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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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