The Story of Sam the Christmas Dog

Christmas dog(By Martin Grant, Dean of Science)

Many years ago, I made a homemade CD to send to family and friends at Christmas.  I got the idea from my brother Nick, who had done something similar the previous year.  The CD was called The Story of Sam the Christmas Dog.  There was some narration by me, my wife, our children and dog, and some silly songs.  All of this was to illuminate a silly story about how our dog Sam searches for and then finds the true meaning of Christmas (by the way, according to Sam: seeing family and friends, relaxing and having fun, and not taking yourself too seriously).

For your amusement this holiday season, I enclose one of those silly songs: Silent Night [.mp3].  Listen as much, or as little as you like, to me and my friend Steve goofing around, with some barking in the background.  Sam was a good dog, as my family told him many times; he died in 2005, just before I started as Dean.

I have noticed that University administrators can be defined, and almost caricatured by small things.  A previous administrator at McGill liked to hunt – he also liked detective novels, and had a soft spot for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band – but it was the hunting that stuck, for better or worse.  Perhaps mostly for the worse.

Some administrators try to circumvent this pigeon-holing by promoting their own caricatures, usually in the form of hagiographies.  For example, “It all started in a small town in Prince Edward Island.  I remember my Dad pulling our old Rambler to the side of the dirt road next to Anne of Green Gable’s homestead so we could listen to the first moon landing on the radio.  It was a day I’ll never forget, which changed my life.”  But for my money the simultaneous revelation and concealment of a hagiography, with the inherent and amateurish maudlin self-aggrandizement, rarely catches the ear of an audience.

When it was announced in early 2005 that I was going to talk over as Dean of Science, a reporter from our University newspaper called me, and interviewed me.  After various technical questions to establish who I was and what I planned to do, I was asked the following question: you play guitar don’t you?  I thought for a second.  I thought about my colleague the hunter, and my colleagues from small towns with their colorful histories of triumphs over adversity.  For better or worse, I said, yes.

Happy holidays to all, may the spirit of Sam the Christmas dog, and Rudolf and all the reindeers illuminate your days with family and friends!

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