Village residents rallying to help orphaned dog

Jan Elmy walks Samuel by the home of her late neighbor, Wendy Thompson of Whitehaven. Elmy has cared for the pet owned by Thompson since her tragic death in April of this year. Neighbor, Paula Erdie, left, is trying to help Elmy raise almost $2,000 to cover eye surgery for the spaniel.

At age 11, Samuel has a cataract in his left eye, and severe glaucoma in his other. So severe, the eye had to be removed Monday of this week.

In late spring, he was treated for intestinal tract and ear infections. There was the heartbreak, too, of the loss of his owner, Wendy Thompson, who was killed in an auto accident in April. For 10 years, he was her companion, and the two were part of the fabric of life in the village of Whitehaven.

It has been a hard year for the gentle, black spaniel with the mildest of temperament. 

Samuel is one of about a dozen dogs in the riverside community of 25 or so residents, three streets and no stores. From early morning to early evenings, folks take their pets for a leisurely walk in the quiet neighborhood.

And so Thompson and  Samuel often met neighbors, old and new, and walked together, week after week, month after month.

The news of her tragic death came to Whitehaven by social media and frantic phone calls. 

“I knew something was really wrong when I saw a post on Facebook from someone asking if anyone knew how to get a hold of Wendy’s daughter, Rayne,” said neighbor Jan Elmy.

The daughter lives in California.

Elmy who has lived in Whitehaven for three years, lives just a few houses down from Wendy’s home and the two came to know each other.

“Wendy and I were neighbors, but we weren’t close. We often walked our dogs at the same time,” she said. “That’s how our friendship started.”

She knew someone had to help Wendy’s pet. 

The door to Wendy’s  house was unlocked.

“I believe Cindy Curan was the first to check on Samuel,” Elmy said. It was quickly determined that a schedule had to be worked out among the neighbors to feed and walk the pet.  

Jan Elmy pets her pit bull, Mary, as she, and “Samuel the Spaniel,” take their daily walk through Whitehaven. Elmy has been caring for Samuel following the death of his owner in April.

“Cindy, who operates the Whitehaven Hotel, volunteered to take the morning walk and Sharon Roeble, (who recently moved from the village) took the evening walk. Cindy said she had a problem walking her dog and Samuel together, so I said I’d do the morning walk,” Elmy said.

“Then I began thinking, thinking that that dog shouldn’t be left alone all day in that house. He shouldn’t be by himself.

“So I told Sharon and Cindy I’d walk the dog.”

Samuel is a living link to Thompson, the companion she petted and loved, cuddled, laughed and perhaps cried with over the years together. The two always had each other. They depended on each other for comfort, love, the tender moments of life.

Then one afternoon, the sound of familiar footsteps, smells and sounds of life within the house, were gone.

There are few things in life so dear as the bond between pets and their owners, when personalities, moods, hearts and souls blend like a warm breeze, sweet and soft and mystical.

He was not just “a dog,” he was her companion in the final chapters of her life. Within his heart, Thompson lives.

“The saddest part in my relationship with Samuel was during the first two months. We only have three streets here to walk our dogs.  We had to walk by Wendy’s house sometimes, and he would pull me close to the house, and get up on the top step and look up, like Wendy was doing to open the door and let him in. It was so sad,” she said.

“But about six weeks of being with me I think he’s accepting that my home is his home now. I think we are bonded now. He likes sleeping in my bed,” she laughed.

“Rayne thought at first she would take Samuel to California, but I knew she already had a dog and at the time Samuel had some serious health issues that hadn’t been addressed. I thought it might be too much for her. I knew that Samuel needed walking, medical attention of getting three eye drops a day. We knew that Samuel’s left eye needed medical attention. Rayne had paid so much on the medical bills and eye surgery, done across the bay, was estimated to cost up to $2,500.  

“I didn’t know if I could handle the long drive with Samuel whining and carrying on the entire time because he doesn’t travel well. So I found a veterinarian in Salisbury who did the operation for about $1,180 to $1,500.”

It’s an expensive procedure, but Elmy did not want the spaniel to be in pain or discomfort by not having much-needed surgery and yet was a bit overwhelmed by the expense. “I’m a fine art painter and you know the story with most artists, always struggling financially,” she said.

Jan Elmy of Whitehaven is now taking care of Samuel, a spaniel owned by the late Wendy Thompson. She’s hoping pet lovers will help pay for the almost $2,000 eye surgery bill.

She knew she would have to rely on kind hearted friends, neighbors and strangers to help her pay for the operation.

 “Paula Erdie started me on this path because, one day, she put a $50 gift certificate in my box for dog food. I sent her a thank-you note and told her what Samuel really needed was eye surgery. She got right on it,” she said, her voice becoming a whisper. 

Erdie, vice president of the Whitehaven Heritage Association, invited Jan to a meeting to share her story about Samuel’s situation with Whitehaven folks.

“We have to help Jan. This is an expensive surgery. Samuel is a ‘neighborhood dog,’ part of the community that people love. I knew we had to do something. I thought of a Go Fund Me page, some kind of fund-raising campaign. It began word of month, people coming together to give what they could do help a dog the community loves.

Thompson had been president of the group for years. “Wendy was always working to showcase Whitehaven, working so hard to help her community,” Erdie said.”She was from a village in Britain and our community meant so much to her.”

Elmy just opened a bank account for Samuel. “I’m not a nonprofit, so the checks would have to be made out to me, with a notation on the check that the money is for ‘Samuel the Spaniel fund,’ Elmy explained. “I hope enough people care to help so that no one is financially hurt.”

 She feels it has worked out for the best, with Samuel staying in the community. Whitehaven has always been his home, and is an older dog that doesn’t travel well and he bonded with Elmy. Wendy, the story goes, had found “Samuel the Spaniel” at a shelter and adopted him, apparently knowing he had cataracts.

Elmy looked beyond his age and his medical conditions to see a lonely pet that needed love, protection and a home in the only village he had known.

Caring for a pet is like caring for a child. They rely on you for so many things and the dependency goes on for years.

Emily also has Mary, a lovable, beefy, pit bull, and the two pets are comfortable with each other now. Mary is six, and Samuel, 11. “He might be 11, but he’s not over the hill yet,” she said with a smile.

With his age comes a mark of distinction, a well-defined field of gray around his nose and mouth. He has a soft coat of dense, black curly silky hair that shimmers as he moves in sunlight. A beautiful dog, a beautiful personality. What’s not to love?

“It was just the right thing to do. I‘ve always loved animals. For a while here I was raising monarch butterflies. When I lived on Elliott’s Island for about 13 years, and I had a dog then, and, thanks to my friend Tom Horton,  I took care of about 200 Diamondback terrapins.

“Here’s what it is for me — I’m doing this because if what happened to Wendy should happen to me, I’m hoping somebody will take my dog, show the same love and compassion, and give her a good life. I think Wendy would be pleased to see people stepping up to the plate to help her dog.”

Donations to help cover the cost of surgery for Samuel may be sent to Jan Elmy at 2723 Church St., Whitehaven, Md. 21856. Please make a notation on the check that it is for “Samuel the Spaniel.” Elmy may also be contacted at 443-499-2069.

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