Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Tucker 1999-2013

    When we first saw Tucker, he was tied up to the front porch of the VFW Hall in Fall City with a rope around his neck. He was about six months old and already very handsome. We were in town to celebrate Fathersʼ Day with our annual fun run outing and the VFW Hall was hosting a pre-run pancake breakfast. With our bellies full, we exited the front door and there he was. They were giving him away. Of course the kids wanted him. The four of us took a vote, and I abstained, which was as good as a yes, because he was a cool dog. I wanted him, too. We couldnʼt take him on the run, so we decided weʼd do the course and if he was still at the hall after the run, weʼd take him on a test walk.

 On the walk he was well behaved and smart. The people on the porch told us he was house trained, they just couldnʼt keep him, but he was a good family dog. You can tell by the photo I took of him with Clare on that first day how she felt about him.She about changed her mind when people in Fall City were stopping her to compliment her on her pit bull, because she was scared heʼd turn ferocious. Truth is, he was always as gentle as could be. You could have a tiny piece of chicken (which he went wild for) lodged between your fingers, and he would edge it out of there with his teeth and tongue in a way that youʼd never even get scared of him biting you. Where on the other hand, if heʼd wanted to, his jaws were strong enough to break the bones in my forearm. 

 We did have to socialize him a bit, so he didnʼt pounce on Lukas when he was outside reading in the sun, or take Rhiannonʼs legs out from under her when they were kicking the soccer ball in the back yard. 

Zack in high school was big enough by then that Tucker would mostly listen to him. He didnʼt care about fetching that much, but he loved chasing the Frisbee. Zack and I got in a game one day where we overdid it with him and had to rub ice on his tongue to bring him back, he was panting so hard. 

Tucker sent Lukas off to school every year from his first day in kindergarten to when he left for college.

He loved to go on long runs with us, and if Clare and I couldnʼt run together, he would be happy to go out twice, an enthusiasm that ended with him having four knee surgeries. After he got the cone off, we were on to walks around the neighborhood. 

He was a smart dog, and he was his own person. He agreed to do tricks, more because he was a good friend than because he liked to. But he learned a lot of them.

I noticed on our walks that he would be turning around and looking at certain cars when they passed. It took me a while to catch on that they were always Priuses, which is the car I drive. I developed a theory that if he could recognize the shape of a car so quickly, that he could also learn how to recognize the shape of a word on a flash card. I just made three: Sit, Lay Down, and Rollover. I gave him treats for that and he learned how to read. 

I got so close to him that I started thinking of him as some kind of dog version of myself. I would look at him sometimes and just know he was a human in a dog suit. He was so much my alter ego that I entered a self portrait into a contest one year that was a painting of him wearing a Pendleton fedora that my dad had passed on to me.

Many pieces of art were either made for him, such as old socks made into stuffed toys that the kids put in his Christmas stocking, or of him: drawings, paintings and sculptures. Lukas read in the book on mourning pets that Dr. Rickman gave us that it was a good idea to make artwork of your lost loved one.

I wrote this in my journal the night he died: “When he wanted a biscuit, you knew it, because he let you know it with all his heart. It flowed through him and into you, and you paid him that biscuit because he was one with the wanting, and so you became one with it, too. He steered you to the cookie jar, the one where the biscuits were kept, and once he had you standing there, he stood staring at the jar until you stared at it, too. You were both there staring at the jar, waiting for something to happen when you realized it was you who was going to make it happen, you with the height advantage and the opposable thumb. You watched your hand reach out and you began to wonder, ʻAm I making this happen, or is he?ʼ Your hand reaches out, arrives at the jar, removes the lid, reveals the biscuits. You both
know what is going to happen next. His tail is wagging furiously. You put your hand in the jar, retrieve a biscuit, and bring it down toward his face. He lifts his left paw off the floor and clicks the nails down on the hard tile simultaneously with the clamping of his jaws on the treat. He runs to his rug by the door, paws sliding as they try to motor across the slick tiles, gaining just enough traction to pull into a skid at his rug, where he breaks the biscuit into pieces, each of which he relishes as he crunches and chews them up.”

It was the same with walks. I would think I was putting my shoes on for another reason, only to learn from him that it was because we were going for a walk together. As he got older and more arthritic, we had to shorten our route. When we got to the place where we would usually start the longer walk around Haller Lake, he stopped me and stared in the direction of the long path, expectant. I had to break it to him that he wasnʼt up to it anymore, what with the creaky knees and arthritic, limp-inducing elbow.

 Tucker put us through some scares over the years. One time I was on campus getting ready to teach a class and Meesha, the girl next door who we could always count on to help us take care of Tucker, called and said he was running around the neighborhood, bleeding. My first thought was that canʼt be true, I left him inside with all the doors and windows shut and locked. Then I realized thatʼs why heʼd be bleeding.

 The day before, he woke us up, talking to us about something we couldnʼt figure out. We thought there was an intruder in the house or that it was on fire. When we couldnʼt see any cause for his alarm, we knew that he must be seeing a ghost we couldnʼt see. We never let him into bed with us, but we thought just this once to calm him down. We had an eighty pound dog spinning circles on top of us. The vet took a blood count, and we discovered that his low thyroid level was making him psychotic. We got that regulated for the most
part with meds, but if he cheeked them or puked them up outside without us knowing about it, he could go into another episode. One day I came home to an otherwise empty house and heard water blasting into the bathtub. He was lying on the floor of the bathroom shaking after heʼd gotten into the tub and turned it on. He had to go on Xanax to calm him down sometimes when he got really bad and couldnʼt stop panting. 

We almost lost him last summer. Usually a gathering with lots of people would get him pretty excited, so we knew something was really wrong with him when all he could do was lay on his side in the cool grass. Our guests for Lukasʼs graduation party thought he was dying. I think it must have been a seizure of some kind, from which he bounced back. He got stronger again, gained a bit more of a lightness to his step, and took a bit longer walks. He
was getting greyer, but was seeming younger. We began to think perhaps maybe he would live forever. He was here when Lukas came home from college for an early spring break. Tucker was 99.

He had another seizure and he wasnʼt bouncing back. He had always been so clean in the house, and now he wasnʼt controlling himself. He couldnʼt stand up and he could hardly walk. I lifted him up to take him outside so he could toilet before bedtime. He did so, but then he took the long walk to the back of the yard, and lay down in the bushes at the base of our white birch. He was ready to die. I couldnʼt leave him there and picked him up to carry him inside. In the next couple of days, we decided to call Dr. Rickman to put him down. I was feeling guilty that the last walk I had taken him on, I had rushed him too much. I wanted our last walk to be perfect together. I got a wagon to wheel him around the loop one last time. He wouldnʼt go in it, and Lukas said he thought Tucker would take a real walk with me.

This was his last gift to me: Tucker rallied and we went for a leisurely walk around the block. I let him go off leash like he liked to and waited for him, letting him do whatever he wanted, and we had our perfect little walk. He was light enough on his feet, then he had nothing left when we got back. We had to carry him in a blanket to the living room where we let him go.
! He was patient, and let us dress him up, especially for the holidays. Every year we sent out Christmas cards that involved Tucker wearing some sort of hat, antlers, or ears, and a bright scarf. He endured the pose in a stay, knowing that a treat was coming after the photo shoot.

Zack brought Molly into our lives, and they together brought us Everleigh. Before she could talk, we would say “Tucker” to her and she would pant back “huh-uh-huh-uh-huh-uh” letting us know she was already well attached to this beast many times her size. They told her he was going to be with the angels the night Dr. Rickman came to visit us to put Tucker down. She had to ask twice, because she didnʼt like the answer to her question, “But heʼs coming back, right?”

We have lost a friend, a brother, a part of us. There is a huge hole in our lives where he used to be. It is so sad now to come home and not have him there wagging his tail to greet us, so
hard for me even to go upstairs to my bedroom without helping him up the stairs so he can sleep by me. He was precious to us. We are grateful for having him as long as we did. Tucker, we will see you later. We love you. 


Monday, February 4, 2013



I was lucky to have had my beloved Coco with me for 13 ½ years.  It seems like only yesterday he was just a tiny little kitten demanding my attention.  It seems like I only had him in my life for a very brief time.  My precious sunshine has left me and I miss him so much.
My beloved Coco, you can now rest in peace and be free to run on the green grass.  I will carry you forever in my heart and never forget how much joy you, my little angel, brought into my life.
-Dora Z