Sammy the Bull

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Remember the picture of Roo with the graffiti a few weeks ago? Here's another dog-with-grafitti picture, from seven years ago. This was Sampson, my first foster dog. I called him Sammy. We were together for about two months.

Sammy came from a tough background. He had been an inmate in the Los Angeles shelter system, where more than 90 percent of the dogs are discarded pit bulls. That's where he would have died, had Karma Rescue not bailed him out. Sammy was a real handful - young and high-energy. He had to spend a few months in boarding before I happened along to foster him.

You can imagine how wound up he was on the day he finally got out of a cage and back on the streets in LA. Noise, smells, people. He was used to being taken for a short walk and put back in. We walked around the block before I took him to the quietest place I knew in Los Angeles, an old hangar I used to have in an untrafficked corner of Santa Monica Airport. He was tired, and he was stressed. He could barely contain himself. And yet, at dusk, he wanted to sit down by himself out on the ramp. I watched over his shoulder. He stared westward towards the setting sun. You could see how used he was to having to sit quietly and alone in one place. Overnight we went for lots of walks where there were no other people, dogs or traffic, and Sammy had things to eat and to chew. He especially appreciated having things to chew. Late at night I put my hand on his head and felt his skull and the muscles working up from his jaws. I was so glad he could have at least that.

We slept on a couch in the hangar and went back downtown early the next morning. When I found a parking space and was opening the hatchback of my car to let him out, he saw something that was happening behind me that made him jump out of the way and bolt. When I turned to stop him, I saw that a car was bearing down on me at about 30 miles per hour, about to smash into me. I barely rolled onto the ground and out of the way just as the car rammed into the back of mine. Glass and plastic and aluminum flew. My legs would have been crushed (for a second time) between the bumpers. The woman driving managed to get it started and grind it into reverse so she could get out of there. Another hit and run in downtown LA.

I left the smashed car open and took off after Sammy, who was back on the streets and in a panic at the height of morning rush hour. As I ran I got on the phone with Karma, which put out an APB. After half an hour of aimlessly scouring the streets, I found him. The little guy had chosen a young woman to walk next to, with his head down, as if he didn't think he was good enough for her and hoped she wouldn't mind. He was spooked and didn't seem to recognize me for a minute, but when he did, he came over to me. He looked beat up.

There were two sides to Sammy's personality. On the one hand, he was a sweet, affectionate, not extremely bright, goofball. But on the other was an intense drive to kill homeless people. Downtown LA, where I was living, was filled with the homeless. I'm sure it still is. They were camped on every block all night and rousted by the police into having to wander around all day. Sammy would instantaneously go from being the sweet boy you see here to a snarling, vicious dog. As he got more attached he got to me, it only got worse. 

Finally I had to cop to the fact that I just didn't have the chops to handle Sammy. What a failure I felt like. He wound up at Brandon Fouché's school, where he underwent a long - more than a year - rehab in Brandon's pack. Brandon, a dedicated, brilliant man who has rehabbed countless aggressive death-row dogs, was able to make Sammy safe. Eventually Karma Rescue was able to find this boy a home. I often wonder how he's doing. Here's to you, Sammy.