On my Tree of Thanksgiving during the Thirty Days of Thankfulness, my fifth day goes to the fur kids, (or kid) in my life. That’s right our dog Tucker. (I said kidS first, because we do have a hamster named Hodgens, but…well, ya know, he’s a hamster) But the king of this house in the fury sense, is Tuck. This gorgeous, loving, blond-haired, Golden Retriever. IF you have never had the privilege of owning a Golden, I urge you to RUN out, right now, and get one! Throughout my lifetime, I have had many dogs and cats. Both the Hubs and I grew up with dogs, and we have had dogs ever since becoming a couple. But THIS dog…he stole the whole show!
One thing about Tucker. We had to fight to get him and are still fighting for him. We were promised a pup when we made the four-hour drive north from Minneapolis, MN to pick him up. After hearing that he would be our friend and companion, the seller, who was very proud of his prized hunting dogs (Grandparents featured in Field and Stream magazine etc) decided that Tucker was already sold to a hunter in South Dakota. I literally thought the hubs was going to go to blows, when the said North Dakotan’s son showed up after a call to come and pick up the dog. Luckily, my hubs is mild-tempered, diplomatic and wouldn’t hurt a fly. The men-folk went off for a discussion, while our then 9-year-old daughter sobbed her eyes out holding her new puppy. Finally, the SD’s relented, the pup owner gave in, and we brought home our baby Golden.
Fast forward 5 years and here we are fighting for his life. Six months ago on a routine vet visit for a booster shot we discovered Tuck has a severe heart condition. The next day we spent 9 hours in the WSU Cardiac Center, finding out his prognosis. Grossly enlarged heart, pressing on his lungs and ribs, atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia… They put him on an amazing amount of heart meds (10 a day) took him off all forms of exercise, and sent us home with a 6-month to possible 3-year life span depending on how well he tolerates the meds, but he will eventually go into heart failure.
We have followed protocol perfectly and now 7 months has passed. Praise God for that time. From day one we have said that Tucker was our “Love Sponge” (that’s his nickname) and we aways say he has a huge heart and a love tank that never fills. He is by far the best dog we have ever owned, and it breaks our hearts that his time will be cut short. He is now, unbelievably spoiled. Meaning…we spoil ALL of our dogs, but this dog….wow! How can you say no to his face? When my hubs comes downstairs and we are wrapped together in a blanket on the couch….all I have to say is “he has a heart condition!” and Tuck POURS on the look. For that…he stays on the couch.
He (and I know he’s only a dog) has taught us so much these past six months about living in the moment. About taking opportunities while you can. About reaching out and LOVING THE HECK OUT OF THOSE AROUND YOU. To not sweat the small stuff, like the Golden hair on my couch. To be extra thankful for every breath you take. That even a walk to the end of the street can be monumental. To not take time for granted. To do WHAT you love with abandon. To live out the length of your life as well as the width.
This past summer we took Tucker camping, swimming and hiking a lot. Three of his favorite things. The doctors said this was a No-No (no exercise) but another thing this Golden boy has taught us is that life cannot be lived in a bubble. You can sit in your home, full of fear and be completely miserable or you can take the risk and head out onto the limb. You have to enjoy what you have. If it’s what you love and have a passion for, then GO FOR IT!
Breathe every breath of life and squeeze everything out that you can. If you die doing what you love, that is a life well-lived. Every day as I stare at his now graying muzzle, which breaks my heart to see on a 5-year old dog, I am thankful. Thankful for his hair on our carpet, because I know all too soon I will miss it. Thankful for his pantry raids to eat our bread (or his occasional busts into the guest room to eat visitor’s energy bars) thankful for his willingness to take care of us when we don’t feel good, or sit with me while I am in an ice bath. Thankful for his smiles (YES this dog can smile on demand) thankful for his grocery carrying abilities , thankful that he shows an unwavering love and zest of life even when his life is in jeopardy of ending. And thankful for his loyalty and show of unconditional love in any and all situations.
He changed us. As much as he was meant to be ours, we were meant to be his, and as much as a dog needs his human, we have needed him, in our lives and in our hearts. Lessons learned from our most trusted companion.