Story: Paw it forward

He sighed heavily, proclaiming the unfairness of it all, and lay his cone-encircled head on the pillow. Tucker looked at me, his expressive eyes mournful under scruffy eyebrows. He moaned, an extended pitiful sound that dogs use to touch the hearts of humans.

Tucker had torn a nail on one of his hind legs. The exposed quick was obviously painful; not only was he limping but he was incessantly licking his foot.

We’ve been here before; Tucker is a terrier who goes through life at full speed. He’s focused and smart. We have to spell the word B-A-L-L in front of him or he’ll go find one and harass us until we throw it.

I brought up an Elizabethan collar from our basement storage; if you live with dogs, you eventually wind up with a collection of these nasty items, designed to prevent a dog from licking a wound. Slightly resembling the high ruffled collars seen in paintings from the Elizabethan era, E-collars are hard plastic cones that look more like satellite dishes. For Tucker, we needed the largest one; he had mastered the art of circumventing every other size we tried in the past.

I put the E-collar over his head. Some call the device “the cone of shame.” One look at a dog’s face when he’s wearing it and it’s easy to understand why.

Sad Tucker wearing the "Cone of Shame."

Sad Tucker wearing the “Cone of Shame.”

And then it snowed. Beautiful white fluffy stuff fell from the sky, casting a spell over dogs near and far, whispering, “Run! Run for the pure joy of running!” In our fenced-in back yard, Jasper and Lilah bounced and pranced through the snow, while Tucker, released from the bonds of the cone yet tethered to me by a leash—could only watch, his tail drooping. Jasper zoomed past, and Tucker—forgetting he was tied to me—leapt to join him.

Lilah and Jasper are very aware that Tucker can't join in the fun.

Lilah and Jasper are very aware that Tucker can’t join in the fun.

Tucker watching Jasper and Lilah playing in the snow.

Tucker watching his buds playing in the snow.

Then Lilah came speeding toward us, stopping just out of leash length to wag and bow, offering an insincere invitation to play, knowing full well that Tucker couldn’t join in the reindeer games. I swear I could hear her giggling.

Lilah comes a bouncin'.

Lilah comes a bouncin’.

Tucker doesn’t stay down for long, though. He adapts to life with a cone, and refuses to let it stop him from doing what he loves.

Window patrol can still be done while wearing a cone.

Window patrol can still be done while wearing a cone.

In the house, he’ll paw a ball out of his toy basket, position his coned head directly over it and push down until he can grasp the ball and pick it up. Unfortunately, when he gives it to me, I have to hide the ball, because once he starts, Tucker can’t stop, and he plays hard. He would tear that nail again, and he’d have to wear the cone for longer than either of us want.

Using the same technique for picking up a ball, Tucker managed to pick up a Nylabone. He stood there, with the bone hanging out of his mouth like a kid with a lollypop, and pondered the situation.

The other dogs stared at him. He lay down, the cone extending out and covering his paws. There was no way to hold the bone so he could chew it.

No way to hold the bone.

No way to hold the bone.

Defeated, he opened his jaws, and watched as the bone rolled down the slant of the cone, stopping at Jasper’s feet. Jasper picked it up and began gnawing happily, while Tucker watched every lick, crunch and chew, drooling slightly.

Now Jasper has the bone.

Now Jasper has the bone.

When Jasper was finished, and leapt onto the couch for an after-bone nap, Tucker once again maneuvered his cone over the bone, picked it up, and walked over to me. “Could you hold it for me?” his eyes asked. “Please?”

"I could use a hand here."

“I could use a hand here.”

Only a soul-less fiend would say no. Thus I became the official holder of Tucker’s Nylabone. When he’s in the mood for a chew, Tucker brings the bone to me and politely asks for help. I lay down on the carpet, reach into the cone and hold the bone tight and still.

Thanks, Mom!

Thanks, Mom!

For the ten minutes or so while he’s blissfully engaged, I watch my dog enjoy a simple pleasure. His eyes half closed, a slight smile on his face, he chews one side, then the other, and back again. Time slows down during those few minutes out of my busy and distracted days. I tune into his needs the way he usually tunes into mine, as I learn to adjust the bone to the perfect angle for optimal gnawing. I feel like I’m giving back to this sweet soul who gives me so much joy and love.

Last night, Tucker picked up his bone, walked over to where Jasper was laying on the couch, and very deliberately rolled the bone down his cone toward his brother.  Then he stepped back and looked at me.

I think he was pawing it forward.

Tucker relaxing on the couch


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16 Comments on "Story: Paw it forward"

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  1. Pamela says:

    You are such a storyteller. I loved reading about Tucker and his cone. I hope the nail heals quickly so he can say goodbye to that nasty cone.

    • I feel so bad for him because he’s such an active dog. He accepts that the cone is his way of life right now, sitting calmly every time I put it on him, since I take it off for meal times and trips outside. But not being able to play with his brother and sister? That’s the worst for him.

      Thanks for the good wishes.

  2. You tell a great story, even when it is about the Cone of Shame! Poor Tucker. I sure hope he heals up quick so he can run and play with the others again.

    Oh, and thank you for visiting my blog yesterday. I am now following you on Bloglovin’.
    Happy Saturday.

    • Thanks! Tucker seems to be a little better today, and is enjoying a few cone-free moments now and again.

      I’m happy to have discovered your blog. I’m trying to connect with other bloggers to hear their stories–and those of their furry family members.

      Happy weekend!

  3. Awwww poor doggie. I love the photo of them looking out the window. I hope he gets better soon.

  4. Flea says:

    🙂 What a happy, hopeful story. Thank you for sharing it so beautifully through photos and words!

  5. Roooooo oh no, not the cone of shame! I’m very impressed with Tucker’s persistence and ball handling skills – even though he is wearing a cone! And the story about the bone is just too cute. I think he might have actually been meaning to wack his brother over the head with it as some sort of revenge *Waggy tail*

    • Oh believe me, Tucker whacks everyone with his cone. Whether it’s on purpose or not, it’s hard to tell. But my son saw Tucker give his bone to Jasper, and we both could tell that it was a deliberate and kind act. Who woulda thunk?

      As for his ball and bone handling skills; you can’t keep a good terrier down. Tucker finds a way!

      Happy wags back at ya!

  6. Nailah Bone says:

    Aw, Tucker is such a sweetie 🙂 This blog post was adorable! I hope he gets better soon!

    • Thanks! The cone is rough on all of us! He bangs into everything! The worst is when he comes up behind me and slams into the back of my legs. But he can’t help it; he just wants to get close.

  7. Awe what a sweetie Tucker is. We have been down the broken nail, cut pad, over extended tendon road ourselves. It can be tough having a hard charging dog. Gotta keep that cone handy!

    • Thanks. I have to work hard to not blame myself. Could I have cut his nails shorter? Did we walk somewhere we shouldn’t have? That kind of thing. It goes with the terrier territory, I think; living life at full speed sometimes means you get hurt. But I really feel for the little guy and wish I can make it better quicker!

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