Remembering Tucker

Tucker

Tucker

On a cold February night in 2011, I was driving down Route 287, on my way home from a speaking engagement. I was tired, but glad it was over, and I was anticipating the welcome I’d get from Lilah and Jasper—and maybe even Dawn and Athena.

That’s when I saw the most amazing shooting star; it flew across almost a third of the sky right in front of me—and ended in a brilliant burst of sparks. I was alone in the car; there was nobody to share it with, and I saw no mention of it in the news the next day. It was so ephemeral and special that I thought if I shared the moment, it would disappear, washed away by the disbelief of others. So I kept my meteor to myself.

That night I had a dream about a dog, a pup really, who swam across a small lake in front of my house toward me. He swam as if he knew me, eyes locked on mine, with a purposeful stroke and a canine grin of joy. He seemed to be some kind of hound with spots all over his body, including his round puppy belly, which he let me rub while he wiggled into a corner of my couch, settling in within the surreal timeline of dreams. A feeling of completion expanded within me, like a missing piece coming back, a wholeness. This dog was meant to be mine. 

The dream was so powerful, so vivid and real that the next day, I thought maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. Maybe there was someone out there for me and I just had to find him. So I went to Petfinder.com, looking for that round hound belly with the spots. Not there. Then I tried Adoptapet.com—and just when I was thinking it was all incredibly silly, I saw a face that made my heart skip a beat. I gasped and my heart started pounding. It was him. I knew it. He wasn’t a hound, and he didn’t look exactly like the dog in my dream but he did have an awesome belly, and he felt like that dog.

Tucker's (as "Jack") original listing on AdoptAPet.com

The original listing for Tucker (as “Jack”) on AdoptAPet.com

I sent an email inquiry, and of course, they responded with a “fill out the application, then we’ll talk” message. 

Which, of course, I did. Filled that application out right then and there. I didn’t care that I was at work. I didn’t ask my family, didn’t talk to my husband. (Though I sent him an email afterwards, in which I told him what I had done.)  

"Jack" before he was Tucker, in his foster home.

“Jack” before he was Tucker, in his foster home.

The entry said that the dog was good with other dogs and cats. I wanted to meet him and find out if what I saw in the picture would be true in person. At that point, I thought he was in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, but “Jack” as he was then called, was pulled from a kill shelter in South Carolina. And that’s where he was being fostered. A few emails later, I asked if the rescue organization had all the information they needed from me, and the response came back: “I have no problem if you adopt him.” So, while I thought I was arranging a meet and greet, the rescue group assumed it was a pick him up and take him home. Still, I felt like I needed to keep going with the process.

Many emails and a few weeks later, after “Jack” recovered from his neuter surgery, he was on his way to New Jersey. Though he arrived on a Friday, we couldn’t pick him up until the next day. I was told by the agency that he would be spending the night in a horse barn. 

First thing Saturday, my husband and I and my two kids hopped into our minivan and drove to our appointed meeting spot. The woman who set up the adoption didn’t want us to go to the farm, and didn’t want to meet in a park, so instead we agreed on a Chili’s parking lot in Flemington. I was to bring $250 in cash. It felt like a drug deal, and I told my family that if things looked or felt weird, we’d get back in the car and drive home without the dog.

But I think we all fell in love the minute a sweet scruffy dog leapt out of a minivan, and greeted each of us individually with a snuggle, a kiss, a wag. The woman said, “I love it when they pick their families.”

Corinne meeting Tucker for the first time.

Corinne meeting Tucker for the first time.

At home, we introduced the dog to Lilah and Jasper, and they got along instantly. As a family, we discussed names, and someone—I think it was Corinne—suggested “Tucker.” Why Tucker? “Because he looks like a Tucker.” And we all agreed that he did, indeed look like a Tucker.

Tucker meets Lilah and Jasper for the first time.

Tucker meets Lilah and Jasper for the first time.

A few days later, I was rubbing his sweet terrier belly, and there were the spots. The ones I dreamed of.

It was in the stars; Tucker was meant to be mine. He was the stuff of dreams.


From day one, Tucker adored Jasper. He idolized him, snuggling up next to him, watching his every move, emulating him. Jasper wasn’t quite sure what to do about this adulation; he was more used to Lilah’s quiet company. But nobody could resist our insistent terrier—not even our comfort hound.

Tucker as a puppy snuggling with Jasper

Tucker as a puppy snuggling with Jasper.

As for Tucker, all things were better with Jasper. When Tucker heard or smelled or saw a barkable something in our woods—usually deer or fox—he would start to run, and then there would be that brief moment, where he suddenly stop, turn and look back to see if Jasper was coming with him. If Jasper wasn’t interested, you could see Tucker’s focus melt away; if Jasper wasn’t in on it, it wouldn’t be half as much fun. But if Tucker saw Jasper was on the move too, they would both charge toward our fence, barking and howling and generally carrying on in their canine way. 

At the fence, Tucker would put his front paws on one of the split rails, standing on his hind legs so he could get a better view of whatever or whoever was out there. In his excitement, he’d jump and pull at the deer fencing, sometimes ripping it. But always, always, keeping an eye on Jasper: his best friend was barking, too. That made it so much better.

Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker looking through the back fence toward the woods; there were probably deer!

Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker looking through the back fence toward the woods; there were probably deer!

Tucker leaned on Jasper. Quite literally. Often, in the evenings, Tucker would climb up on the couch and tuck himself in next to Jasper. He’d lay his head on Jasper’s body and sigh contentedly. I can’t say Jasper loved that; it made him hot. But Jasper would always stay for a little while, with Tucker resting on top of him, before he slid himself gently out from under his brother and relaxed on the cool comfort of the floor.

Tucker loved to snuggle up to Jasper and use him as a pillow.

Tucker loved to snuggle up to Jasper and use him as a pillow.

Tucker didn’t just use Jasper as a pillow. Lilah often served the same purpose. Usually it’s because there was something in the backyard that needed to be barked at and discussed, and the two smaller dogs would leap onto the bench in the family room for a better view out our picture window. Jasper, who’s just a little too large to be comfortable on the bench, would stand next to it and look out. Eventually, the barkable would fly or scurry or run away, and Lilah would lie down, followed by Tucker, who would curl up next to her, and rest his head on her back. Sweet motherly Lilah would stay there until Tucker left. Lilah always looked out for Tucker.

Tucker using Lilah as a pillow.

Tucker using Lilah as a pillow.

From his early days with us, Tucker loved to play ball. He lived to play ball. His world revolved around those beloved orbs. 

Tucker dog playing ball, catching in slow motion

We had inside balls and outside balls. The inside ones were soft, squishy and squeaky—at first. Tucker loved the squeak—almost as much as the chase. It didn’t take long, however for him to desqueakify an indoor ball.

Every once in a while, the ball would land or roll near Lilah. This posed a conundrum for our ball-obsessed terrier. When the ball got close to Lilah, she would growl at Tucker if, in his attempt to retrieve it, he came too close to her. This was Lilah’s Border Collie sense of humor at work; she didn’t really care about his ball, but she knew that Tucker respected her. So if she growled, he’d back off, and then lie down a careful distance away from her and sigh sadly. Lilah would feign nonchalance, stretch, or sometimes pick up the ball and toss it herself. After a few minutes, she’d relent, obviously feeling sorry for Tucker, who by then would be crying softly to himself. Lilah would walk away from the ball, knowing that Tucker would pounce on it the minute she put enough distance between her and his beloved.

Sometimes Tucker was a little careless when he tossed his ball to someone to throw. Here he tossed his ball on Lilah's back.

Sometimes Tucker was a little careless when he tossed his ball to someone to throw. Here he tossed his ball on Lilah’s back.

Indoor ball playing usually took place when we were in the family room, watching TV or just hanging out. Tucker would toss the ball into a selected person’s lap, take a few steps back, and wait for them to toss it from the family room into the kitchen.  Yes, it was slobbery. But BALL! If you didn’t act quickly, he would come back, pick the ball up and toss it again. Maybe the recipient didn’t see it, so it was best to remind them. Eventually, we taught him to put his ball in a dog bowl we kept in the family room—specifically for this purpose. 

My dog Tucker gets a new squeaky ball and he's squeakin' happy about it.

Over time, Tucker would bring us stuffed animal toys to throw, and he’d chase after them as well. 

This is Tucker's Please Play With Me Face. It was 100% irresistible.

This is Tucker’s Please Play With Me Face. It was 100% irresistible.

Then he’d chew on them, or lay his head upon on them.

Tucker loved to lay his head on his stuffed toys.

Tucker loved to lay his head on his stuffed toys.

They could get pretty soggy; one year I bought three fuzzy pumpkin squeak toys that were on sale after Halloween. My original intention was one for each dog, but they became Tucker’s. And they became slobberized. So I washed them—often—because they were Tucker’s favorites: a cross between a ball and a furry toy. It didn’t get too much better than that for my terrier. 

My dog Tucker loves to play with his plush squeaky pumpkin toy.

Sometimes there was conversation among the dogs over who had ownership rights to a specific stuffed toy. Tucker nearly always won—mostly because Jasper would give up easily, in the face of Tucker’s terrier tenacity.

Tucker nearly always won when ownership of plush toys was debated.

Tucker nearly always won when ownership of plush toys was debated.

The only time he “lost” was when wily Lilah would grab another toy and toss it around the room as if it were the Best Toy Ever. Tucker would drop his current favorite and try to take Lilah’s, who would put up a half-hearted fight for show and then drop it. Tucker would march around triumphantly while Lilah grabbed the original toy. Tucker was played, but he really didn’t mind. He had a toy! And someone was going to throw it!

Tucker loved plush animals; we could never have too many.

Tucker loved plush animals; we could never have too many.

He loved those plush toys; I kept a large pile of them in baskets—one in the family room, one in my office. Perhaps inspired by Lilah, Tucker especially enjoyed furry toys with whiskers, like a lion or an otter. Lilah and Tucker would gently chew on the plastic whiskers, like they were flossing their teeth, never destroying or biting through the little bits. 

When I came home after being out of the house, Tucker would grab one of those toys and meet me at the door or the gate. His mouth full of stuffed animal, whines emanating from behind the fluff, his whole body wagging with delight, he would try to bounce and snuggle me at the same time, following me—along with the other dogs—into the family room, where he would finally put the toy down to put two paws and half his body in my lap and kiss me all over. 

When my dogs greet me at the door, my dog Tucker would often welcome me with whatever toy was at hand (er... paw). Sometimes it would be a cat toy.

Tucker would bring the toys with him all over the house; I’d find them in every room, like a Tucker calling card. He’d grab one when I went outside to scare away chaseable creatures, and as I walked across the deck, I’d see him in the window, an emu or a monkey hanging out of his mouth, or placed next to him, as he watched me walk the yard.

Tucker sitting on the bench in the family room, looking out the window and watching me. By his feet is a bunny he had brought with him as he watches.

Tucker sitting on the bench in the family room, looking out the window and watching me. By his feet is a bunny he had brought with him as he watches.

Sometimes, if a dog toy wasn’t at hand (or mouth?) he’d grab a cat toy, a tiny furry mouse or squirrel, and run with that instead. Sometimes he’d use one of the toys as a pillow, and it was beyond cute. 

Tucker was the instigator. He loved to play, and was always the one to get Jasper and Lilah up and running. They rarely started the games, but they always enjoyed them. He’d bark or jump or bow—and the fun would begin. Usually, Tucker would engage with Jasper, and then Lilah would join in.

My dogs Tucker, Jasper and Lilah play a merry game of chase in our yard.

After a few minutes, Jasper would run to me, like a child on a playground running to the safety of home base. He was done; it was just too much excitement for our comfort hound. Then Lilah would have Tucker’s full attention, and that’s when she turned on her inner Border Collie. With just a stare or a twitch of her body, Lilah could get Tucker running literal circles around the yard, or up and over the deck and back down again. Lilah would stand in the yard and wait for her brother to come around again, and then she’d jump, and he’d go zooming across the yard for another circuit. Then, just as quickly as it began, the romp would end, and everyone would trot over to the water bowl for a communal drink, tails wagging, tongues hanging, and smiles on their doggy faces. 

My 3 dogs Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker play in the snow

Outside was ball territory. We had special outside balls that were sturdier than the inside ones, though they did offer the requisite squeakability. It took a bit longer for Tucker’s desqueakification of an outside ball, but it was inevitable. Tucker often wanted to bring an outside ball inside. Usually I had to remind him of the rules, and he would comply, often with a sad wag. I would promise him that we could play ball inside, and that his outside ball would still be there the next time we went out. 

Tucker the dog would really like to bring his muddy ball in the house.

A ball was good for more than just throwing. There was also squeaking. And squeaking. Not to mention squeaking. But one of Tucker’s favorite things to do when he wasn’t squeaking or actively fetching was to put the ball in something. An empty bucket. A pile of leaves. Some fallen branches. And then the fun was to get the ball out of wherever he put it. 

One of my dog Tucker's favorite things to do was to put his ball in something and then try to get it out. With a lot of squeaking along the way. Here he put it in some fallen branches.

Inside, it might be a basket, or a bag. He used to love the crinkle tunnel that the cats ran through. Tucker would drop his ball in one of the holes, then stick his head in the hole to get it out. Many times, he would get stuck in the tunnel and he’d lift his head up and swing it around, swishing the cat tunnel left and right until he extricated himself—with the ball firmly grasped in his mouth. 

When he was younger, we kept his balls in an old plant pot. If he wanted to play ball, he'd pick up the pot with all the balls in it, and carry it to whomever he thought would be most likely to throw his ball.

When he was younger, we kept his balls in an old plant pot. If he wanted to play ball, he’d pick up the pot with all the balls in it, and carry it to whomever he thought would be most likely to throw his ball.

In our yard, the ball was never far from Tucker and Tucker was never far from the ball. Once he started playing, a ball was either in his mouth, by his side, in a thing, in the air, or given to me to throw. If something needed to be barked at, he found a way to bark with the ball in his mouth, creating a peculiar and laughable echoey woof.

Tucker played ball all the time. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall.

Tucker played ball all the time. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall.

When he lost track of the ball’s location—usually because he started running before he saw where the ball was headed when I threw it—he would sniff in expanding circles, searching the yard for his beloved toy. Sometimes he would look back at me, asking for help. I would play a warmer / colder game with him, telling him “Yes, Yes,” when he got nearer, and “No, not there,” when he veered away. Like the Canadian Mounties, Tucker always got his ball.

Tucker played ball in all seasons.

Tucker played ball in all seasons.

Tucker was nearly unstoppable when it came to playing ball.  His tongue would be hanging down to his knees, he’d be panting and huffing like an old-fashioned steam locomotive, and he’d want one more throw. And another. And another. He could quit anytime, but maybe after this last throw. I would tell him to go lie down, to take a break. And he’d do it, grudgingly. For only a few minutes. Then, he’d be back. Ball in mouth. Huge grin on his face. Squeaking it if there were any squeak left. Throw it, he’d tell me with his big brown eyes. Throw it now. Throw it. 

My dog Tucker's favorite thing in the world is to play ball. I use a special scoop (kind of like a jai alai cesta) that he's learned to put the ball in so I can throw it.

I did. I threw his ball so many times. Never enough. When I had surgery for tennis elbow (I think it was dog ball elbow), I learned to throw with my left arm. I eventually needed surgery in that arm too. I bought a ball thrower —a curved plastic implement that looks like a jai alai cesta, a long, curved scoop used to catch and throw the ball in that game. It took Tucker mere minutes to learn how to put his ball in the scoop, and it made it easier for me to throw his ball far into our yard. 

Tucker learned to put his ball in the scoop within minutes after I introduced him to it. He was a smart dog, and highly motivated when it came to playing ball.

Tucker learned to put his ball in the scoop within minutes after I introduced him to it. He was a smart dog, and highly motivated when it came to playing ball.

Ball was central to Tucker’s existence; I have so many stories where Ball is one of the main characters. Like the time the ball fell into the doggy pool and Tucker had to figure out how to get it out, without getting wet.

Tucker the dog hates getting his face wet. What will he do when his favorite toy lands in the kiddie pool?

Then the time a lucky (or more likely unlucky from Tucker’s point of view) throw of mine managed to get caught in the branches of our tree, and the poor dog couldn’t find it, and then it snowed.. Brian had to knock it out of the branches.

When his human accidentally throws his favorite ball in the tree, my dog Tucker has to get help to get it down.

Once, a young boy came to a family reunion we held at our house—a child who was afraid of dogs. I showed him how to throw the ball for Tucker. He’d throw, Tucker would bring it back. He’d throw. Tucker would bring it back. Dog’s weren’t scary anymore. I took pictures that day and sent them to the boy’s family. For years afterward, he talked about Tucker.

Tucker had that way. Of reaching anybody. And everybody.

Even the cats. 

Common interests drew Tucker and the cats together: watching squirrels.

Common interests drew Tucker and the cats together: watching squirrels.

Dawn and Elsa Clair ignored him for the most part. But Athena and Calvin were different stories. When Tucker first came to live with us, he figured out the Cats Rule rule pretty quickly. Just like Lilah and Jasper, he found out that felines—while seemingly chaseable—were sharp and pointy and off limits. So he learned to steer clear of them. 

Tucker wanted to play with the cats at first, but Athena wasn't interested. Eventually, they found a way to like each other.

Tucker wanted to play with the cats at first, but Athena wasn’t interested. Eventually, they found a way to like each other.

But when he had ball on the brain, Tucker wasn’t as careful. And sometimes, in the heat of the chase, he’d get a little too close to Athena. So she’d hiss at thim. Swat him. Once she even stole his ball. True story

Sometimes, Athena would play games with Tucker, where she’d sit on the coffee table in the family room, knowing that Tucker would have to run by her when he chased his beloved ball. Which he did. And then, she’d hiss. And swat. Then the poor dog would get so conflicted: he wanted to play ball, but there was Athena. Right there. He’d have to pass by her.  Of course, we would shoo Athena off the table. She’d still eyeball kitty curses at Tucker. He was oblivious. But cautious.

However, if Athena sauntered into our bedroom, Tucker would army crawl under our bed. It later became a habit of his—even if there were no cats nearby—nearly every morning before he got sick, there would be a moment when he crawled under the bed, waiting there until he could tell from the activity in the room that I was heading downstairs.

Tucker under the bed. I just loved that little white spot on his nose

Tucker under the bed. I just loved that little white spot on his nose.

Then he’d scramble out from under the bed, give a shake, lean into a comfortable stretch, offer a yawn, and then trot off after his brother and sister. 

Eventually, Athena and Tucker reached an understanding. Tucker did his best to respect her space. And Athena stopped the hiss / swat activity. And I would catch them sniffing each other. Lying next to each other. Looking at each other. Liking each other

Tucker and Athena sharing a moment.

Tucker and Athena sharing a moment. 

When we adopted two more cats—Calvin and Elsa Clair—Tucker was a little unnerved. More pointy creatures to torture him? But Calvin took a liking to Tucker. And waged a friendship campaign of getting closer and closer to Tucker, then rubbing Tucker, then lying down next to him.

My cat Calvin loves my dog Tucker. He rubs him, lies next to him. And I think the feeling is mutual.

If Tucky and Calvin were in my bedroom, Tucker would leap to the bed, and the instant Calvin saw him start that leap, Calvin would jump up too, and they’d both land on my bed at the same time.

Though Tucker was nervous at first, Calvin won him over.

Though Tucker was nervous at first, Calvin won him over.

One of my favorite pictures of Calvin and Tucker; they look like stars in a buddy film. Or like cool superheroes walking away from an explosion.

One of my favorite pictures of Calvin and Tucker; they look like stars in a buddy film. Or like cool superheroes walking away from an explosion.

Calvin seemed to know when Tucker wasn’t well, and he’d spend more time with him. He was especially concerned and caring when Tucker had to wear the dreaded cone of shame—which made Tucker miserable. Calvin would gently put his head inside the cone and groom him. 

Those two had a very special relationship.

Tucker and Calvin had a very special relationship.

Tucker and Calvin had a very special relationship.

 

Calvin loved to snuggle Tucker. And Tucker learned to love being snuggled by his best cat buddy.

Calvin loved to snuggle Tucker. And Tucker learned to love being snuggled by his best cat buddy.

As for a coned Tucker, one might imagine that it would be hard to play ball with a cone on. But Tucker found a way.  Because nothing stopped a determined Tucker. And unfortunately he wore that cone too often—because nothing stopped a determined Tucker. And so he’d develop a lick granuloma after constantly licking his legs, or tear a nail or otherwise hurt himself while in pursuit of something—deer, squirrel, chipmunk, groundhog, fox—because he was such a pure and intent terrier that he wouldn’t even notice he was hurt. Not much bothered Tucker.

Nothing get between Tucker and his ball. Not even a cone.

Nothing get between Tucker and his ball. Not even a cone.

Except wetness. He didn’t like rain. Or getting his feet wet. He may have learned that from Jasper, who wouldn’t walk on wet grass unless it was an emergency, thank you very much. When it rained, Tucker would ask to go outside, and then he’d take a few steps out, and look back at me as if to say, “Could you please turn it off?” If the rain wasn’t too hard, he’d begrudgingly go outside to do his business. But he’d be right back as soon as he was done. During torrential downpours (which can last hours, if not days, during hurricane season), I’d walk outside and hold an umbrella over him. I know he appreciated it. 

My dog Tucker does not like to be wet. He does not like to go outside in the rain. So I have to bring an umbrella.

Once back inside, a very wet, and very sad Tucker (along with Lilah and Jasper) would have to be dried off with towels. And Tucky didn’t like that any better.

Tucker didn't like getting wet, but he didn't like the feeling of a towel wiping him dry either. He tolerated it, though, because he'd get treats and love.

Tucker didn’t like getting wet, but he didn’t like the feeling of a towel wiping him dry either. He tolerated it, though, because he’d get treats and love.

In mud season, we’d have to wipe his paws as well, sometimes dipping them in water (the horror!), but he tolerated it, knowing he’d get “treats for the feets.” His scruffy, wirey, terrier fur was like Velcro. Everything stuck to it, and when he ran through the yard, his muddy paws were an art form: a dynamic sculpture of mud and fur and feet. Same thing with snow: it stuck all over Tucker.

Tucker's fur was like Velcro(r). Everything stuck to it: mud, twigs, snow. In the winter, as he ran around the yard, he'd wind up with a beard of snow. I used to say he had beardcicles.

Tucker’s fur was like Velcro®. Everything stuck to it: mud, twigs, snow. In the winter, as he ran around the yard, he’d wind up with a beard of snow. I used to say he had beardcicles.

On the other paw, snow—even though it was wet—was an awesome thing for Tucker. He loved running through the snow. Unfortunately, it was hard to play ball in the snow, because the ball often got lost, but he’d always find it. He’d chase snowballs and sticks in the winter. Sticks were great because they wouldn’t sink in the white stuff, and they were fun to gnaw on.

Sticks are fun to play fetch with in the snow; they land on top instead of sinking down like balls.

Sticks are fun to play fetch with in the snow; they land on top instead of sinking down like balls.

If the snow was deep, he’d barrel his way through it with his chest, or bounce and leap across untouched expanses. Other times, he’d just follow in Jasper’s footsteps, letting his brother break through. Sometimes’s he’d just follow me.

When the snow was deep, Jasper—with his long legs—would lead the way, and Lilah and Tucker would follow in his footsteps.

When the snow was deep, Jasper—with his long legs—would lead the way, and Lilah and Tucker would follow in his footsteps.

Tucker was everyone’s friend. He loved every visitor. And if he met you once, you were his best friend, and he’d remember you and offer a You’re back! I missed you! greeting complete with generous wags, cries, sniffs and paw bangs. Repairmen were his besties. The UPS guy. The mail carrier. Someone selling windows or signatures for petitions. Our remodeling contractor became his friend for life. He was happy to help in any way a terrier can, like when our house became a movie set for Corinne’s senior thesis film, and even though Jasper had a starring role in the film, Tucker was everyone’s furry production assistant. And friend. 

Tucker "helped" the crew on Corinne's thesis film. Here he is lying on dolly tracks, thus qualifying him as a best boy dolly grip. Because Tucker wasn't just a good boy, he was the Best Boy.

Tucker “helped” the crew on Corinne’s thesis film. Here he is lying on dolly tracks, thus qualifying him as a best boy dolly grip. Because Tucker wasn’t just a good boy, he was the Best Boy.

Tucker was silly. He loved to roll around on his back on the carpet, just because he could. He would make these goofy and adorable moany noises. I’d always try to catch him rolling around, but rarely was able to; he’d most often stop in mid-roll if caught in the act.

Tucker loved to roll around on the floor, just because he could. This short video is a good example of life with Tucker. Watch it to the end for all the feels.

He’d stay upside down, with a sweet inverted grin on his face, his muzzle flaps hanging down a paw or two in the air.  He would sleep like that, too, paws up, legs stretched, silly grin. It always made me smile.

Tucker had the best sleeping positions.

Tucker had the best sleeping positions.

Particularly in the morning, when I would wake up and look over at Tucker, all sprawled out and content. I used to joke that he would be excellent at competitive sleeping, and made up names for his positions, like Upside Down Double Paw Flop with a Half Twist or Parallel Double Stretchy Paw With Bunched Feet. 

The view from my bed. This is what I would see first thing in the morning. Tucker always gave me a morning smile.

The view from my bed. This is what I would see first thing in the morning. Tucker always gave me a morning smile.

I think sleeping was an art form for Tucker.

I think sleeping was an art form for Tucker.

Nothing could contain Tucker.

Nothing could contain Tucker.

Tucker also rolled around outside in the grass. Sometimes it was just to feel the earth beneath him, and he made it look so satisfying that I wanted to roll around with him.

Tucker loved to roll around on the grass. Best would be if there was something really stinky to roll in, but even if there wasn't a dead worm, a good roll was always called for.

Tucker loved to roll around on the grass. Best would be if there was something really stinky to roll in, but even if there wasn’t a dead worm, a good roll was always called for.

Sometimes it was because there was something really stinky that he wanted to anoint himself with: Eau de Dead Worm, for example. Unfortunately, the latter would inevitably lead to a bath, which was a Very Sad Time for Tucker. His eyes asked me what did he ever do to deserve such a punishment. But once dried off, he’d run through the yard, rubbing himself on towels I laid out for that very purpose. Then he’d go in the house and rub himself on the couch.

My dog Tucker dries himself off by rubbing my couch and ottoman.

Tucker was also very, very smart. When motivated, he learned fast. And he was easy to motivate, with food, or with a promise of playtime. That’s why it took him mere minutes to learn to use our jai alai ball-throwing scoop. And why he was the first to figure out how to ring the bell to go outside. Next to our back door, and then our gate, was a tamborine-like set of bells attached to a crocheted rope. If any of the dogs wanted to go outside, they learned to bang the bells with their paw or head.

If you can stop looking at that adorably cute face, you can see the bells hanging by the back door in the background.

If you can stop looking at that adorably cute face, you can see the bells hanging by the back door in the background.

Tucker figured it out first, and he rang the bell a lot. Even when he didn’t really have to go outside to attend to business, he wanted to go outside. It was his favorite place to be. So he rang the bell. And I’d take him out. He rang it so often that Lilah and Jasper rarely had to, because he always seem to ring it first. Some family members were annoyed by his seemingly constant bell-ringing. But I wasn’t. Not really. Even before Tucker got sick, I would think to myself that there would come a time when I would give anything for him to ring that bell again and again. Like now. 

Tucker was amusing. He was playful. He brought an effervescent spark of joy to our home. Some nights after dinner, after he rang the bell to go outside, and came back in, or as we were getting ready to head upstairs to bed, he’d make a nest in our couch.

This was Tucker's favorite nesting spot, in the corner of the couch in our family room. He also nested in the living room. Sometimes I'd find pillows, cushions, blankets tossed on the floor as the result of his nestmaking.

This was Tucker’s favorite nesting spot, in the corner of the couch in our family room. He also nested in the living room. Sometimes I’d find pillows, cushions, blankets tossed on the floor as the result of his nestmaking.

He’d dig in a corner, tossing blankets and pillows and cushions until he was satisfied with the result. Then he’d curl up in a Tucker ball within his idea of a perfect bed. I was rarely able to catch him in the process of making his nest, but I tried; one night it took three attempts for him to craft the optimal sleeping arrangement. 

My dog Tucker likes to make a nest in our couch, digging and rearranging pillows, cushions and blankets until it's just right.

Because Tucker was such a terrier, and was so silly, it was easy for many people to overlook his tender side, his caring side. He was the most empathetic dog I’ve ever known. He could always tell when I was sad or hurt or upset or depressed. He was the first to seek me out if I cried—for any reason. If he wasn’t already near me, he’d appear suddenly, paw at me, and lean into me. 

Tucker could also be serious, calm, and focused. When he was a puppy, we brought him to doggy day care at Camp Bow Wow. There, the staff fell in love with him, observing how good he was with all the other dogs. They used him to “interview” new campers, because he was so easygoing with other pups; they called him “the gentleman” because of his comportment.

Tucker was invited to join another doggy's birthday party at Camp Bow Wow. He was, truly, a party animal.

Tucker was invited to join another doggy’s birthday party at Camp Bow Wow. He was, truly, a party animal.

Tucker also earned his Canine Good Citizen certification, which involved weeks of classes and training, and a test to see if the dog had good manners and could ignore distractions like other dogs or food, and could behave with a groomer or if he was left alone for awhile. I had planned the certification as a first step toward him becoming a therapy dog; I always thought he’d be perfect for it because of his innate empathy. 

Tucker gave of himself so freely. His specialty was what we called the “Tucker hug.” He would put his paws on someone’s lap, and lean his solid body against their chest, gently placing his head alongside their neck. It was the perfect position for a human to hug him back, to hold onto his warm body, and to feel him snuggle into you. Tucker would give this hugs to anyone who asked, or anyone he felt needed them. Family members and friends of course. But also people he had just met. And vet techs. His oncologists. 

My dog Tucker shows his love by giving what we call Tucker Hugs. They're the most amazing thing.

A friend was visiting from Britain, during her year abroad. Tucker hugged her when she was sick, when she needed dental surgery, when she found out her own dog back home had died. He knew. Tucker always knew.

Tucker gives a hug to a friend.

Tucker gives a hug to a friend.

As much as Tucker gave love, he also needed love. He craved attention—whether it was ball playing or toy throwing or just plain snuggling and petting. He would often weasel his way into a group if he thought the other dogs were being loved and he wasn’t getting his fair share. If you petted him and stopped, he’d paw at you: more. Stop again. Paw. More. Always more. Sometimes, he’d be a little lazy about it. He’d just barely move his foot, and it spoke with the same power as The Paw. Mostly because of the look that accompanied it. 

When my dog Tucker wants more love, he lets me know by tapping me with his paw. Sometimes the movement is subtle, sometimes not so much. But it's all about the love.

Tucker’s eyes spoke volumes. He was so expressive: joy, love, anticipation, hope, happiness, sadness, caring, curiosity—all came through his eyes. You can see those eyes in the first pictures I ever saw of Tucker, the ones that made my heart skip, the ones that made me know he was meant for me. When he combined those expressive eyes with a cocked head, I would fall in love all over again. 

When Tucker tilted his head like this, he could ask for anything and I'd give it to him.

When Tucker tilted his head like this, he could ask for anything and I’d give it to him.

That face...

That cocked head. Those little ear tufts. Tucker knew how to pour on the cute.

His tilty head got me every time. It was addictive; I always wanted more. I would say, “Do you want to go outside?” just to see that tilt, those eyes. And then I’d take him outside, because I could not deny my terrier. 

My dog Tucker would cock his head when I talked to him, and it was so cute, I would do whatever he wanted.

Tucker was hope, embodied. He loved to chase the squirrels, chipmunks, birds and groundhogs that would find their way into our yard. He was successful only a few times, and we learned to scare the critters away before we let the hounds out. But he always hoped he would get that chipmunk in the hosta, that squirrel in the maple, that groundhog under the shed. He hoped I’d throw his ball again. (I did.) Or I’d give him people food. (I didn’t, until he got sick, then I gave him anything he wanted.) Or I’d take him and the other dogs for a walk. (I did that as much as I could.) Or I would pet him. Again. And Again. And Again. (I did that, a lot.)

Tucker hoped he would get that squirrel.

Tucker hoped he would get that squirrel.

Tucker hoping to catch the groundhog who burrowed under our shed.

Tucker hoped he would catch the groundhog who burrowed under our shed. 

"Throw the ball!"

Tucker hoped I would throw the ball. I did.

Tucker was my muse. My friend. My pal. My shadow. My companion. He followed me from room to room. Even if he was asleep, he would somehow notice when I went upstairs. Within minutes, he’d be in my office with me. Once he arrived, the other dogs would follow.

The way he looked at me...

The way he looked at me…

On the best days, I’d have all three dogs in my office, plus two cats: Elsa Clair on my desk or the window shelf, Calvin in the cat bed in the bookcase. The dogs would arrange themselves on the dog beds, usually with Tucker in the biggest one, and Jasper scrunched in the smaller one. Tucker’s personality took up a lot of space.

Lilah, Tucker, and Jasper in my office. This photo perfectly captures Tuckers' personality.

Lilah, Tucker, and Jasper in my office. This photo perfectly captures Tuckers’ personality.

I loved having them there. Whenever I needed a break, I get up and turn around, and snuggle a dog. Tucker would also provide entertainment, twisting himself into a sleeping dog pretzel, with paws in all directions, or spilling out of the dog bed, with his head over the edge, and a smile on his face. Or just curled up into a huggable ball of pure canine contentment.

A huggable, adorable Tucker in my office, along with the current stuffed animal of choice.

A huggable, adorable Tucker in my office, along with the current stuffed animal of choice.

After he got sick, I would tell him I’d be right back, that he didn’t have to drag himself upstairs, that if he just waited a few minutes, I’d be there. Sometimes he’d wait. Usually he didn’t.

As long as I can remember, I wanted a dog to sleep with me in my bed—and Tucker happily obliged. But unfortunately, he was all restlessness and feet, and my husband couldn’t get a good night’s sleep when Tucker was in the bed. Every night, Tucker would jump up on the bed, and I’d have to coax him off with a treat when Brian joined me. Eventually, Tucker learned to just leave when Brian came. 

Tucker on our bed, with the requisite stuffed animal.

Tucker on our bed, with the requisite stuffed animal.

But on the very few days when my husband traveled, I invited Tucker to stay, and it was as glorious and wonderful for me as it was for Tucker. Sometimes Jasper joined us for a little while. When she was younger, Lilah would sometimes leap up, too. They would eventually leave. But Tucker would stay the whole night; I could mush my toes under his heavy body, and fall asleep feeling like I was exactly where I wanted to be. 

You could see what it was hard to sleep with Tucker. He could take up the whole bed.

You could see what it was hard to sleep with Tucker. He could take up the whole bed.

I took hundreds of pictures and videos of Tucker. Probably thousands if I counted them. Even before he got sick, I felt like I wanted to capture everything about him, my heart dog. I was so afraid I’d forget something. The sound of his bark. The feel of his fur. The heft of his body. The smell of his breath. The look in his eyes. The joy of his being. 

He had the most adorable tufts of fur on his silky ears, that would blow in the wind.

He had the most adorable tufts of fur on his silky ears, that would blow in the wind.

Tucker

Tucker always keeping watch.

That sweet face.

That sweet face.

Tucker, dog of my heart, run free, play ball, chase whatever you'd like, and know you are forever loved.

Tucker, dog of my heart, run free, play ball, chase whatever you’d like, and know you are forever loved.

Tucker was part of my life for only eight years.

Like a shooting star, he was here, and now he’s gone.

All that’s left are my memories of the brightness he brought to my existence. 

And the only place I will ever see him again is in my dreams. 



13 Comments on "Remembering Tucker"

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  1. Carys Morley says:

    A beautiful tribute to a beautiful animal, who I was so very lucky to know and love for a couple of short years.

    Amazing work as always, Susan.

  2. Leona says:

    Smiling through lots of tears. This is a beautiful tribute. I hope you can be comforted by the knowledge that you gave him a wonderful life!

  3. Joy says:

    Great memories of a wonderful pup. Their lives are way too short, and we never have enough time with them. Tucker is with you, and will send signs if you look for them.

  4. Cheryl Chervitz says:

    What a wonderful tribute. We only have them for a short time, so love them now and always.

  5. Bernadette says:

    The way Tucker came to you was story enough, but his life was amazing. He will never cease to glow in your memory. Thank you for sharing the story.

  6. Ellen Pilch says:

    That was a beautiful tribute with so many wonderful photos. I am so sorry for the loss of this sweet boy. XO

  7. databbiesotrouttowne says:

    You will see him again in heaven Susan; promise. This post is one of THE BEST tributes I’ve ever read. Tucky would agree. Thank you for sharing him; I know it had to be bittersweet writing this. The tabbies and I said “we will be big cats and not cry while we read this”, well, it didn’t hold true ~~~ big hugs from laura, tuna, mackerull, dai$y, dude, sauce and boomer too ♥♥♥

  8. Mary McNeil says:

    But what wonderful pictures – and wonderful memories ! In the end, that is all any of us have of our “heart” cats or dogs (or lizards or birds…) until we find each other again.

  9. We are so very sorry. Sometimes the “really” special ones are like a shooting star…and stop by to remind of of the important moments in life.

  10. I’m sobbing. I wish I’d met Tucker. He’s the most handsome dog I’ve ever seen (and I used to dog sit, so that’s something). I love that combination – beautiful and something special, and yet comfortable like a teddy bear. It’s not fair and I’m so angry on your behalf. You and he deserved more time together. Time for hugs and playing ball and being the ringleader and destroying stuffed animals and being a family. It’s obvious he knew he was loved – by you and the other pups – and even the cats – and that’s the best gift he could get (besides more life). I wish you had more time – but then again, even when our pets are old, it’s still not enough time. Thank you for sharing him with us. I didn’t know most of this and I fell in love with Tucker all over again. I can assure you that I won’t forget him.

  11. meowmeowmans says:

    I read your beautiful post to Tucker earlier this week, and have been thinking about it ever since. As I’ve written before, I am so grateful for the love that he – and you – experienced during his short but amazing life. Thank you again for sharing Tucker with all of us. We love him, even though we never got to meet him in person, and will never, ever forget him.

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