Without Sam

– 1 –

By the time Robbie looked up from his phone, it was already too late. Sam had never been an excitable or impetuous dog, but the dash of the insane squirrel, straight across the sidewalk in front of them and then hell-bent for the other side of the street, was too much even for Sam’s laid-back personality. The things that happened next seemed to occur all at once. Robbie was jerked off his feet toward the street. His phone flew out of his hand and smashed against the sidewalk. And the speeding bus turned his best friend into a lifeless, contorted sack of broken bones.

– 2 –

“Robbie!” The voice of his boss was an unwelcome intrusion into the solitude of his work. “Robbie, what time did you get to your desk this morning?”

Robbie took off his headset and blinked at his supervisor. “Uh. I’m not sure.”

“Well, Robbie, I am sure. We keep track of these things in a call center. This was the third time this week that you’ve been late, and today it was over 45 minutes! We can’t staff a tech support center if we can’t plan for coverage. You know that.”

“Oh. Uh. Sorry, Mark. I’m used to my dog waking me up to walk him, but he died…”

“Look, Robbie, I’m sorry, but I don’t want excuses. Attendance and punctuality are absolute job requirements. You know that. If this keeps up, we’ll have to let you go.”

“Oh. OK, Mark. I’m sorry. I’ll be on time.”

“You’d better.”

– 3 –

“Robbie,” said Patricia, after finishing her slice of cheap delivery pizza, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s going to work out between us.”

Robbie looked up. “What? Why?”

“You used to do stuff, Robbie! Go for walks in the city. Go for hikes in the woods.”

“Well, I used to go with Sam….”

“But now all you do is sit around here and eat pizza. Do you ever go anywhere these days except here and work?”

“Um, well, about work….”

“Have you even noticed how much weight you’ve gained in the past few weeks? I’m not shallow, Robbie – it’s about being a healthy person.”

Robbie looked at her sadly.

“I’m gonna go, Robbie. I’m sorry.”

Robbie’s apartment door closed behind her.

– 4 –


The sound of his landlord shouting and pounding on the door jerked Robbie awake. He stumbled over an empty pizza box as he rose from his sofa and opened his door.

“Robbie, what the hell is wrong with you? I sent you a letter three weeks ago informing you that if you didn’t make some arrangements to start paying your back rent, I was gonna have no choice but to evict you. And what do I hear from you? Nothing!

“Oh, uh, sorry, Mal. I used to get the mail every day with my dog, Sam. Since he died I sometimes forget to check it.”

“For three weeks?? You know what, I don’t care any more. You had your chance. This” – he handed Robbie a yellow envelope – “is legal. Get yourself and your shit out of here by Monday morning, or you’ll be removed by the cops. This is the end, Robbie.”

Robbie took the envelope, and Malcolm turned and walked away.

– 5 –

Robbie looked up from his breakfast at the shelter. He’d been hoping to stay unnoticed in the corner of the cafeteria a bit longer, nursing his warm coffee before they turned him out on the street for another day. But the attractive young woman with the clipboard, being guided around by the shelter director, was an unusual sight. As it turned out, they were headed his way.

“What about this guy?” asked the woman with the clipboard. He looks young. Do you think he’d be a good candidate?”

Now that they were near, Robbie could read the large words on the back of her clipboard. “Wags of Hope: Dogs for the Homeless”.

“Oh, Robbie?” responded the shelter director, “No. I really don’t think Robbie could take care of a dog. I hope you’ll forgive the expression, but the poor guy really just doesn’t have his shit together.”


The following is a very short prequel to this story, which I wrote as a response to the photo above.



“I’m a good boy,” thought Sam.

Sam was a humble dog. But the fact that he was a good boy was just the truth. His human, Robbie, told him so almost every day. How could he doubt it?

Despite his humility, Sam had a very deep sense that Robbie needed him. Really, really needed him. And Sam loved Robbie more than anything in the world.

“I’ll always be a good boy,” thought Sam. “So I’ll always be here for Robbie.”

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