Adopted Dog’s Bucket List Brings a Family Together

A terminal diagnosis left Samson looking for a foster home. Instead, he found a lifetime of love.

Julianne + Samson

Faced with terminal cancer, Samson was looking for a foster home. Instead he found a family, and a lifetime of unconditional love.

"Something about his smiling face made me want to open our home to him. I knew we had to take him in."

“Volunteer favorite.” “Love bug.” “Ball of affection.” This was how Oakland Animal Services described Samson, an 80-pound Pitbull in need of a foster family. I saw his big blockhead and drooling jowls and knew he was special. But I couldn’t have known then how much he would teach me about unconditional love, compassion, and making the most of every day.

Adopted dog

When we met Samson last December, my boyfriend Dan and I weren’t sure he was a good match for our family, especially because our 27-pound terrier mix diva, Holly, was used to being the only dog. But something about his smiling face made me want to open our home to him. I knew we had to take him in.

Before long, he became the perfect Yang to Holly’s Yin. Where she was shy, stand-offish, and skeptical, Samson was trusting, affectionate, and giving. He brought her out of her shell and helped her gain confidence. Each day with Samson, our leap of faith was rewarded in ways we never anticipated.

Adopted dogs with family

You see, Samson wasn’t looking for a typical foster home: he was looking for hospice. He had been diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma, a deadly canine cancer. He was receiving free treatment and electro-chemo from an area vet, but the prognosis wasn’t good. Samson had three months to live, tops.

We knew those months would be tough, but we wanted to give Samson comfort and kindness in his final days. We didn’t count on falling utterly in love with him, but by the time we expected to be saying goodbye, Samson had made a permanent mark on our lives.

Adopted dogs

Three months came and went, and Samson’s sweet spirit and zest for life never wavered. Even when chemo made him feel miserable, he never stopped wagging his tail and freely giving out kisses. So instead of saying goodbye, we started Samson’s bucket list. We went to In-N-Out for a burger and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. We threw him a party at a dog-friendly brewery and drove up the Oregon coast. Watching him run around with Holly on a beautiful beach, you’d never guess that Samson was sick.

By April, Samson was part of our family. We adopted him to make it official. People say love has extended Samson’s life, as he keeps defying the odds. But he has given us much more in return. He’s changed our perspective, giving us new appreciation for the beauty of everyday life. Now I rush home every day because I don’t want to miss a moment of Samson’s exuberant hugs and wagging tail.

Dog on the beach

We never imagined we’d get so much time with this happy boy, but here we are planning for Halloween. (We got a safari theme going.) If his big smile and high spirits are any indication, it won’t be our last family holiday together. Samson has Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas caroling on his bucket list, and we can’t wait to oblige. He’d make a great bunny for Easter, too!

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Julianne won Oakland Animal Services in California a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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