The saving of Sam

By Johnie Jonker

Sam was my 8-year old medium-sized cross-breed dog which was given to me by my future wife a few months into our relationship.

A mostly black – with tan details – superbly intelligent, enthusiastic, energetic, loyal family dog. Endless entertainment for my two young sons. In fact, we seem to recall that my oldest son – almost 5 at the time of the events described below – Jacobus’ first words were not Mamma or Pappa, but Saaa..!, Saaa…!, toddling around the yard looking for the dog. His next word was Tee….taa! (tea-time – this he learnt from his grandfather) when he was thirsty. But I digress.

Prior to leaving for Norway as technical support for a tracking camera system used at the speed-skating and ski-jumping venues of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games, the sliding gate at home packed up and was stuck in the open position. Sam was standing inside the drive-way, when the neighbour from across the street’s Staffordshire terrier managed to slip out their gate, came over and attacked him, in the process breaking both bones of his left front lower leg.

We had spent quite a bit of money on vet bills – reasonably beyond the point where most people would have had their pet put down – trying to get the leg fixed, but Sam kept on eating the plaster-of-Paris off in order to get to the itch. We had given up hope on the leg healing due to the persistent infection, and were considering whether the leg should be amputated or perhaps even the dog put down as a cheaper option. These were some of the thoughts I left home with.

Back to Norway. On the days when there were no speed-skating events in Hamar, we were free to travel on the official buses which continuously commuted between the various Olympic villages from 4 am to 12pm daily. In this way we (the rest of the UK/American camera crew and me) got to do quite a bit of sightseeing in terms of events. Our accreditation IDs – hanging around our necks – allowed access to all the other venues. As Lillehammer was the main village, and also where the company – Aerial Camera Systems – which contracted my services were stationed, I went there a number of times.

On one of these occasions I was up at the ski-jumping arena, where the opening ceremony also took place and where rehearsals for the closing ceremony were presently under way. One of the events were going to be the entry of the Olympic mascots – two kids named Haakon and Kristin, doll-children from Norwegian folklore – on a sled pulled by a team of huskies.

The dogs were quite unruly and keen to run, almost to the point of destruction, and were howling away, tugging at the reins. As I stood there watching this I suddenly burst out crying uncontrollably. At first I thought maybe I was just homesick – I had been away for three weeks now, and it would take another three weeks before I got back – but once I could think clearly, I realized what it was.

That evening when I got back to Hamar – normally I’m too stingy to phone, I rather write emails – I phoned my wife and told her that whatever the cost, we must save Sam’s leg.

She wanted to know how I came to this decision. I said:”The huskies told me”.



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