Friday, April 23, 2010

Tucker, A Tribute

I miss this dog so much. Thanks for everyone's kind words. I haven't had the energy to even respond individually. He had such a sweet soul.. everybody was his immediate friend. If you
ever said a friendly word to him, he remembered you the next time he saw you, and would greet you with joyous enthusiasm. Almost without exception, everybody who knew Tucker immediately sensed this special spirit about him, and loved him. He loved my son, who was with him as a puppy, but then went in the Army and was gone for several years. No matter, when Tucker would see him, he would literally jump into Josh's arms, singing and howling with pure love. That was something to see for an 80 pound dog. He came upon tiny newborn deer fawn twins on a hike onetime, and gently sniffed them but didn't touch them. However, if you were a squirrel or a marmot or groundhog.. watch out! And of course, he was convinced he was going to catch an elk one day.
The cats would come rub up against him, and he'd just lay still. He used to give us "hugs" by pushing his head against us and just loving us that way. He had the softest fur - everybody thouht he was still a puppy because he was so soft. We never figured that out, because the breeds that he was a mix of have course hair.
He had great trail manners. He would always go way off trail to do his business, and didn't
hog the trail or get in your way. He was in his glory out there - especially if there was snow.
He didn't like water, though.. and would only swim across a stream or river if it was choice between swimming and being left behind.
He was so friendly, that I often wondered if he would be protective if I were ever threatened. I never really had to test that, but only once, I passed some pretty rough looking young men while out on a run, and instead of his usual tail wagging and greeting, Tucker slowed down, head went down and he stared at them intently as they passed. No aggression, but it was as if he sensed that they were a possible threat by their negative energy (I certainly felt they were a possible threat!). So I do think if it had ever come to that, he'd have done his best to protect me.
Well I have so many great memories of Tucker.. he was one in a million, and we were so lucky to have spent 8 years with him. I wish I had him back.

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.