One Last Time

Erin Golden and her husband adopted Sammy, a golden retriever mix, from the Humane Society in 2007. Very quickly they realized that with his calm, loving temperament, Sammy would make an ideal therapy dog. So, they began their journey together as a Pet Partners team in 2009 and volunteered in their community for the next decade until Sammy’s recent retirement in November of 2019.

Over the span of ten years, Sammy has visited hundreds of people from toddlers to the very elderly in locations like hospitals, schools, universities, libraries, rehab centers, and homeless shelters. Erin watched this intuitive dog bring smiles to so many faces countless times, but there is one moment she will never forget.

Sammy and Erin had been making weekly visits to a nursing home and rehab center for over a year when the facility’s activity director told her about a woman in her nineties who was in hospice and who likely had only a few days left. Her family had come and was keeping vigil, but this lady had loved dogs her entire life and wanted to pet a dog one last time. She was terribly fragile, so they’d need to lift Sammy carefully onto her bed and have him immediately lie down and stay. The director asked if Erin if she thought Sammy could manage that.

Erin looked at the little dog who had brought love and joy to so many and felt no qualms. Sammy could fulfill this woman’s special last wish.

They crept into the woman’s room where she lay in bed, so small she barely created a rise in the covers.

“Okay, Sammy,” Erin whispered, “here we go.”

She lifted his thirty-five pounds onto the foot of the bed. Without even being given a command, Sammy dropped to his belly. He inched up the bed until his head was even with the woman’s hip. Then he gave her hand a gentle sniff and lay his head down next to her. Never even opening her eyes, the lady lifted her delicate hand and rested it on Sammy’s head. Peace filled the room.

The activity director and Erin stared across the bed at each other, their mouths wide with astonishment while tears trickled down their cheeks. Sammy had not been given a single command, yet he knew precisely what this lady needed. And he made sure she had it one last time.

Story submitted by Erin Golden

Photos from some of the many visits over the past ten years: