How I got my first Stafford by Andrina Morton
Sam came to me when he was ten months old. I was, at the time, awaiting a puppy from a breeder friend of mine when I was contacted by Kay Carmichael (Scottish Rescue) about a dog requiring a good home. I went to look at him on a no-obligation basis. He was still sedated after his train journey north, but he was beautiful. Deep red colour with black muzzle. I had wanted a puppy to show and Sam was slightly under-shot but I didn't care. It was love at first sight for us both.
My first priority was getting him fit and well. He required a lot of veterinary treatment for bite wounds to his face and body. He also had skin problems. I fed him well, treated his wounds and exercised and played with him often. He quickly took to me and followed me everywhere, never letting me out his sight. He panicked when I wasn't around and tried to break through doors and walls to find me. I even had to leave the shower door open slightly and he would stand face poking through, getting wet.
Sam had many problems to overcome and it took a lot of time, energy, and patience to turn him into a well-adjusted and confident dog. He was terrified of men and would completely submit, urination and all, when approached by one. He would tremble in fear at the sound of a male voice. My father played a big part in helping him overcome his fear and to realise that not all men intended to harm him. Sam would go berserk in confined spaces, and car-travel was a problem for him, too. He was difficult to walk, untrained and very aggressive with other dogs, one problem I never cured. He would try to start a fight with any dog and often got me into serious bother. I often wondered exactly what had happened to him for him to have so many fears and problems at such a young age.
Sam eventually turned into a happy, confident, boisterous and sometimes fairly eccentric dog, full of beans, always wanting to play.
A few years later I married and left home, dog in tow and full of high hopes for the future.
My husband changed his mind about wanting a baby (we had been trying) after I fell pregnant. The marriage fell apart when I was ten weeks pregnant.
Sam was the one I leaned on throughout the whole of my pregnancy - his shoulders were pretty darned strong, too. He would sit with me for hours while I cried and soaked his face and fur with my tears. Once I became pregnant, Sam completely changed towards me. He became gentle, attentive and very protective. He didn't jump on me or pull on the lead.
It wasn't an easy pregnancy, and shortly after my husband left I almost had a miscarriage and was bed-ridden in my parents' home for three weeks. During this time Sam had the freedom of the house and garden but chose to stay by my bed. He left only to relieve himself and to eat.
Sam's devotion and determination to stick by my side, even although it must have been very boring for him astounded my family.
After I gave birth to my daughter, he became his old daft self, jumping up, wrestling, pulling on the lead.
Sam took to the baby instantly, watching over her and running to me when he heard her cry, making a fuss if I didn't go to her immediately. Once, when she was a toddler, she had climbed onto a chair and was looking very shaky. I pounced to grab her, quickly, and he was on me like a shot, mouth around my arm (not biting down), letting out a low growl. I was astonished. This was MY boy. He had never shown any threat toward me and had always been submissive. As much as he loved me, he seemed to have an instinct to protect the baby, even if it meant hurting me to protect her.
I learned after that incident to keep a better eye on the her in the first place and never chastise her in front of the dog.
The two of them became best buddies, and when she was small she sometimes gave him a hard time, but he loved her and always protected her. They got up to all sorts of mischief.
My husband decided to pursue access through the courts and won. For her sake I kept the peace and tried really hard to make things work. Then after a few years, he remarried, got fed up coming every week and basically dumped my daughter. She took it hard and it became her turn to wet Sam's face and fur with her tears. He sat with her in her bedroom for hours while she wept her little heart out. Being only four, she didn't understand it, and I know part of her blamed me, wrongly. I was never so grateful for that dog as I was then. He was the only one my daughter would talk to about her feelings. It took years, and I mean years, before she could freely talk about what happened. It was a struggle for me and I wished Sam could talk so that I could gain some insight into her feelings and help her come to terms with what happened.
This dog was special. He was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and a credit to his breed: the perfect Nanny Dog.
Here is a photo that I call "Sam"uel Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
PS - This is true and I swear it on my daughter's life. Sam wore sunglasses all the time and loved them. In the car, if it was sunny, he would paw at the glove compartment until they were pulled out and put on his face. My Dad drove Porches - he was a fast-car man. He had this 928s model - rare in Glasgow and the car drew a lot of stares. When stopped at traffic lights, people would look at the car then see Sam, sitting on my knee in the front, wearing these crazy wrap-around dark glasses. I am sure the sight brightened up many people's day.
I've got pictures of him (loads) wearing these. Same at Xmas - He walked around all day with his party hat on. He let Francesca dress him up. I often wondered if that dog had been here before!