by Alan R. Thompson
I guess, when it comes to the history of our dogs and their people, you can find just about any fact or pronunciation you want if you look long enough. I’m amazed by the diversity of truths about this dog. Whether you call it “Sam-oy-yed, Sam-a-yed, Sammy-yed” [Betsy Sidora Siino, Samoyeds, Barron’s Educational Series, 1998], or an awfully big American Eskimo; whether you believe the Samoyede (with or without the final e) made their dogs stay outside all the time or took them into their homes, or chooms, or whatever they lived in, to share their beds and their warmth at night; how you believe they got their food; or what color you believe the original dogs were, there’s someone who has written something that will back you up as being right. Which only proves what I’ve believed since shortly after I graduated from university, my mind full of mostly useless “facts” and other thought-limiting garbage, and started wandering in the real world: history is fiction based on fact (much like a Hollywood movie), written by someone with something to gain from that point of view, i.e., that’s “his story”. Now that women are finally allowed to express themselves in public, we’re starting to get “her story,” too. (In fact, I much prefer reading the women’s accounts of migration across the American continent to men’s. They usually give far more insight into the motivations, the actual conditions encountered, suffered, and–glory be–occasionally even enjoyed. But I digress.)
I could tell you that my two dictionaries (Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, International Edition, 1961; and Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary, Canadian Edition, 1988] both give the pronunciation as something closest to sam-uh-yed’ but would that matter? No, just like I can tell people how to spell and pronounce my name but no one really cares. “What difference does it make?” one (adjectives deleted) guy told me once. Well, my name means a lot to me. But to a Samoyed? I doubt he even knows what you’re talking about, and cares even less. So, rather than endure further corrections by the ignorant public (those who don’t know what kind of dog it is when they see it but know better than I how to pronounce it), I will henceforth call them “Sammies.”
I do not write this to argue with anyone or to offend anyone. I am just getting a little frustrated trying to reconcile all the different histories one dog has lived. I’ve decided to write my own and be done with it. Remember, this is a “true his story.”
Now it seems there were these two kissing-cat cousins in Egypt that gave birth to a strange looking baby which all the other cats called “the ugly kitten.” It was white and black and brown and red, but not all at once. No, each day, when the sun rose, it would be a different color. But worst of all, it couldn’t, by the wildest journey of imagination, be honestly called a CAT! Finally, the Queen of all Egyptian cats declared one day, “That thing is just Sum Ol Yed!” (Yed was an old Egyptian Cat slang word for despicable creature, i.e. dog.) And thus “the ugly kitten” was known henceforth.
All the other kittens made fun of Sum Ol Yed and wouldn’t let him join in any kitten games. Finally Sum Ol Yed could take it no longer and he ran away from home. He wandered through one of the largest kitty boxes in the world, the Egyptian desert, for weeks, catching Egyptian mice and whatever else he could find, and burying his excrement as any proper kitty would do.
One day he came upon an oasis in the desert. At the first scent of water he began running. When he got to the edge of the pool of water, he dove right in and began swimming and drinking until he was cooled off and had satisfied his thirst.
As he was walking out of the water, a thought suddenly came to him–CATS HATE WATER! Stopping dead in his tracks, he turned around and looked at the pool of water. He couldn’t believe he’d actually gone swimming in it. Then slowly the image of himself reflected in the water started to take form in his mind. There emerged a glorious sight of a beautiful white, long-haired creature with a tail like the leaf of a palm tree curled up over his back.
While he was admiring his new self, a camel caravan of nomadic Arabs came to the oasis. They, too, were stricken with the beauty of this all-white creature with the built-in turban around his head and his own attached palm fan. When they left the oasis, they took him with them. It is rumored that he was included in the trade for Joseph (the one with the amazing technicolor dream coat) but that has never been confirmed.
Somehow, he made his way all the way to the Arctic where it is believed he mated with a mer-seal who produced the first litter of Sum Ol Yed puppies from which all the great white northern dogs we call Sammies are descended.
Oh yes, once he learned he was not a cat, but a dog, he forsook the feline ritual of excrement burial. Still, he occasionally forgets himself and scratches the ground a time or two in the general direction, perhaps more out of contempt for the way those Egyptian kittens treated him than out of any sanitary considerations.