjoy hearing the wonderful stories that come from so many good homes. Then again, there are those times, as Jacques always used to say, when you wonder if you don’t simply hate people for they way the abuse the trust placed in them by their dog and by those of us who place the dogs into their care.

We just had such an incident. Milissa Godzik, a new foster home for us, placed her second foster with a family who at that time, lived down here in Monterey County. I reviewed the criteria of the applicant family with her, and found no fault with them. They, as many families do, present themselves well, and appeared to relate well to the dog, Samson. Samson liked them, and was more than willing to go with them to his new home. There were simply no warning signs of what was to happen later.

Samson is a beautiful 1 year old Siberian Husky, who is so mellow he gets along with anyone and anything as far as any of us can tell. He has some good training, like so many of the dogs we have rescued this past 6 months, and when combined with his extraordinary personality and good looks this makes him a highly desirable companion. This is a dog to lighten the heart, and put a smile on any gloomy face.

That was 3 months ago, and Milissa who is ideal to a fault as a foster family, followed up far longer than the 2 weeks strictly required, simply because she cares so much for every foster, and Samson is exceptional. All seemed to be going well from her follow up conversations. The family was having a little trouble with housing, but it seemed to be no problem as they stayed with the parents of the adopting woman, whom we will call Mx. Her boyfriend, I will refer to as Jx.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. June 3, 1999, I got a call from a guard at Harvey’s Resort in Tahoe. He asked what place he was calling, and I explained about CCNDR. He seemed familiar with us, and explained he had a dog with a tag on of ours. He gave me the tag number, 1102.

I looked up the tag number and found the dog belonged to Mx, and gave him her pager number. I asked him to call me back should he be unable to reach her.

I called the pager number, and then called Milissa to update her as she placed the dog. In half an hour or so, I got another call from the security guard telling me that he had not gotten a call back, and that the dog would have to leave before 3:00 or be taken to a local shelter. He stated he did not want the dog to go to a shelter as it was in bad shape. He asked if we worked with abused dogs or something. I explained how we did work, and asked further about the dog. He said that the dog looked like it had been in a severe fight, or been hit by a car as it had two legs bandaged, and was in “rough shape”.

I stated I knew of one person in Gardnerville who might help, and he advised that Gardnerville was only 20 minutes away. I told him I would try to have the people from Gardnerville pick up the dog. He asked how he would know who they were, and I told him that it would be Don Cavnar, and to ask Don the name of his dog, which would be Buck. Buck was to be the password–not that we were passing the buck.

I called Don, and was fortunate in getting him. Don agreed to contact the Resort, and see if the dog could be brought to him, and failing that, see if he could get over the mountain, as it was snowing, and that was not certain.

I got a call from Karen Cavnar stating that Don had gone to get the dog, and asking what should be done then. I told her that I wanted her to decide if the dog needed to see her vet, who I know is reliable, as I know the history of Buck. I stated we would pay the necessary vet costs, but to please request a Rescue rate for him. Karen and Don both expressed concern about having Samson around, as Buck was notorious for not getting along with other dogs. I stated that I felt this would not be an issue, as Samson is very easy to handle, and gets along with anyone.

I got a call at approximately 2:45 from Mx. She wanted to know where her dog was, and I felt she was defensive. I stated that I had had the dog picked up, which she already knew. She wanted to know where to get her dog, and I stated that I wanted more information first. How was the dog injured?

Mx answered that Samson had fallen from the back of a pickup truck while transporting him. I asked for further description, and she stated he was tied in the back of the pickup for a short time on an emergency basis, and fell out getting hurt. She said they had gotten him good vet care, and he was fine.

I asked how the dog got loose and arrived at the guard station. She said that they were staying at a Motel, and that Samson had gotten loose while they were “out on a cruise”, but they had only been gone one hour.

I stated that I was not prepared to release him to them as yet, since I wanted to get a medical description of Samson from a good vet, and determine if this was in the best interest of Samson.

Mx asked me to speak to her boyfriend. He lost his temper, and became very upset at the idea that I wouldn’t give them any number as to where Samson was, or tell them how to get him. He feels it was “an accident” that Samson got hurt, and that Samson had been given very good treatment. We had a difference of opinion over that, and I explained carefully that having Samson ride in the back of a truck that was open is a violation of the adoption contract, and that no, Samson would not be returned until I had gotten a full medical report on him.

Don Cavnar called me immediately after Mx. He stated that the dog was indeed in rough shape, and did need to see a vet. Don had already arranged an appointment for Samson with his local vet at 4:30. Don reported that Samson could not use one leg at all, and that the other one had had the toenails badly scraped from it, and the fur was completely ripped off. He reported that the dog’s coat was in terrible shape–standing up like a wire brush, and very stiff like one. I had seen samson when he was fostered by Milissa, and he had a very healthy coat at that time–February.

Don reported that Buck and Samson were just fine together, which was a great relief to him. I told him that I doubted that Samson would be any problem to Buck.

I called CC, our attorney, and discussed the case with her. We faxed her the contract, and she reviewed it with me on the telephone. She feels that we are well within our rights here, and advised keeping notes on this case in the event it might lead to any litigation.

Mx called back while I was talking to CC, and apologized for her boyfriend’s conduct, and tried to explain further that Samson had just had an accident, and that he had been taken to a vet, but because they (she and her boyfriend) had no money, the vet told them what they could do at home. They were doing all of those things, she said. I again stated to her that I would not return the dog without a full medical report, and that I would await that report before making any decision about Samson, or what would be done with him.

Mx argued that the dog was best returned to them, that they had been doing everything possible to help him, and that things had been difficult for them as they were moving up to Tahoe, and had little money. Mx felt we were judging them harshly and unfairly.

I called Karen Cavnar, and asked her to take pictures of Samson if possible. Karen felt strongly that the dog has not been treated properly, and stated she would call me with the report from the vet as soon as she could.

Don Cavnar called me at approximately 6:30 in the evening with the report. Don was crying, and that is simply not something Don does easily. He said it was going to be hard to “go through this”. I encouraged him, by saying I doubted the news was going to be very good from the report the security guard had given me.

Don stated that the vet swore when he pulled off the bandages. The wound on the elbow of the one bandaged leg was gangrenous, and it was a severe wound. The bandage over the paw of the other foot covered a paw that was nearly destroyed completely by having contacted the road at a high rate of speed. The wounds were a week old, and had definitely not been treated by a qualified vet.

The vet assured Don that he can pull Samson through, but it requires keeping Samson overnight, and treating aggressively. Samson will have a long recovery time, but has a good chance of recovering with all limbs if he responds well to treatment. Samson is a year old, and a strong young dog. His condition has deteriorated since his placement–the coat is in poor shape, and the vet states he has suffered from neglect and poor care in addition to his injuries.

Don made pictures of Samson, and the vet has careful records. Neither intends to release this dog to the Mx or her boyfriend. I assured them that that wasn’t going to happen, as CCNDR was taking full responsibility for the dog as the former owners violated their contract in at least 3 respects.

I called Mx at approximately 7:15, and informed her calmly enough, that she wasn’t going to get the dog back–ever. I gave her a summary of the vet’s assessment, and she agreed that the injury had happened a week ago. She claimed she tried to get vet help, but couldn’t as they all wanted $700 up front to do anything for him. She claims she did everything possible to help him. I will admit I lost my composure at that point and stated quite severely that I doubted that as she didn’t call me. When she asked what in the hell I thought I could have done, I told her that interestingly enough, within hours of hearing the dog was injured, I did get the dog proper medical care without being there. She stated that she didn’t have a credit card or anyway to do that like I did. I told her I didn’t use one–I simply asked.

As the conversation was going absolutely nowhere, I stated again that she could talk to the CCNDR attorney, and gave her the number for CC. I told her that our decision was final–she will not get the dog back. In her care, the dog has experienced poor health, an injury that is life threatening with its complications, the risk of losing a limb, extreme pain and continued poor care–all in violation of her contract, and any notion of proper treatment of a dog. I ended the conversation.

I reviewed the events with CC, and let her know that possibly Mx will call her. CC stands ready to handle the call should it be necessary, but doubts that it will be pursued. CC considers this a clear case that has no element of controversy to it.

I too, doubt that it will be pursued. One cannot overestimate the extent to which these people have permitted their selfishness and premeditated stupidity to frustrate them in caring for Samson. I have little doubt that the behaviors will prove to be persistent and pervasive, and continue to frustrate them in all aspects of life.

I followed up today with Don Cavnar, the vet in Gardnerville, and we have now a better picture of Samson and how he is doing. The vet was able to cut away all necrotic tissue, and sew up the one deep wound which was gangrenous. He removed necrotic tissue from other wounds, and they are patched up as best as they can be until they heal. The vet took X-rays, and determined that while there are chipped bones, none are actually broken. Some of the wounds are down to the bone, and there is some damage to the tendon at the one knee. He feels that Samson will make a good long term recovery with a lot of TLC and antibiotics.

Samson is coming home tonight. A special thanks to all the people who have done so much to help him; Don and Karen Cavnar for acting as Angels of Mercy and temporary foster home, Dr. Steven MacAbe for his timely intervention, Judy Tamagni for transport and additional vet care at her boss’s clinic, Tony Kettner for transport from the Nappa Valley to Salinas, and many more who played a role in coordinating this effort.

Samson Update for September 30, 1999

Samson has a HAPPILY EVER AFTER home. He was adopted one month ago by a family in the East Bay area, and we tracked him to be certain that all is well in his new life. It is more than okay–it is wonderful!

The adopting family has a 7 year old Siberian female, and 2 adolescent boys at home who argue over having Samson sleep with them. Samson also sleeps with the parents when they can get him away from the boys.

Samson gets plenty of play time with Sierra, as well as regular walks, and even opportunities to swim.

I recently got pictures from Samson’s family, and they are definitely accurate testimony as to how happy Samson is with his new home. The family cat isn’t as happy with Samson as everyone else, but she remains out of sight and notice while she works through her disgust at having another of those Siberians in the house.

Samson got off to a rough start in his new home, but after one week, he began settling into the home, and now, like many Siberians, insists that he always has loved his new family. The family demonstrated great understanding and patience in working through the rough week, and helping Samson come to a healthy adjustment to his new home.

I know, that all of you, like Anita and myself, are delighted to learn that Samson has finally arrived at his permanent home–the home he so richly deserves and has earned through his demonstration of fortitude, cheerfulness, determination, love and a simple joy of life. We are pleased to make the acquaintance of such nice people as Samson’s new family, and thoroughly enjoy hearing their stories of Samson.

Thank you all, for your support and generosity. Your contributions, combined with the adoption fee, came to 100% of Samson’s costs. This enabled us to save 2 other high cost cases in August and September–dogs we would have otherwise had to let suffer their fate. Both of those dogs got adopted and have happy homes as well.

The Central Coast Northern Dog Rescue has rescued and fostered more than 50 dogs since January 1, 1999.

Thank you for making all of this possible.

Gary W. Kelly
Central Coast Northern Dog Rescue


Samson recovered completely. He was adopted in early September of 1999, into a truly wonderful home. He was the companion to a female Siberian in a family that later helped with Rescue. The family has had many wonderful times with Samson, and a few trying times. Samson was a true Siberian growing up–doing his share of digging and chewing. He is now an older dog, calm, and delighted to be running the lives of his humans so well. He is a most well taken care of dog.

Hopefully, readers will go on to tell this story many times, in order to discourage *anyone* from transporting a dog in the open bed of a pickup truck. We would prefer to see laws amended to prohibit the practice, which we consider irresponsible and primitive. No dog should be subjected to a danger which we outlaw humans from having to endure. No responsible person would consider transporting a child in the open bed of a pickup, so certainly no dog should be either, for equally good reasons.

We do try to explain that ADRTC will not place a dog with anyone planning to transport it in the open bed of a truck. Even supposing the restraints to be Siberian proof, there are still flying hard-shelled bugs that can put an eye out at 60 miles an hour, or flying rocks that can do worse damage. Please do your part to discourage and prohibit dogs from being the innocent victims of the owner’s behavior.

CCNDR went on to continue placing about one dog per week through the years to 2006. In 2006, Anita and I moved to Albuquerque, where we began establishing the Arctic Dog Rescue and Training Center. There are many legal requirements in such a transition, so it took most of a year to complete the requirements. ADRTC will be smaller, and probably place far fewer dogs, but will emphasize training and education more.

Copyright© 1999, 2007