Tucker was a mixed-breed dog, whose mother was a smallish brown "cattle dog" cross belonging to my former technician, Rhonda Miller. God alone knows who his father was: his mother Lady wasn't interested and didn't bother to ask. He was born on October 30, 1984 in a cardboard box on the back porch of Rhonda's house, at the intersection of Route 6 and the Old Spanish Road in Brazos County, Texas. One of a litter of nine puppies, he was the only one who chose a white-collar career as a house dog: all of his siblings ended up as working stock dogs. He came to us on December 19th, 1984, a genuine Christmas puppy.
Tucker was everything a dog should be. In his youth he was strong, agile, exuberant, and riotously comical, a happy-go-lucky pup who was endowed with beauty, intelligence, and courage. He was fiercely protective of home and family, a steadfast supporter of his pack leader, Toby, and a true "companion animal" in every sense of the word to all of us. In his old age he was wise, mellow, and tolerant of the puppy antics of Meg the Border Collie and Tessa the Labradog, while running the pack with a firm but just paw. As he aged he developed cataracts, and become more or less stone deaf, but his nose was as good as ever, and almost to the day he died he would paw my leg to ask for a cookie if he smelled them in my pocket. Even at an advanced age he remained playful: his favorite games were "Yank The Towel" and "Go Find Your Rope Toy." He was afflicted with arthritis, but on the whole got along pretty well until his last month. He took his role as Senior Dog very seriously, and enforced the Rules of the House with an iron paw but he wore the mantle of his authority with humility, and never asserted it needlessly or wantonly. He was truly the cano de tutti cani..
Tucker was always a serious dog. Not that he wasn't a clown at times; but he was aware that he was a dog, he took his responsibilities seriously, and he carried them out to the best of his ability. Never, not once in his long life, did he ever stray from the path of canine virtue. He was always there when you needed him, and he knew when you needed him. He was a tower of strength to me when Toby died suddenly, though he was bewildered and grieving himself. After a decade in Toby's shadow, he found himself thrust suddenly into the position of Senior Dog and Deputy Pack Leader. In his last four years he became an elder statesman of dogs, acknowledged and unquestioned by the others, not an easy thing to do when you are old and weak. But the sheer force of his personality was enough.
He was diagnosed with lymphoma in November of 1999. We started chemotherapy in early December, and continued with it until August 29 of 2000. Lymphoma is incurable and always fatal, but we were able to prolong his life by 10 months, and for that I'm grateful. He had some rough days, but in the main I think he enjoyed those 10 months, and I'll always feel it was the right thing to do.
In mid September, we stopped the treatment because it was becoming obvious that although he was still in remission, he was growing weaker and less able to sustain himself, due mainly to his advanced age. He would have been sixteen a month from the day he died. When we stopped the chemo he had a brief spell when things picked up a bit, he felt a little better, and was perhaps a little stronger; but in the last two weeks he deteriorated rapidly, and it was clear he wouldn't live much longer.
On Wednesday September 27th he had a terrible night, and on Thursday morning he was clearly in distress. He just laid on the floor, motionless. He was conscious and responded to petting and stroking, but he wouldn't eat or drink. I spent that Thursday night with him, sleeping in the basement on the spare bed in case he needed me. He was immobile all night, and in the morning it was clear he was never going to rise again. He was refusing all food and water, too. I told Susan to contact our vet, and have him come Friday. I stayed home from work on Friday the 29th to be with him. I laid next to him on the floor, and petted him and held him until 4:45 when the vet came. During that time he made not a sound, didn't move, and though he clearly wasn't in pain, he was so weak he couldn't move. When the vet came, Susan and I held him and petted him and told him what a good dog he was, and everything was over in a few seconds. He died as he lived: quietly, elegantly, and without fuss or bother.
Dogs teach us a lot of things, but mainly they teach us how good we could be if we really tried hard. Dogs were put here on Earth to serve Man not only as friends, companions, and fellow hunters, but as role models. If there were one human "leader" in this country with Tucker's innate honesty, dedication to service, and integrity, I'd be a lot more sanguine about the future. Humans can never "own" dogs. We aren't good enough. We are privileged in that we are allowed to borrow them from God for a little while; but we always have to give them back.
TOP: At age 2 years; BOTTOM: Snoozing peacefully by the fireside, at age 13.
I was the best dog.
Patient, loyal, brave and strong
I died in your arms.
| Gordo | Penny| Dante | Toby | Tucker | Meg | Tessa | Tycho | Lucy | Tehya|