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Just before Christmas, the head of the League’s behavior and training department, Elaine Allison, was at one of our partner shelters, looking for animals to transfer to the League for adoption. Passing one dog run, Elaine noticed an old dog curled up in the farthest, darkest corner of the run.
“Hello, old shepherd,” Elaine called out to the dog. The dog had no reaction; he didn’t even lift his head. He lay in the corner, his face to the wall, “as if he were just ready to die,” according to Elaine.
“Oh, he’s not old,” the shelter employee who was showing Elaine around corrected. “He’s only about a year. At one time he was in training as a bomb dog.”
This caught Elaine’s attention. She has trained 30 such dogs herself and she even owns two of her own, now retired. Her decision was immediate.
“Let’s put this one on the van,” she told her colleague.
Once the dog, a beautiful Czech shepherd named Samson, was safely on the League van, Elaine learned more of his story. He was from a long line of working dogs and had been singled out for training in bomb detection. He did well with his training until a veterinarian found a slight—very slight, it turns out—heart murmur that ended his career as a working dog before it ever began.
No longer in training, Samson was given to a police officer as a pet. Shortly after that, the officer moved to the Washington area, where she had difficulty finding housing that would accept her new 60-pound dog. So Samson ended up at animal control, where Elaine found him.
Somewhere along the way, Samson picked up a respiratory infection that kept him in medical isolation for the first couple of weeks he was at the League. League veterinarians also checked out his heart murmur, which was so slight they could only detect it with some difficulty. They determined that it posed no immediate threat to the dog’s health and cleared the shepherd for adoption once his respiratory problem cleared up.
Just prior to Samson’s being made available for adoption, the League humane educator called the D.C. Fire Department K9 officer whom she invites to her classes. She thought he might be interested in the dog. Officer Holmes and his supervisor came to the League and met the dog, and though they ultimately decided that the dog did not have the drive to become a detection animal, they were very taken with Samson. “He has a bomb-proof temperament,” they wrote, “and is gorgeous inside and out.”
They put out word via their network of law enforcement dog handlers that an excellent dog in D.C. needed a home, and that word found a receptive ear in a retired NYPD dog handler on Long Island. So eager was he to help, in fact, that he arranged to take his three children (aged 9, 12, and 15) out of school the next day to come meet Samson. The family of five, plus their current Labrador retriever, Amber, were on the road to Washington by 5:00 the next morning.
By 3:00 that afternoon, all seven of them were on their way back to Long Island, to the home that a very fortunate Samson will call his for the rest of his days.