S a m a n t i c shttp://www.potomacvalleysams.com/Samantics.html

When you are walking a Samoyed and encounter a stranger, chances are they are going to ask what breed your pup is.  Or, as has been my experience around Washington, D.C., they may exclaim confidently:  “White Chow!”

Among the exceptions to this phenomenon has been a gentleman named “Pete” who we (my Samoyed, Gidget, and I) began seeing several years ago in the park between the U.S. Senate office buildings and Union Station.  I remember the first time we met Pete because he was unusually knowledgeable of Samoyeds.  A breed, he said, that he had been well-acquainted with growing up in Michigan. 

Gidget was instantly smitten with Pete and showered his face with sammy kisses, which he repaid with one of her favorite things:  ear rubs -- the quickest non-edible way to Gidget’s heart.

Another reason I remember that first encounter is that Pete was pushing all his worldly possessions in a grocery cart and sitting atop it all was a globe, situated so that he could spin it around and see all of Earth as he walked around Capitol Hill.  

Our usual morning walk took us through the park around 6:30 a.m. and invariably there would be Pete, sitting on a particular park bench along a diagonal sidewalk on which congressional staffers walk to and from the Union Station Metro subway stop and their offices in the Hart, Dirksen and Russell Senate Office Buildings.  Pete kept up a running banter with pedestrians and sometimes solicited a cigarette, not hard to come by among the stressed demographic making that commute.  Often, someone would hand Pete a coffee or something to eat from Union Station and continue on their way to work.

As soon as Pete saw us coming he’d exclaim loudly:  “Gidget!!!!”  

And she’d respond by putting her ears back, shaking her tail vigorously and yanking me across the lawn so Pete could give her an ear rub and she could lick his face.  Before long Pete was introducing Gidget to passerby as his “girlfriend” who was making other women in his life jealous. 

Gidget would play along and give him another kiss to buttress his claim.  Pete seemed not to bathe often but that certainly did not dissuade Gidget.  Petting Gidget became a common ground for Pete and the pedestrians.

After their morning pleasantries, Pete would eventually ask me how I was doing and we would talk for a few minutes before I needed to move along.  Most mornings the conversation was light-hearted, normal banter about weather and such.  Other times there were indications of mental illness that may have explained Pete’s homelessness.  At these times he would often talk about how the CIA had killed his fiance and that they were still after him but he was refurbishing a ship at Norfolk to leave the country.  He said he had once been a mariner, which would not surprise me as he did have the look of an aging, perhaps once dapper, sailor. 

There were a few days the discussion was heartbreaking, as Pete would recount having been accosted the night before while trying to sleep -- usually a few blocks away near the homeless shelter.  He would be understandably bitter about those episodes but he’d light up upon seeing Gidget, giving her a good petting and collecting her kisses.

Pete’s collection of stuff grew and eventually he was pushing two grocery carts piled high and within a few years, three carts.  In the past year, the three carts were usually parked on the sidewalk at the Exxon station next to the Heritage Foundation.  He covered them with plastic if rain threatened.  He had a steady stream of new acquaintances on this Massachusetts Avenue sidewalk. 

Last fall, a new Samoyed came into his life:  Blaze.  Well short of one year old, she was similarly affectionate with Pete and he with her.  But it was only an occasional encounter as Blaze lives in Maryland and months have passed since she last stayed with me.  Gidget was still his main gal. 

It has been a few months since we have seen Pete.  His shopping carts disappeared.  

We’re going to look for him tomorrow.  Gidget misses her sailor.  And he surely misses his girlfriend.


The Gidg & The Sailor

by Tamara Somerville

© 2011

AKC-licensed Specialty Club

© 2011 Potomac Valley Samoyed Club, Inc.

Samoyed Club of America Member

Addendum:  Pete Bis died on August 16, 2012.  He will be missed and long remembered by many.

Click on this box for a news article on Pete’s passing