Thursday, April 8, 2010

Our Friend Sam is Famous!

Photos by Emilee Fuss

Sam, the beautiful Golden Retriever from Florida was a winner in our Show Us Your Happy Dog contest back in September.

We've been keeping up with Sam and his mom Josie. Today, we are pleased to announce that Sam is featured on the cover of the April/May edition of Sarasota Pet Magazine. Way to go Sam! Emilee Fuss photographed Sam and he certainly looks happy and beautiful!

Sam is a therapy dog and we are proud that Sarasota Pet recognized his service to the community. If you live around Sarasota or Manatee County, Florida, please check out Sarasota Pet, it's a beautiful color magazine and a wonderful resource for pet owners.

Here is the text of the article. For the full-color version, please contact Sarasota Pet for a copy.

He has a smile that captivates attention no matter where he goes. In fact, Samuel—a two-year-old Golden Retriever who is the constant companion of Sarasota resident Josie Norman—was a winner in the nationwide “Show Us Your Happy Dog Contest,” sponsored by Billy Rafferty and Jill Cahr, coauthors of the book, Happy Dog: Caring for Your Dog’s Body, Mind and Spirit (Penguin Group/Sep 2009).

Named for Samuel in the Old Testament, Sam, as he is affectionately called, will turn three in November. He has been Josie’s pride and joy since she first adopted him, just three weeks after losing her 9 ½ -year-old Golden Retriever to lymphoma.

“After I lost my Golden, I searched and searched for weeks for another Golden Retriever puppy to adopt, but couldn’t find one anywhere,” Josie says.

But she decided to look online one more time.

“If I don’t find a Golden today, it will be a Chocolate Lab tomorrow,” she decided.

As fate would have it, Josie found a classified ad posted on PetFinder by a woman who lived northwest of Gainesville. So, she sent an e-mail to the woman, who responded by sending Josie photographs.

“The second I saw Sam’s picture, I knew; I just knew,” Josie says with absolute conviction. “Even through the classified ad, I could feel a connection with him.”

So, Josie arranged to meet the woman at the Zephyrhills exit on the highway and brought her puppy home.

Like too many pups, Sam, it seems, had a heartbreaking start in life. Two of his siblings were killed by a male dog in the household when the litter mates were only two weeks old. So the owner scooped up the rest of the puppies and placed them in a closet, where they lived day and night—without their mother—until they were adopted.

“You don’t lock a sweet puppy like Sam in a closet,” Josie says.

When Josie brought her new puppy home, she was surprised that he didn’t cry the first night he was in his new surroundings.

“It seems that Sam learned early on that he had no choice but to keep quiet at night,” Josie says solemnly.

And then there was the time that the young pup “went ballistic” when Josie took out a broom to sweep. She realized that there was a good chance that Sam had been threatened or perhaps even abused.

“Sam was taken away from his mother when he was only two weeks old,” Josie says. “There were things he needed to learn from his mother and didn’t, so for the first two weeks he was with me, I was his mom.”

Despite his rocky beginnings, Sam is now “just the best behaved dog,” Josie says proudly.

Originally from Clear Lake, Iowa—a city that made international headlines when the late, legendary Buddy Holly played his last concert there at the Surf Ballroom in 1959—Josie moved to Florida in June 1999.

“I was tired of the wind, the snow and the bitter cold weather,” she recalls. “I wanted to live in a warmer climate.”

Josie always has been an artist at heart. She is skilled in both pottery and jewelry making, and currently sells one-of-a-kind, handcrafted pieces with images of cats, dogs and horses in a collection she calls “Spirit Breathed Fire Born Jewelry.” Created in fire-fused dichroic glass and fully annealed for years of durable wear, the “works of art” are available locally at Animals by Nature/Tree of Life Club, Max’s Dog Bakery and Shaggy Chic Boutique and Wet Noses and online at Josie’s Facebook page.

In addition to her jewelry, Josie also creates intricate lampwork beads from glass, a craft she taught herself after watching a demonstration at an art show in Englewood.

But it is Josie’s genuine love of animals that matters to her most. During Hurricane Katrina, she worked as a Stealth Volunteer, helping to reunite more than 1,500 Katrina families and their pets. The organization of nationwide and international volunteers started as a Yahoo group committed to reuniting lost animals with their families following a disaster.

Josie also received training through the Network of Hope, a nationwide organization that responds to disasters, to become a disaster recovery specialist for Sarasota and Manatee counties.

On Saturday, June 12, Josie will host a special presentation about the heartbreaking tragedies she witnessed as a reunite worker during Hurricane Katrina when Animals by Nature/Tree of Life Club hosts the Third Annual H.E.L.P. (Hurricane Event for Lovers of Pets) Day. For additional information about the event, please visit

Training and showing dogs also has been one of Josie’s passions since the late 1960s. And Sam is certainly a testament to the quality of self-taught guidance and instruction Josie can provide.

While, Josie claims, “training is an ongoing process,” Sam already has earned his Canine Good Citizen Award from the American Kennel Club. He is a registered service dog with the U.S. Service Dog Registry and a therapy dog for the Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC). In fact, Sam also has earned a “Therapy Dog Terrific Award” from The Bright and Beautiful Dog Therapy, Inc., a nonprofit organization with which he is registered.

Surprisingly, Sam is the first therapy dog that Josie has trained.

“I just felt that it was something I needed to do with Sam,” Josie says. “He has a natural affinity for children.”

So, because Sam “loves, loves, loves kids,” Josie and Sam go to Oak Park School in Sarasota every Thursday afternoon to spend time with the special needs children at the school.

“There was one little boy at Oak Park that was deathly afraid of Sam,” Josie says. “He would scream and hide whenever Sam came into the classroom, but he would watch as the other children in the classroom pet Sam and talked to him.

“After six months, the little boy finally came over to Sam last week and touched him for the first time,” Josie continues. “It was a very special moment.

“I think that Sam has a very special connection with children,” Josie continues. “He lets them know that he won’t hurt them. He loves going to school, and he instinctively knows when it is a school day. If we don’t go for some reason, he paws at me, as if he is asking, ‘Did you forget?’”

Sam and Josie also have participated in HSSC’s “Dreams are Free” therapy program at St. Martha’s Catholic School in Sarasota and will frequently attend school health fairs, child safety rallies and other events together throughout the community.

Both Josie and Sam are strong supporters of spaying and neutering pets and adopting animals at local rescue organizations.

“A lot of really great pets are up for adoption, and people should look to adopt rather than buy an animal,” Josie says. “After all, Sam was adopted. Heaven knows what would have happened if he had stayed where he was born.”

Inseparable—that’s what Sam and Josie are. No doubt, it was a bond that was meant to be, one that began with a small classified ad on the Internet that inspired what instantly became a spiritual connection, a lifelong friendship, an enduring love…and one very happy dog.

Thank you to Candace Botha, Publisher of Sarasota Pet Magazine for allowing us to reprint her article.