Losing a pet, or in this case man’s best friend, is like losing a member of your family. That is why the death of a dog can be so hard and heartbreaking. Yesterday I got the call I knew was coming, but couldn’t fathom the conversation. My sister was calling to tell me our parents were putting our family dog to sleep. Tucker, our golden retriever, was 14 years old and could barely stand, walk or hear. Regardless of his physical health, we all felt like he was still sharp as a tack. He got excited every time you got out the tennis ball to throw around. And even though he couldn’t jump, he wanted to still play and have fun like he did when he was a puppy.
I knew mom and dad had been toying with the hard decision for weeks. Yet actually coming to terms with this fact was harder than I ever imagined. Even though it was just a dog, a pet, losing Tucker was like losing a child for them and a sibling for me. It hurt so much to think about my parents letting him go. I remember getting him like it was yesterday. I returned home from college for Easter and hoping we could rescue an older dog. After several months of waiting we threw caution to the wind and bought our family a puppy.
We showed up to breeder, and knew right away which puppy was ours. Tucker was a little skittish, the funny one of the group. My dad said you have to look into their eyes and see if they are the right one for you. Tucker picked my dad just as much as Dad picked Tucker. It was love at first sight.
Our story isn’t that much different than so many others out there. Over the years, we fell more in love with our furry brother. He was a part of our family and everyone knew Tucker throughout the neighborhood. It didn’t take long for friends and family alike to fall in love, too. He was a gorgeous dog and constantly followed my mom around the house with socks and a stuffed animal in his mouth. Tucker also lived for fishing with my dad. He would stand in ankle deep water for hours trying to catch a fish. My dad would finally reel one in and Tucker was almost afraid of it, but that wouldn’t stop him from trying.
As the years went on, my sister and I grew up and moved out of the house, but Tucker never stopped being our dog. His health yo-yo’ed up and down, but he was always ready to play. When I had my son last March, I wondered how Tucker would respond to the new baby that was taking all the attention. He acted much like I thought he would, with little pause and reaction. They co-existed well and it warms my heart to think about Andrew climbing all over Tucker on a recent visit to my parents.
Andrew won’t really get know Tucker, but I feel so fortunate to have been able to call him my dog for the last 14 years. Memories with our pets can last a lifetime. During a conversation with my mom last night she told me something that will stick with me forever. She said, “You know, when we got Tuck, I really felt like it completed our family.” My husband and I don’t have a dog yet, but I can only hope when we do get one, they are half the companion that Tucker was to us all.
So many of us have lost a pet and I can safely say it never gets easier to deal with. They say that dogs are man’s best friend. I can confidently say that was never truer than in the life of Tucker. Rest in peace buddy; hope you are catching lots of fish up there.
For those of you dealing with the loss of a pet, I always find this poem to offers comfort: Rainbow Bridge