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Samson and Why I Hate Halloween


When I was six years old we had a dog named Samson. We adopted him as an eight week old puppy from the shelter. We were used to more aggressive or standoffish dogs, but Samson was a black Labrador mix and had the Lab personality through and through. My brother and I would race off the bus from school to see Samson and play with him. He was the happiest dog we’d ever had and we loved him.

It could just be that he was still a baby, and hadn’t settled into dogdom yet, or maybe he just didn’t have time to cause trouble before he died.

We only had him for two months, until he was hit by a car, on Halloween. I’ve built up a long list of reasons why I hate Halloween: monster movies scare me; I had to touch peeled grape “eyeballs” in the dark at a Halloween party; I don’t like knocking on strangers’ doors; I prefer to choose my own candy; and I have PTSD, so every time someone knocks on our door or rings the doorbell to trick or treat, I feel like hiding under the bed.

I sound like the Grinch who stole Halloween, I know.

But the bottom line is that Samson was hit by a car on Halloween, and the two events have always been paired in my mind.

Mom’s not sure how he got out of the house, but she blames herself. She thinks she must have left the door open when she took the garbage out. When she realized he wasn’t in the house, she ran outside to look for him and a group of kids told her he’d been hit by a car and they’d carried him to the side of the road. His body was still warm, but starting to get stiff by the time Mom brought him up to the porch. I don’t know why he ran out into the street. Maybe he was following the trick or treaters. I don’t know. I was already in my pajamas and probably asleep.

My father insisted that my brother and I not be told that night, so we found out the next morning, after they’d already buried him in the backyard.

Something about the Samson story still feels unresolved, like a haunting. And I don’t know what it is. The traumatic event happened off screen. I didn’t see him getting hit by the car, and I didn’t see him die. I worry that Samson could have been saved if only I’d known that he needed me. I don’t have many narrative memories of him, just a feeling. Not so much a body memory as a soul memory. I feel, in some indistinct place in my heart, my face, my hands, that he was a joyful place in my life. And he was fleeting.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

27 responses »

  1. It’s so hard when a pet or a loved one dies on a holiday day – everyone around you is celebrating and you have an unhealed wound.

  2. Just transfer the dislike to those things that truly deserve it. I love Halloween.

  3. Wow! You truly loved him:) Well, this may not make you feel any better, I am pretty sure about that, but just to show my solidarity to you, I give you my word that this year I will not subject Alex to wearing a custome:)

  4. Are You OK after the storm?

  5. That is so sad. I am so sorry you had to experience such a terrible thing and I can quite understand why you now hate Halloween. I’d feel exactly the same

    • Thank you. I saw a little girl wearing butterfly wings the other afternoon and I couldn’t help smiling. That kind of Halloween costume could sway even grinchy old me. Though not on a dog, that’s wear I’d draw the line.

  6. Absolutely heartbreaking, I am so sorry Samson was taken from you like that. I think the way you feel about Halloween is very understandable.

    • Thank you. I’ve been in NYC the past few days and the dog watching has been extraordinary. Quite a few black labs in the crowd. Bittersweet. So many polite, well trained, somewhat jaded dogs. Cricket is finding all of the good doggy behavior very confusing.

  7. Happy to hear you are all safe, hold on for the afterstorm and stay warm. Hopefully, we wont get another black out.

  8. Hello Rachel,

    When I was a child, a blind jazz singer, Al Hibbler, lived on our street. One day I walked up to him and stuck out my hand. I didn’t get a hand shake. I got bit by his Seeing Eye dog. Fortunately, I did not develop a fear of dogs, because I immediately realized that the fault was mine. I turned a Seeing Eye dog into a guard dog in a single, ill-advised gesture.

    I shared this memory because the photo of Sampson that you used to illustrate your story reminded me of my foolishness.

    Thanks for visiting my site today. I’ll follow yours now as well.

  9. Awww….so so sad!
    I have a similar experience – our kitten (9 mos?) died on Xmas Eve. She used to like to get into the dryer on the warm clothes. My mom and older sister were fighting, and my sister shut the cat in the dryer and turned it on, and they didn’t hear the cat until it was too late. I was 8, so I didn’t really fully understand. It was a grim, grim Xmas Eve.

  10. I am so sorry. I don’t know what

  11. I would do if Bella got hit by a car… The brothers and I would probably cry for three straight months.

  12. Oh my, what a sad story. How awful to have lost him so soon and not have real closure because of the circumstances. It is difficult to shake off the keen sense of loss when a beloved dog is gone (whether it is far too soon or after a long and happy life together) BUT as long as we remember how happy they made us and hopefully how happy we made them. It helps (a little!).

  13. Our dog, Tinker, lived to a ripe old age and died in our arms. To soften the tragedy for our young son, we all went to the circus the day after we buried Tinker. Going to the circus was a big mistake because it only made us sadder to see all the dog acts and other animals. None of us have ever been to a circus since, in over 30 years. Associating terrible loss with a holiday or other major event is not unusual. Given your joy in Samson, your rejection of Halloween is understandable.

    • I have a similar circus association. My father took us to the circus for my birthday after we visited my grandfather in the hospital. My grandfather died a few days later. I’ve never been able to laugh at clowns, I just see how sad they are and I can’t get past it. the mind is an incredible thing.

  14. Losing a pet is always a tragic experience. But I would rather the passing be quick and out of my hands than having to decide to put it down. Our three dogs seemed to all contract a form of cancer. They all died before reaching 10 years. Hopefully, Spencer won’t have that end. If he does, I’m sure the good Lord will give us grace and strength to bear it.


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