My wife and I were in our mid twenties and married back in 1987 when we went to choose our first Golden Retriever puppy.
The owner of the dog which had given birth had bred the pups to give herself a puppy and there were 9 others bouncing around a pen where they were exercising in the large farmyard/garden.
We watched as a donkey went past and 10 small pups sat with tails wagging and heads turning watching the strange sight in front of them. Then 1 pup turned and raced to us and at that point we knew we had been chosen by the new member of our family.
Sam was very bright and only had one accident in the house although he wasn't all good! During the course of the next year of his puppyhood, he ate two vinyl floors, a kitchen wall, a hallway carpet and two pine stools. He also had green paws and loved to eat indoor plants, the larger the better.
We lived just 10 minutes walk from the South Downs in Sussex and twice a day he exercised there leaping through the grass and shrubs. He also loved to swim in the nearby River Adur and loved the sea leaping at the waves.
He was joined after a year or so by two Human sisters Emma and Sarah, who he helped look after and whom called him Nana Sam.
When his newly born first sister Emma was in her pram, he used to insert himself between her and strangers ready to protect her from any danger.
Now when we look at old photos from back then there is always a tail or nose in those photos as he joined in with the activities of those humans he loved the most.
This was especially true with our kids. He always joined in with their games and later on when he was joined by a young Golden Retriever puppy called Rocky, he showed him the way a Golden Retriever pup should join a family.
Where he was always most content however was lying next to my wife and I, his best friends. It didn't matter whether it was the sofa, the garden, or the bottom of the bed, we'd hear him breathing softly with a soft furry head on our laps.
The years pass however without pause and the dreaded time came after a tumour developed on his side. The vet operated and he enjoyed another 18 months of life but the tumour reappeared and then spread throughout his system and the time came when it was selfish to see him suffer in order to spare ourselves the pain of his going.
His final day was a Saturday. He bore his pain with a stoicism which was hard to match.
It was sunny and bright and the vet had made sure we were first in without waiting. He was put to sleep breathing his last with his head on my lap.
Later that day in the garden all of us were present as he was buried and a flowering cherry tree (Sams tree) was planted next to the spot. He was the first member of our family and has never been forgotten.
We have two new boys now, Harvey and Biggles, but Sam or Saint Sam as our girls call him now, will never be forgotten.
He had a long and happy life 18/04/1987 to 17/11/2001 he was and still is my best friend