When the kids were small we learned our son had allergies to pretty much everything – except, miraculously, to dogs.
So we decided to adopt a dog from a shelter, and began searching. We found it harder to find what we were looking for – a puppy – than we imagined we would but eventually we zeroed in on a litter of roley poley looking spotted dogs sheltered in upstate new york. The family piled into the car and we drove there to see them. The kids, of course, were expecting to return with a new family member and truth be told, so were we.
We arrived and met the woman we’d spoken with via email. After greetings and a exchanging remarks on a few process details, we went into the kennel. The puppies were sweet and the kids were enchanted. Meanwhile, I noticed another dog – leggier than the puppies, huddled in a corner a few feet away. His fur was black, entirely black, and he was somewhere between puppy-hood and young-adulthood. I went over to look at him. Seeing me, he scrambled out the trap door that lead outside to where he could relieve himself.
I asked Jen, our host, about the dog. “That’s Jackie. He’s not up for adoption.”
“Why?” I asked.
“He’s anti-social. He has worms, and we’ve been taking him home with us to see if we can rehab him but I think we’ll probably put him down.”
My heart sank.
“Can we meet him?”
She hesitated. “I guess there’s no harm.” She opened up his kennel and we walked out to his outdoor area, the kids trailing. Jackie was curled up in a corner, eyeing us warily.
“This is what I mean. He’s always like this.”
Jackie was thin, and his coat was rough looking. “How old is he?” I asked.
“Three months,” said Jen.
I felt terrible for him. I walked toward him slowly, making friendly noises, but he ran to another corner, putting distance between us. “I think we should take him,” I said, not really thinking about what I was saying.
My husband looked at me, not surprised, sighed, and said “she’ll decide who comes home with us,” meaning it would be my choice despite being one of four people. He smiled.
“It’s okay with me. He looks like he needs love.” The kids were disappointed. They liked the spotted roley poley puppies. They were friendly and playful. This dog was decidedly not either of those things.
Jen seemed unsure about our offer. After some exchange on how we’d care for him, she agreed to let us take Jackie home. We loaded him into the crate we’d brought and promised to treat his worms. The kids made the best of it during the drive home, agreeing that this dog needed a home and the others would surely be adopted. We talked about names. And we settled on Tucker.
Years later, Tucker was our rock. He’d grown into a beautiful black shephard. When my husband and I split, Tucker came with me, and my new little house felt a lot more like home. Everyone loved Tucker. He was mellow, friendly, and greeted everyone with a wag.
And then one day when he was out in the yard he bolted into the street, probably chasing a squirrel or rabbit. And he was hit.
Tucker didn’t live. We carried him to the vet and they tried to save him but couldn’t. We all cried for days. We talked about planting him under a rose bush but ultimately I didn’t. I knew we would move to another house one day and I kept his ashes. Four years later I still have them. I still think about the nights my children were with their father after we split, Tucker curled up with me for company. He was the best friend I took a little for granted. Until he was gone. And I’ve never been the same.
We all carry him around in our hearts, especially me.
We live on a farm, now, with a couple of other rescues. I’m sure he would have liked this farm, so I am planning to bury him here in my garden with a rose bush over him.
I want him to rest somewhere beautiful and to go back to the goddess, who gifted him to us, worms and all.