|Birthday Boy Tucker|
After dark, 1997. The night before New Year’s Eve. We’d moved into our house in Virginia just a month previous and were still unpacking and getting used to the place. Spanky, our black lab mix, kept wanting outside as if he heard something. Finally, we heard it, too: faint whimpering. Sure enough, there was a little brown bear of a puppy on our front porch.
We scrambled out of the house to meet him, only to find that when we approached, he screamed bloody murder and ran. We hadn’t even touched him. We ended up making him a sort of bed and house out of a shipping carton, towels and a blanket. Gary was hoping he would run along and back to wherever he came from.
Of course, the next morning he was still there. And he still shrieked when we tried to touch him. However, in the sunlight we could see this kiddo was a mess. Gary was fast enough to make a successful grab. Ignoring his screams, we wrapped him in a towel and headed to the local vet. This pup had been worked over, but good. Multiple deep puncture wounds, other wounds, mange, and much more. He was such a mess the vet didn’t want to touch him and appeared shocked that we wanted him treated. Tucker rapidly became the most expensive puppy we ever had.
Because, of course, we kept him. How could we not. He chose us.
Our senior dog, Spanky, was being treated for oral cancer at the time and wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. So, Tucker spent the early days of his puppy hood being snatched up from the jaws of death, so to speak. He chummed up with our cat, Petey and they became fast friends. Petey taught Tucker to box with his paws and play hide and seek. Gary taught Tucker tricks, too: sit, stay, fetch, roll over. In fact, some friends visiting that spring were so charmed by Tucker’s antics that when they went home to Indiana, they promptly adopted two dogs.
Lucy joined us that summer and Tucker adored having a puppy to play with.
When he was five, Tucker suddenly came up lame during a game of fetch. He’d ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right rear leg. Expensive surgery, a long recovery period, and he was back in the ball game.
While Lucy prefers to be anywhere I am, Tucker was more aloof and independent. He could be found patrolling his yard, lounging under our giant holly tree (and gobbling the wild strawberries), or arranging himself just-so on the stairs leading to the second floor of our house. From there he had a great view of both floors of the house, as well as could look through the front door to the porch. He was a born voyeur and security dog.
Our move to Missouri meant no holly tree with strawberries, but did mean a much bigger yard to patrol and a lot more rabbit scent. As he grew older, Tucker still enjoyed surveying his kingdom and hiking our land. About fifteen minutes before Gary was due home from the office, Tucker could be found at the front door; watching for his daddy.
Lame again at age eleven, he once again had ACL surgery, this time on the left rear leg. He took the whole experience stoically, but this time the surgery was not quite as successful.
Arthritis became the bane of his existence. Missouri’s frequent ice and snow storms became the bane of ours. And Tucker became our most expensive dog ever. He was worth every penny and more.
Tucker was never one of those dogs who got into the trash. However, one Christmas season when Gary was setting a tray of appetizers down on the coffee table, Tucker selected some crackers and cheese for himself. No snatch and run. He stood there and munched while eyeing the tray for his next selection.
Tucker was not a destructive dog, even as a puppy. However, the majority of our blankets have telltale little nip holes from Tucker fashioning a noug to nibblet.
Tucker hated to be groomed, but he loved a butt scratch so much we called him Butt Boy.
Not a traveler, in fact he was prone to car sickness, Tucker could tell (probably from the luggage) when we were on the way to Wayward Boarding Kennel. While Lucy heaved heavy sighs and pouted, Tucker grew more excited by the minute. He knew there were lots of good smells and new friends coming his way. He loved Wayside Boarding Kennel and he never knew a stranger, human or canine.
Quiet, reserved and dignified. He was a dapper gentleman of a dog. I like to think he's lying under a big holly tree now. Free of pain, whole of body. Surveying the kingdom of heaven and catching up with his old buddy, Petey.
We were blessed. Tucker chose to spend his life on earth with us.