Sharing Sam

Happy, relaxed golden retriever, story about pitfalls of dog sharing

Two houses, two sets of rules… how long could they all go on?

“It’s from Adrienne and Jack,” Rob said as if the lilac envelope on the kitchen table could have been from anyone else. “They want to talk about The Dog.”

“What’s he done this time?” Fran said, looking down at the Golden Retriever sprawled against the back door on his back, his tongue lolling out of his mouth like a slice of ham.

“It doesn’t say.”

“What if they’ve changed their minds?”

“They can’t,” Rob said, going pale. “We have an agreement.”

“But they’ve never asked to meet up to talk about him before.”

As Fran looked across at Sam, he disappeared behind a haze of tears.

If she’d known sharing a dog would be such a minefield, she would never have signed up for it.

They wanted a dog, but were both working. Someone suggested dog-share; they had looked into it and found themselves paired up with Adrienne and Jack.

“Adrienne and Jack both work evenings and weekends,” the woman at the agency said. “And you both work weekdays. What could be more perfect?”

They’d met to discuss their future shared pet over dinner and had decided on a Golden Retriever, Adrienne said, to blend in with the décor in her kitchen where he would have a bed beside the deep red Aga.

Fran had been horrified, but then Adrienne had nudged her and burst out laughing.

“Don’t worry, I was only joking. I’ve always had a soft spot for Golden Retrievers. Our neighbour had one when I was a child.”

For a while it worked OK. Jack dropped Sam round in the afternoons and Fran took him for a walk when she got home.

She returned him the following morning after a romp round the woods on her way to work.

One day Fran left a yellow sticky note on Adrienne and Jack’s fridge.

Sam has been eating grass and is a little bilious.

She’d got home from work that evening to find no Sam, just a lilac letter propped up on the kitchen table.

Sam is at the vet’s having tests.

Hands shaking, stomach in knots, Fran called the vet.

“He’s ready to be collected,” the receptionist said. “You can probably hear him barking.”

When Fran and Rob arrived to pick Sam up, the vet said, “There is nothing wrong with him. He is disgustingly healthy. Adrienne insisted I admitted him for blood tests and I did it to put her mind at rest.”

In her next letter, Adrienne complained about Fran teaching The Dog to “shake hands” after he’d laddered her tights.

It’s very sweet, but I’ve been through six pairs this week.

Jack struggled to make Sam walk to heel because Fran and Rob allowed him to run wild.

Then Fran found the choke chain attached to his lead.

She threw it straight in the bin and left a sticky note on Adrienne’s fridge saying that she didn’t see the need for such a cruel object.

I didn’t realise they were cruel, Adrienne wrote. I’ve never had a dog before. It’s just that Sam nearly pulled Jack over trying to chase a squirrel. I thought it was a solution. I’m sorry.

Maybe you should let him off the lead, Fran suggested gently in her next note. He’s a big dog, he needs to run
off some energy.

Adrienne’s reply was short and to the point. But what if he runs away?

And now this.

“They’re going to take him away from us.”

“They can’t. We’re joint owners. Dog sharing partners.”

“But what if it goes to court? We can’t afford a lawyer.

“They live in Aga And Lilac Notepaper Land, whereas we live in broken-oven-have-to-use-microwave and sticky-note ville.

“He hasn’t even got a bed of his own here.”

“Because he doesn’t need one. He sleeps on our bed or on the sofa or wherever he likes and it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t blend in with the decor.

“Look, I’m sure it won’t come to that anyway,” Rob said, but his face had gone all red and blotchy the way it always did when he was worried. “They suggest we meet for lunch on Saturday.”

“We could run away,” Fran said. “Take Sam and just go. They’d never find us.”

“Until someone scanned his microchip. And what would we do for work? How would we live?”

“I wasn’t being serious – but we have to do something.”

Her lip wobbled. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing Sam.

It was bad enough that he spent half his time with Adrienne and Jack with their rules and regulations and choke chains and walking to heel and absolutely no fun.

She wanted him here at home, sleeping on the sofa or on her bed or bounding around the woods chasing squirrels.

By Saturday, Fran had purple circles round her eyes and Rob’s fuse was so short, it was a wonder he didn’t start throwing out sparks. Sam watched them get ready to go out with his big brown sad seal-eyes.

“Don’t you worry about a thing, Sam,” Fran said, massaging his velvety ears. “We won’t let them take you away from us.”

But then a thought struck her. What if he’d rather live with them?

Adrienne fussed and worried about him and spent a fortune on posh beds and fancy toys. Perhaps he liked all that.

“We won’t be long, Sam,” Fran said. “We’ll take you for a nice long walk when we get home. If…” Her voice cracked.

“Don’t torture yourself,” Rob said.

Sam shuffled forward anxiously and when she looked back through the glass in the front door, Fran could still see him sitting there, staring at the door.

Adrienne and Jack were waiting, immaculate as always.

Fran had never been so aware of the yellow fur on her black trousers or the fact that she smelled of dog since she’d been cuddling Sam most of the morning.

“Play it cool,” Rob said as they walked over.

“So what did you want to talk to us about?” Fran blurted.

“The Dog of course,” Adrienne said. “I think it’s time we reviewed our situation.”

“It’s been almost two years,” Jack put in.

“And instead of getting easier, it’s getting more difficult.”

“We have different expectations of him,” Adrienne said. “You seem to treat him as some sort of substitute child, letting him sleep on the bed and so on.”

“No, we don’t,” Fran protested. “He’s just family, that’s all. You’re the one that rushes him off to the vet if he so much as sneezes!”

Adrienne looked across at Jack and smiled. Fran saw love in that smile. It worried her.

“Our circumstances are about to change,” Adrienne announced. “I’m going to have a baby.”

Fran didn’t think it possible that her spirits could drop any further. So Adrienne would be home all day and could have Sam full-time. There would be no further need to dog-share.

“Congratulations,” she said, forcing a smile. “That’s wonderful news.”

“We are rather pleased,” Jack said, looking more than rather pleased as he squeezed Adrienne’s hand.

“As I said, things are going to change. We have to think of the future now, better schools and so on, and that means moving away.”


It was worse than she’d ever imagined. If they moved away, she’d never see Sam again.

“We appreciate this must have come as a shock,” Adrienne went on.

“We’re really sorry to let you down, but we can’t cope with Sam as well as a house move and a new baby. We don’t think it would be fair to him.

“Perhaps you’ll be able to find someone else to be dog sharing partners.”

Fran stared at her.

“You don’t want Sam any more?”

“Fact is,” Jack said, “he’s happier with you. He’s always so keen to get back to your house.”

“And he seems sad when he’s with us,” Adrienne said wistfully. “I’ve never really got past the feeling that he’s just been on loan to us – but deep down, he’s your dog.”

Fran could hardly breathe. Her heart was pumping nineteen to the dozen.

“We’ll have to rearrange our lives,” she said. “I’ll go home from work at lunchtime and take him out.”

“Depending on what I’m working on, I can take him in to work with me some days,” Rob suggested.

“It’s going to be such an upheaval for you,” Adrienne said, stricken.

“We’re so sorry to spring this on you.”

“Don’t be,” Fran said, smiling. “We’re just over the moon – I mean, for you of course. A new baby. How exciting.”

“Nice recovery,” Rob whispered.

Sam was still sitting in the hall when they got home, still staring at the front door. Fran rushed in and hugged him and he covered her in slobber and more yellow hair.

“You’re home now, Sam,” she said. “Home for good.”

We’re sharing a lovely dog-themed short story from our archives every Monday and Thursday during September. Look out for the next one!