August 19th, 2009
10:43 AM ET

The birthday girl has fleas

Jack's dog, Sammy, on the west side of Manhattan

Jack's dog, Sammy, on the west side of Manhattan

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

My dog is snoring. It is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the sweetest sounds in the world. Especially considering the alternative – a duo of pub-goers on the sidewalk below my window pondering that age-old question, “Why aren’t you wearing underwear?”

At a time when the future of health care seems more uncertain than ever, it’s worth pointing out that a dog snoring is not just among life's more pleasant sounds but among its healthiest, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that having a pet can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and feelings of loneliness. Unless, of course, your dog runs away, in which case the loneliness thing becomes a bit of a gray area.

My canine health care comes in the form of a Labrador Retriever named Sammy, whose birthday is today. Ah, Sammy – the center of my world, the odor of my studio apartment. I can’t believe she’s already 5-years-old. It seems like only yesterday that I picked her out of a squirmy puppy pile in southern Maine. Now she’s just another maladjusted New Yorker, unabashedly flatulent and all too eager to fornicate in public.

For all Sammy’s quirks – the aversion to right turns, the cigarette thievery, the feud with Regis Philbin – I wouldn’t change a thing about her. If you’ve never had a dog the experience cannot be fully explained. To say these animals offer unconditional love and loyalty would be an understatement. You are their sun and – if you have an extra liver biscuit – you are their moon.

Like most roommates who have been together for five years, Sammy and I have settled into a daily routine that borders on the mundane. Walks around the block, naps on the couch, shots of Jagermeister…I guess it’s true, I do take after my grandmother. Still, it’s bliss. And the great thing about dogs is that they love you for who you are. They don’t look down on you for being boring. Never once has Sammy badgered me to go out clubbing at 2am. Which is more than I can say for my friends...or my grandmother.

I don’t know if Sammy realizes that today is her birthday. I sang Happy Birthday to her but, truth be told, I sing to her every day. I’m not sure she can make a distinction between Happy Birthday and the theme song from Growing Pains.

I suppose dogs probably don’t get hung up on birthdays. Their lives are too short as they are to dwell on the passing of another year…they might as well live each day to the fullest.

That is, when they’re not snoring.

Follow Jack Gray on Twitter @jackgrayCNN.

soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. Lindsay T

    Great post Jack! I love my dog too – Marty McFly. He can be a handful (he's only 5 months) but is totally worth it.

    August 20, 2009 at 8:41 am |
  2. Lori

    Sweet! Happy Birthday!

    August 20, 2009 at 8:22 am |
  3. raquel rita

    Inch by inch i hear and feel your words. I try not to think when arriving home some day, my sweet great dane not there anymore...
    But when he snors at night, in the varanda, sometimes i have to complain:
    " Way too loud Armani! C'mon, this way the robbers will know! "

    August 20, 2009 at 7:10 am |
  4. Anandaroopa

    Happy Birthday Sammy!

    From Chennai, India

    August 20, 2009 at 1:40 am |
  5. riza

    we don"t look down on u coz u'r not boring. . .and we love u for what u r. . .


    and . ..happy bday to ur doggie sammy. . .

    August 20, 2009 at 1:22 am |
  6. Rhonda Wise

    Happy Birthday -and how sweet. Love the pic! Retrievers are such sweet and smart dogs! All dogs are smart and good though, it's the owners that sometimes aren't up to par! I LOVE that a dog smiles with its tail. I've always had one (ok, usually 2!) A person never TRULY knows unconditional love unless they own a dog. They live to be with and please you! I've had a wide variety of dogs in my life, but since my first one 18 years ago, I've stayed with the American Pit Bull Terrier.Their love, dedication, earerness to learn and please, and love for me is uncanny -and their zest for life is downright contagious! They are such clowns too! They REALLY do not deserve the name they have. Sure, as with any large dog you have to be a responsible owner, but the rewards of owning one is well worth it!! Thank you Lord for giving man (and woman) the dog! P.S. it is wonderful at days end to lie in bed with your dog and listen to them snoring..such sweet music to the ear....

    August 20, 2009 at 12:44 am |
  7. L. Vivares

    Aww so sweet! It really made me smile. I have 4dogs all geriatric. I dread losing them. Happy birthday Sammy!

    August 20, 2009 at 12:25 am |
  8. Jill

    Happy Birthday Sammy! You need to meet Boris, my Bichon. He is a frat boy for sure. He drinks my wine if I leave the room; he steals my dollar bills out of my wallet if I leave my purse on the floor and he is always on his back waiting for his rubdown. You would love him.

    August 19, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  9. Ann F (Chicago, IL)

    Unconditional love and companionship-YES!

    August 19, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  10. Florice lim

    Happy birthday Sammy!!! May you have a hundred more!! Love this blog. Never felt the need to comment til today. My baby lab just turned 1 and my cavalier just had her "21er". They're the loves of my life!!!

    August 19, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  11. Betty H.

    Happy Birthday Sammy! I wish both my dogs a happy birthday every year! In my opinion, I've lived with health conditions all my life and my life has always felt calmer in the company of my pets. They are unconditional companions!

    August 19, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  12. Missy

    Sammy shares a birthday with my dad and my sister in law. Happy Birthday Sammy. My dog is Keely. She is only 2 and she is my best friend. I know just how you feel about your dog. She isn't the most well behaved dog always and she is pretty hyperactive, but to me she is great as well as beautiful. When I get home she is so excited to see me. That is the greatest feeling ever!!

    As always Jack...it is always great to read what you write. Thanks for sharing Sammy's special day. Have cake and ice cream for sure.

    August 19, 2009 at 10:11 pm |
  13. Stephanie

    Happy B-day Sammy! Norman was my best friend for 15 yrs. He was a goofy golden retriever who loved everyone and everything. He did however have this disgusting habit of sitting in front of you when you were eating and pass gas. He did it with a smile and wagging his tail, hoping that he might have grossed you out enough to hand over whatever you were eating. It usually worked.

    August 19, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  14. Lori, IL

    Thanks for the post today, Jack. Happy Birthday to Sammy (whether she care or not)! Ahh, yes, I do believe in the health benefits of pet ownership. I have had 3 beloved dogs in my life - all offering unconditional love. Now, I am owned by 2 cats - but they, too, are very loving - that is when they want to be. And, yes, my one cat does snore, and while it took me a while to figure out what and where the noise was coming from, I now find it very comforting.

    Hope you bought Sammy some extra smokes for her birthday!

    August 19, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  15. Pam Hails

    Last night I had 90 degree heat with 70% humidity and my dog was panting his hot smelly breath all over me – not to mention the drool that was dripping from his mouth onto my legs. At times like that, I have a new appreciation for the fish. And then there's the cat, who was yelling at me at 4:00 AM the other day. When I didn't get out of bed, he started systematically knocking things off of the dresser. When the only thing left was the TV he migrated to the desk and started cleaning that off as well. When I finally got up, 3 hours later, I realized that he was upset because there was dog food in his cat bowl. After giving him the proper food, I got a 4" pad and some tape from the medicine kit to bandage the scratches he gave me the night before during play time. I think he missed me when I was on vacation. Yes, animals do improve the quality of life.

    August 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm |
  16. Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    Wow, Jack is Back! I guess this means I need to blow off the dust on my "I'm a Jack Gray Groupie" pin and start wearing it again..... 😯

    I'm a believer that pets, especially dogs, give you something to live for which, in effect, is healthy. My poodle is getting up there in dog years and is having difficulty hearing. I, on the other hand, recently had some surgery and temporarily don't have a voice. Therefore she can't hear me and I can't speak to her.....we make a great team!

    Happy B-Day to Sammy!

    BTW, love the pic. Sammy's got the shades on but where's her tube top? Don't tell me she's gotten rid of them all..... 😉

    August 19, 2009 at 9:18 pm |
  17. Broken

    There is much more than adequate research regarding the benefits to your mental health from having a pet that there are dogs called "service dogs"–not just for the physically handicapped anymore. Many mental health professionals actually prescribe to their patients to acquire a pet (generally, a dog).

    August 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  18. Annie Kate

    Welcome back Jack!! Long time no see for you or Sammy. And what a great post. I had a couple of dogs growing up – Jake, a German shepherd, and Seymour, a Bassett hound. They both had flatulence but neither would admit to it. And Seymour snored something terrible. Jake would get up and leave the room when Seymour got started.

    Their specialty though was their birthday cake trick. All you needed for the trick was a b'day cake, and some stupid humans. While the humans clustered around your partner in crime the main dog of the act jumped up on the table, grabbed the cake and ran like the hounds of hell were after him – my mother just had this effect on people. It usually ended up with the dogs getting the cake and us getting zilch – but it was their birthday. The dogs I've had since i grew up won't touch cake – they just steal steaks off he grill outside. We're trying cupcakes this year.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  19. Joanne M Edmonton, Alberta

    Never underestimate the intelligence of your dog. Recently our local news did a story on pooches and stated that on average, dogs have the mentality of a 2 year old and they can comprehend up to 165 words. Which is probably more knowledge AND vocabulary than your pub crawlers downstairs. I have 2 dogs, Roli is 4 and Sammy is 6 and on the rare occasion when they aren't at home when I get here, the silence is the lonliest sound on earth. I love your stories and I follow your every tweet. My favorite was last hump day! Thanks for being Jack Gray.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  20. Jen, Albany NY

    Great column, very funny!
    Dogs are the best!

    Happy Birthday Sammy! 🙂

    August 19, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
  21. Angie-Toronto, Canada

    Thanks Jack for making me smile, it's nice to see I'm not the only dog lover.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  22. Martha

    Very funny column... We have a lovable whippet named Skoshi. She's our second child who just turned 10. For a sight hound whose top running speed can reach 37 mph she's really more of a couch potato. We call her our “love sponge” and we don't know what we would do without her.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  23. Wiggles

    I love this article – I do the same things you do – sing, baby talk – my doggie is my child.

    Happy Birthday Sammy and if it makes you feel better, my dog has fleas too. Has cost me a fortune getting rid of them and getting her comfortable again but anything for her.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
  24. alexander

    I suppose Sammy is that beautiful dog. why everybody greet it. who is her owner plz.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  25. alexander

    happy day sammy

    August 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  26. Michelle

    Great hearing from you Jack. Say happy 35th to Sammy
    for me. That is her age in dog years.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
  27. Beth

    That was brilliant! Happy Birthday Sammy!

    August 19, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  28. monica

    i have had my dog blackie for about 10 years. got him at the pound, a lesbian couple moved and couldnt take him with them. he is a good dog. just likes woman more than men. kinda neurotic. sleeps with his head under my hubbys side of the bed. sings (howls) to me alot. has a great big smart bump on his head and is really smart. keeps grandkids in the yard by coralling them. runs interference when they try to escape. cuts em off at the pass, so to speak. sits under kids chairs at the table waiting for crumbs to fall. he's part black lab, part poodle i guess. black and hairy. pretty though. good dog.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  29. Steve, Wisconsin

    Happy Birthday, Sammy! Love the glasses. I'll do a shot of Jack Daniels tonight with my cat in your honor.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  30. Sharon...in Nova Scotia, aka DD (twitter)

    I love reading something that touches both my brain and my dog-lovin' heart. My brilliant, sensitive terri-poo Meggie was 17 when I had to let her go. We had a rocky road at times, but she never waivered from my side. I'm so lucky to now have a husband who also wags his tail when I come home, but I'll never forget that special relationship. Meggie did not steal my cigs (which, incidentally I gave up 8 months ago after 37 years – she would have been proud). She did however, fancy the occasional chew of other smoking materials she found in couch cushions, which perhaps explained her having wisdom beyond her species. Happy birthday Sammy!

    August 19, 2009 at 7:21 pm |
  31. corvedacosta

    the dog is beautiful

    August 19, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  32. Steve

    Adorable dog and a post that makes you smile...Happy Birthday puppy!

    August 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm |
  33. Naomi

    awe,that was incredibly sweet! Happy Birthday sammy

    August 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm |
  34. Dee

    As I sit here, listening to a book, and flipping between twitter and facebook, I totally enjoyed your birthday salute to your sweet dog. Sophie, my black lab is 16 months old. She is my shadow, and my heart. I've had her for a year this week and each day has been an adventure because I get to see the world through a dog's eyes.
    So keep enjoying Sammy, and thanks for the great story.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  35. Diane

    Happy Birthday Sammy!

    These greetings come from me and my basenji mix, Miss Samantha Jane Noodles, aka Sammy.

    Sammy and I lost our best friend, Hanna, the yellow labrador, in December after a battle with cancer. I still miss Hanna every day, and I don't know what I'd do without Sammy to snore softly by my side.

    Glad you and Sammy have each other.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  36. Sharon

    I lost my 9 year old yellow lab, Miles to cancer this past April. I cannot tell you how much my husband and I miss the sound of that LOUD snoring as he would stretch out on the sofa without a care in the world. We still have two Golden Retrivers we love dearly, but Miles was our angel and funny, funny love bug. Enjoy every minute with Sammy and spoil her silly on this birthday and thank you for sharing your special girl's story.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  37. Ann Michele

    Happy Birthday Sammy,

    from Tia (another sweet snoring black lab)

    PS- note to Jack Gray- you are not completely dogified until someone catches you trying to get Sammy to say "Arf, Arf, U"

    August 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  38. Karen Zappa

    Happy Birthday Sammy, from me and my pal Sassey!
    Great blog ,Jack (as always). We love you both!

    August 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  39. Cherie...Toronto, Canada

    Happy Birthday Sammy! You're right Jack...the sound of your little angel snoring is THE best sound in the world...so soothing. I never realized how blessed I was with my cat, Mimi, for 14 years, until we had to let her go to kitty heaven last month. Losing her makes me cherish every second with my dog, Chloe, who, along with me, misses her terribly. Thanks for such a touching blog, as usual.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  40. lali

    happy birthday sammy!

    August 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  41. lali

    oh such a sweet post about your dog, it made me miss my dog , lulu which we had to put to sleep just last friday due to renal failure she was 11 and her miss her company so much.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  42. Jennifer NC

    Great blog as always Jack! My Black Lab Flash is almost 9 and has an aversion to storm drains (refuses to walk near them) and bridges (hates to walk over them). She definitely is part of my health care since she demands several nice long walks to go and see her many friends each day. Her birthday is next month and will be celebrated with a trip to the local popsicle shop (they have pops for dogs too) and a trip to PetSmart for a new toy.
    Happy Birthday Sammy!

    August 19, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  43. stephen geevers

    Happy Birthday Sammy. Please give Jack a big warm fuzzy hug for loving you so much and for sharing your birthday with his friends.
    PJ ( Stephen's Jack Russell)

    August 19, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  44. Cathy Madden

    Happy Happy Birthday to Sammy!
    The highlight of my day is walking through the back door and seeing our Jack Russell, Butters, waiting to jump on me in pure delight. I can attest to the restorative power of puppy love: when Butters crawls into my lap and nuzzles his cold nose against my face, I can feel my blood pressure dropping. Butters eats with me and sleeps with me and we take long walks together... He even loves me enough to sit still while I sing to him – Blondie is his favorite. Even he's only been in my life for 2 years, I can't remember what my life was like before he came.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  45. Zach

    Happy Birthday Sammy!!! and congrats to you Jack on being brave enough to blog about your best pal. I have a papillon named Marie who in her first six months (now 18 mos) was spade at 5 mos then broke one of her little tiny leg in two spots while jumping haphazardly at home and had to spend two months confined while it healed. I spent every hour at her side and slept next to her on a camping pad with the backaches to prove it. Marie and I have been inseparable ever since. She knows when I am sad or not feeling well and reaches up from my lap to give me extra kisses to cheer me up and make me laugh. I was always a cat person all my life but after Marie came into my life I can understand why dogs are man's best friends.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  46. Marcia Carter

    Oreo (17 months old shih tzu) says Happy Birthday to Sammy! I help my people keep healthy, I beg for food so they don't overeat. I make them take me out, so they get exercise (otherwise they'd never get out of their chairs). I chase my tail and they laugh so hard it's like exercise. And I still have time to snuggle and that keeps their blood pressure down. Now if only they'd look the other way when I want quality time with Rosalie the siamese cat. Not that I'm sure why I want it. I mean, they chopped off my nads, man. Yay, me, I'm Oreo!

    August 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
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