Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not about painting

Tucker the dog, Steve, and me on Mt. Elbert, CO

This post isn't about painting. and it isn't a happy one, so be forewarned.

I had to make the very difficult decision to put my dog Tucker down yesterday.
He was my buddy for 8 years, and as you can see, a beautiful pooch, and healthy and active.
That's us on top of 14,000 foot Mt. Elbert in Colorado. 

Tucker was in his glory out on the trails, and especially in the snow. He was part husky and part Malemute and part Shepherd. He was the best running dog I've ever known.. last October he did 54 miles with us on rugged Virginia mountain trails.  He was a gentle, lovable soul who never met a stranger, who wanted to just play with every dog he met, and who lived peacefully with several cats. As big and scary as he might look,he never made a single aggressive act toward another dog.   He loved children. But mostly, he loved me.  

And that got to be the problem. His severe separation anxiety got so bad, we could not leave him anywhere. He had to be with me 24 hours a day.  We adjusted our lives over the years to accommodate him, but the anxieties continued to get worse. We tried everything, but nothing seemed to help him. I could not work outside the home. If we went somewhere, it was only if Tucker could either come with us, or wait in the car. Summertime in the heat, that was not possible, so we'd have to take turns staying with the dog to do something as simple as going to the grocery store.  He would stay with anyone, but was not truly happy unless he was with me. He even got anxious when I went to the studio to paint, and I'd hear him whining, so I'd have to go reassure him about every 30 min. He eventually got black listed from every kennel because he would damage and destroy the cages trying to get out.  He has escaped from every known restraint.  He's pulled tethers our of concrete walls and broken down steel doors to try to escape and find us.

This last weekend, we had a race, and could not find anyone to watch him. So we tried a kennel one last time.  He got so frantic he tore through a heavy duty chain link enclosure and chewed through a door. He cut and mangled his paws so badly they looked like they'd been run through a blender.   The kennel took him to the on call vet who did basic first aid to the tune of $350. but I had to take him to our own vet for further care..  It was going to be at least a month of changing bandages, and of him being unable to even go for a walk with me.  The paws would have healed, unless infection or something set in.
He was otherwise healthy.  But then what?  We simply could not figure out how to keep him happy anymore.
I couldn't live my life anymore.  The vet talked to me and was very sympathetic and understanding. She likened his anxieties to a mental illness .She said imagine what he must be going through to be frantic enough to do that kind of damage to himself.  So we made that awful decision.
When it came to the actual moment, it was very quick and seemed peaceful. He simply fell asleep and was gone.  I hope it was peaceful for him. I wish I could have had one last walk in the woods with him, so he could have had one last happy time with me instead of coming from what must have been hell for him, then injured and in pain, and then to a vet, which always made him nervous.   
Honestly, I'd rather have him with me now, as hard as it was to live with him.I miss him. I miss his collar jingling and his toes tapping on the hardwood floor.  I miss the way he would jump up to go when he heard the car keys in my hand. I even miss vacuuming up the piles of hair he always shed all over the house.
He trusted me. I feel like I let him down. I feel like I was selfish.  The house, and my heart, is empty.

Please don't feel like you need to express sympathy or anything. I probably wrote this post more for myself than anyone else.   Tucker, you were a good dog, and I wish we could have been better people for you.


Judy P. said...

Deb, I hope I am not intruding; I just want to send my best wishes to you. It sounds like you gave Tucker the best life a dog could have, and you shared times of great happiness. I'm glad your doctor shared his wisdom with you, to help in this agonizing decision.
Take care, and may your family have a peaceful night.

Sophie Speidel said...


You are a very loving and courageous person to make the decision you had to make for Tucker. He was obviously very tormented when he wasn't with you, and you did the right thing for him---and for you and Steve. I am so sad for you as I know how it feels to have a trail buddy that you love and want to protect...and that is what you did, ultimately. Your decision protected him from further pain.

You and Steve were wonderful to Tucker and gave him so many fun adventures...the SMUT run being the one that comes to mind. I still remember Tucker waiting there at the aid station while you took out those bacon strips for him (my dog, Jack, was really jealous). He was in his element with you that day, and that is how I will always remember him.

Much love to you both,


Kerri Settle said...

Oh Deb, what a hard, hard decision to have to make. I'm truly sorry for your loss.

Run 100 Miles said...


My wife and I can empathize completely. Like you, I wrote a eulogy to my beloved rotty when he died on Thanksgiving.

(I sent to Steve if you care to read)

Nothing anyone can say helps - but knowing people have felt just like you feel right now sure does.

It gets easier - it doesn't feel like it right now, but it does get easier.

We have since added a couple more hounds to the house (makes 4 now) and will forever be there for the misfit mutts.

Much respect and love - I'm sure Tucker is smiling down on ya'll and appreciates the release from his own developed struggles.

We'll kiss the dogs in his honor this evening.

RawBodyGoddess said...

I came over here from Steve's blog...Oh, my heart is absolutely breaking for you and I am crying with you too. Having to put a pet down for any reason is hard, but when it is an illness you can't *see* it is that much harder. I do believe you did the right thing, as hard as it was. He will always be with you on the trails...

Deb said...

I want to thank everyone for your kind words. They do help, knowing that others understand the pain. It has hit me harder than I could have ever imagined. I'm still crying.
I posted a short video of Tucker, in his memory, on the next post. I've watched it 100 times and cry every time. Our lives were so intertwined and connected. He was one in a million.

Instant Coffee said...

I'm sorry about your loss. A very hard decision but one you handled lovingly and wisely. May you rest in the comfort that you gave Tucker the best life he could have.

Sasquatch said...

Hey Deb abd Steve...

So sorry for your loss. It is so hard to lose someone who is part of the family. We went through a similar thing with one of our Corgi's years ago, she had lymphoma. We were able to give her 18 months of life after the diagnosis, but in the end we had to put her down as the cancer spread to much. It was the hardest thing to do to put her down. Like you, she laid in my wife's lap while the drug was given and seconds later she sighed her final breath and she was gone. While not a running dog, I swore I heard her bark on a local run in Boulder the day after we put her down. I don't know how I will react when my dog, K-Dog, goes. Thanks for sharing and I hope the healing process goes well.
Just think of all the wonderful memories of Tucker, it will sustain you.
Take care

Dale Perry