Sitting in my blogging queue is a note to write about Tucker, my dog. I put it in there back when I started this blog and was thinking of things I wanted to write about. But I never wrote that piece.
Now is the time.
On August 23, 2015, I rushed my 11-year-old chihuahua, Tucker, to the emergency vet. He had been breathing abnormally fast since the afternoon before, and it had escalated quite a bit overnight. He wouldn’t get up, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t go outside, and I could tell something was really wrong. So after quickly packing up the kids, and dropping them off with friends, I carried my tiny friend through the doors to the vet for the last time.
It was apparent very quickly by the staff at the animal hospital that my dog was in serious condition. They rushed him to the back to get put on oxygen, then they put me in a small room to wait for the doctor to come and speak with me. As I sat waiting for the news, I knew in my gut it wasn’t going to be good. I had started crying before I ever left my house because I knew something was really wrong, but the wracking sobs that came from deep inside of me were unannounced and instant. Nothing felt right.
When the doctor entered, she explained to me that my dog had congestive heart failure, and that he was struggling to breathe because his heart was so enlarged and encased in fluid, that it was pressing on his trachea. She said at best, he might live for another year with aggressive medication and treatment, but he would always struggle. I felt in that moment as if time had come to a screeching halt. The room seemed to be closing in. My husband was out of town and I was alone in a cold room hearing news that made me want to vomit.
But I knew I didn’t want to watch him suffer. I didn’t want to watch him struggle for every breath. I didn’t want him to live out his days miserable with me shoving medications down his throat. None of that would be the quality of life he deserved. So in the quiet of that tiny room, I looked my tiny, faithful friend in the eyes and told him that I loved him. I signed the paperwork that would end his life, watching my hand shake and the tears drop on the paper. The nurses were so sweet and kind, and they told me to take my time with him.
I told him that I loved him so much.
I told him that he made me laugh.
I told him that he was a great friend.
I told him that he was the best dog I had ever had.
I told him that if I could, I would take him out for ice cream and a cheeseburger.
I told him that I was sorry for all the bad times.
I told him that I was sorry I couldn’t save him.
I stroked his fur and scratched his ears and kissed him over and over. When I finally looked deep into his soft brown eyes, I think he knew. He sort of snuggled in and laid down. I thanked him for all of the amazing memories and for loving me well. Then the nurse came to get him so they could put an IV in and sedate him.
When he came back, he seemed to already be gone. They laid him down and I held him tight looking deep in his eyes. I repeated over and over…”You are such a good boy. You are such a good boy. I love you. I love you. You are such a good boy.” Then just like that, I felt his heart stop. I could never have anticipated the searing pain and flood of tears that would come. I wanted instantly to change my mind and have him back for just one more hug and just one lick on the face. But I knew he was gone. I knew that he had been set free. In just over 2 hours, I had lost my friend.
I loved Tucker from the moment that I saw him. He was a Valentine’s Day gift from my then-boyfriend (now my husband), and I knew he was perfect from day 1. He loved to run in fast circles, chew everything in sight, and pee in my bed. I have so many memories of him with a huge smile on his face as he panted from running like a maniac from room to room in my small apartment. After my husband and I got married, he traveled with us from state to state, and even into Canada. The road trips were long and he would snuggle up in a blanket on my lap and just ride. When he slept with me, I always felt safe and warm, even though he was small. He was quick to decide how he felt about people, and some definitely did not get his stamp of approval.
He was given the name “Tucker-Roo” by my husband’s grandfather because he had a habit of sitting up on his back legs like a kangaroo when he wanted something. He was feisty and independent, and I loved him. I didn’t care what anyone else thought of him or if they liked him because he loved me and protected me every day of his life. I can even think of times when he sat with me while I cried or was sick…it’s like he knew. No conversation was needed.
Jude loved Tucker. He would watch him as a baby, chase him in his car, and feed him everything! He loved to pet him and would giggle every time Tucker licked him. Each morning was an exciting moment when he would see Tucker. Even this morning, he came downstairs and asked “Where my goggie go?” I thought my stomach was going to come up as I felt my body begin to shake as I cried. “He’s not here buddy…” He just looked at me with his big blue eyes and continued to search. I thought I might collapse.
The last few years have been hard on him. We welcomed kids into our lives, moved, and spent 6 months apart as we bounced from rental to rental while we built our home. I think back over the last year with him, and I could tell that he had lost some of his spunk and joy. He was getting older. In the last few months, I knew that something was definitely different and that he wasn’t quite himself. My heart breaks that I didn’t recognize that something may have been wrong.
I’m sure we all know that hindsight is 20/20 and if we could have “just one more day” that we would do all the things we wish we would have done in the first place. I am there. I have a million “If only’s” and “I wish’s” that make my heart feel pain that much deeper. My husband would say I’m being too hard on myself…I say I’m just being honest. I wish a lot of things now that he’s gone. But I am determined not to dwell in this space. Instead, I’m reminding myself of all the fun, laughter, and adventure I had with him.
It’s been just over 24 hours since I lost one of my greatest companions. No person or animal will ever take his place. He was 100% unique and 100% an amazing dog.
He was mine.
My heart is raw and I still find my eyes welling up with tears at the thought of him. I still feel his warm body and see his deep eyes as I tell him I love him. I know as the days go by, things will get easier. Things will go back to normal. But I know I will never forget him. And I hope someday that God has him waiting for me.
So take a moment today and give your pet a hug. Heck…give them a double cheeseburger like Tucker would get (when he was younger, and only on trips!). You never know when it’s their time to go, so don’t take any of that time for granted.
I love you Tucker…thank you for 11 amazing years! You are deeply missed!
**I would have added more photos of Tucker, but my computer was being wonky. If I can get them up later, I will add them. For now, these will have to do.