Samson, A True Cardigan Hero

Samson Brian Delinte with Samson

It was a cold and overcast day in the end of December in 2005. There was no wind, a rarity in the very southwestern corner of Alberta. A black and white Cardigan corgi played a large role in a cowboy's life. There had been a chinook, which brought mixed blessings. The warmer temperatures were easier on the cattle but hell on the footing as it did not last long enough to melt everything just long enough to make the trails very icy. This can be bad enough out on the plains but on the very edge of the Rockies it can be downright crazy!

Brian Delinte ranches cattle (Aberdeen Angus) near Pincher Creek, Alberta. Brian himself trains and trials with border collies. A couple of years ago he bought a Cardigan corgi named Samson as a gift to his daughter.

Samson was a natural outdoorsdog, and wanted to come along whenever Brian rode out to work the cattle. Brian tried hard to get the corgi to stay home, but he wouldn't. One day that paid off Brian was riding a 15 hand, 5-year-old, sorrel gelding with a good start on training, but in need of experience. Checking on the 150 head of Angus yearlings was going to be good practice. Samson, of course, wanted to go, but was sent home a mere 250 yards away. In his true corgi fashion he just went to the edge of the trees and remained "lurking around in case he was needed".

Taking things easy, staying calm and quiet, Brian spotted a yearling in need of some doctoring so he threw a long loop and only caught the cow around the top of the head. The yearling went right and the horse went straight, down a hill. On the ice things went bad in a hurry. As the horse lost his footing and went down. Brian's leg was pinned underneath and they were still skidding down the hill, the bones were not taking this well but the worst was yet to come. A six inch square rock was above the ice and right in the path of the slide. They both went over the rock, but Brian's leg took most of the force and crumpled. Finally they came to a stop.

The horse was not hurt and got to his feet with ease and Brian held on to the Macardie (a type of reins) and was dragged a little way. Horses are used to dragging cows not people in pain. When they came to a halt Brian tried to get up but he had no control of his lower leg, it would just flop around this way and that. After a little **'/#@#* language and still holding on to the horse, he knew that Samson would be not far away. He called Samson and sure enough there he was still "lurking" on the edge of the bushes. He came running at the sound of his name, leapt over the good leg and onto the broken leg. ##**'! That would usually send the dog heading for cover but he stayed.

Brian felt he knew there was something really wrong. With great discomfort he removed the spur from the boot on his good leg. It would not fit around the large corgi neck so he slipped it into the collar. This left it dragging on the ground and bumping into Samson's legs. Brian sent the dog home. The hardest thing for Samson to do was leave, it was the one command that he rarely obeyed.

First Samson went to where the Border Collies were tied up (Samson is the only dog never tied up). It was as if he was trying to get help from the regular cattle dogs. Brian could see this going on and yelled at him to go home, he had to encourage him to leave him and the other dogs. Finally Samson went and climbed the 14 steps, up an open log, icy stairway to the deck in front of the house. There he walked back and forth. Clunk, clank, clunk, clank went the spur on the lumber deck in the front of the house.

Brian's daughter Rae came out at the odd sound and there was Samson with the spur still dangling from his collar as he paced back and forth on the deck. Spur quickly removed and a look out to the fields and meadows. There was the saddled sorrel gelding but no rider, no dad!

Rae kept her head and went straight to the horse, caught him up and rode him back to the shed. Fired up the four door, 3/4 ton diesel truck and out to the field. She used a stock prod, a window washer, and good ole duct tape to put on a field splint. Brian commented that as soon as the splint was put on, the pain was less. With Rae holding the broken, mangled, crushed leg Brian lifted himself backwards into the back seat of the truck and off they went to Pincher Creek Hospital.

Staff cut off his boot but he would not let them cut the sole as then they would not be fixable, Cowboys! Looking at the x-ray - 7 breaks at the rock impact and 2 places above that - Pincher Creek recognized that he needed help they could not supply, so he was sent to Lethbridge via a bumpy ambulance ride.

Brian was in for a wild ride medically. Morphine for the pain, lots of morphine for lots of pain, pin and four screws into the bone, then Compartment Syndrome (no circulation) so they lanced open on both sides of his leg to relieve the pressure. They ended up sewing together the inside cut but not the out side. As Brian was recovering, one of his specialists, making conversation while he examined the leg, put Samson's role in sharp perspective. Had Brian taken as little as an hour longer to get medical help, his leg would probably have had to be amputated. There were so many blood vessels blocked that gangrene would have been likely. The first round of surgery, in fact, was to free up blood circulation, as well as to fit the bones back together.

It is hard for easterners in the 2000+ decade to realize that there is no cell phone service way out in the remote ranchland. Brian is walking and riding and being regular now, but it was a long and arduous go for he and his family. It had a happy ending thanks to the black and white corgi named Samson, who even though he did not go that far was there "lurking" in the bushes just when he was needed. Maybe that is why they insist on being so close? They do not trust us to not get into a fix we cannot get out off.

To assess heroism all round, we need some perspective. Had this accident taken place in the 1890s, when Pincher Creek was first settled, Brian would almost certainly have died, after several days without medical care for the inevitable gangrene. A century ago (1906), when Pincher Creek became a town, he would have had access to a doctor, but maybe only after a day or two. So he might have lived, but he would certainly have lost the leg. Fifty years ago his survival would not have been in question, and the chances of saving the leg were probably 50-50. Today, with the help of an excellent medical system, an alert and quick-witted daughter, a truck and good roads, and a small dog who did what was asked, he is walking and riding again after only months. If we could ask the dog, he would probably say what many human heroes say afterwards - "Shucks, I just did what seemed right at the time".

Lore Bruder, Pincher Creek AB
Published in the Canadian Cardigan Corgi Club's Newsletter, July 2006