Monday, February 13, 2012

The Happiest Dog

He was born in September, 2007, amid the smoke and fumes from the Southlands’ worst fires in decades. His sire was a decorated rescue dog from Germany; his dam, a future champion herder. The kennel recorded the litter with the letter, “S”, and all the pups were christened with “Smokin’ ” as their middle name.

I wanted an Australian Cattle Dog (aka Blue Heeler), as enough time had passed since a tumor punctured the heart of my beloved heeler Chelsea (and soon after my heart as well) for me to be ready for a new dog. We wanted a male as in this breed they tend to be less intense than the females, and either a red merle or a red/blue mix. Joy found Wallaby Kennel down in Bonsall, and they had a recent litter that would be ready in late November. But the only pup left when we arrived was a little red bitch, who was cute, but not the right dog for us.

2 weeks later, the kennel called to ask if were still interested in a mixed-color male who had been returned from his prospective family. Apparently, the new parents had just let him out into their (unfenced) yard, and the neighbor’s German Shepard had taken a strong dislike to the little guy. Unwilling or unable to deal, they returned him to the kennel. We were next on the wait list and in December we became his new family. On the way home, searching for a name, I came up with “Tucker”, Aussie slang for food, and given his delight in his meals, it was an appropriate choice, and “Wallaby’s Smokin’ Tucker” it was.

He was supposed to be my dog, but once he got home, it became obvious that this was not to be. Aliana took one look at him, and that was that: she loved him and he loved her back. “My fuzzy teddy bear”, she called him, and he showered her with licks and snuggles. He looked like a furry cross between a Corgi and a pot-bellied pig, swayed like J-Lo when he walked and shed like there was no tomorrow, and she could not have cared less.
Ana & Tucker

Oh, he was a cute little boy: pudgy and happy, into everything the way puppies are. Oliver, our 3-year-old Golden Doodle, was delighted to have a playmate at first, but as time went on and Tucker’s natural dominance grew, Oliver stepped into the back-ground to avoid being run over by Tucker on his way to a tennis ball. We got used to the sound of snapping jaws as his mouth closed on thin air (he wasn’t a very good catcher), and gradually the gnawing on everything in sight slowed, though not before the piano bench and several chairs bore scars.

Oliver & Tucker
Around the time we got Tucker, our older daughter Alysia adopted a cute little mutt named Bella from a shelter in San Francisco, and when she came to visit, the two pups became fast friends. In fact the three of them became a pack, and the rough-housing wouldn’t stop until parents intervened, and sent one or another to bed. It was like being with 3 4-year-old boys, who just happened to be wearing fur coats and liked to snap at each other.

Tucker, Bella & Oliver

And sniff cat butts. In fact, it was not uncommon to see Tucker walking around the house with his nose pressed deep into a cat behind. Our grey tabby, Gracie, enjoyed this so much we were often tempted to offer her a cigarette when they were done. And so, one night we were treated to the spectacle of Tucker, with his nose pressed against Gracie’s hind end, while Oliver humped Tucker, and Bella (not to be left out) tried to hump Oliver. Yes, folks, it was an interspecies gay orgy, right there in the living room. My regret is that I couldn’t get it on film to send to Pat Robertson.

When Tucker was 18 months, he decided that he wanted the ball so badly, he learned to swim. At first, his coat soaked up the water so much that he swam essentially vertically. But as time went on, he learned to motor very efficiently and quickly retrieve the “errant” throw, bring the ball back to us, and crouch in the ready position, tail flicking back and forth, and barking if we didn’t throw quickly enough for him.
His favorite resting spot: we call it, "monorail dog."
He would sometimes patrol the patio by walking back and forth along the wall.
About that bark. I took him to agility training at the Humane Society, and we had a great time. Until he decided that he wanted one of the other dog’s attention, and let loose with one of his “stun the cow” barks. This noise, so high pitched it was actually painful, cause the entire class to stop and see what or who was torturing an alien being. At which point Tucker went over and sat next to his new best friend, smiling and wagging his tail to beat the band. And then barked again, which led to the leader asking if everything was all right? And, except for bleeding ears, it was.

Then, last year in March, the animals were passing some sort of upper respiratory virus around, first with the cats hacking and sneezing, then Oliver, and finally it seemed to be Tucker’s turn and so we didn’t worry too much. But it never got better, and so off to the vet we went. And, from there things got worse, until we ended up with a diagnosis of Lymphoma, Stage 5b. Oof.

Even through the chemo, we had good days, lots of them. Right to the very end, he was never unhappy, going off with the techs to get his next dose even when it made him sick. But there is no cure for animal lymphoma, only palliation, and 10 months later it was time to say good-bye. And then, there were no more words.
Wallaby's Smokin' Tucker
9/2007 - 1/2012
May you chase and catch all the balls your big, furry heart desires.


  1. They are here for such a short time, but damn, do they make all the difference... He was a beauty. Hugs to the clan...

    just lost my "auxilliary" dog last week... the one i'd lost custody of in the divorce. did my own version of a dog eulogy at The Park... hard to say goodbye.

  2. Wow, I was laughing and really enjoying this till I came to the part about Tucker getting sick. He was only 5! So sorry. My heeler (Sugar Monster) is 4. I hope she lives a long, long time.

    Thanks for the story, I really enjoyed it..... Donna

    1. We miss the little bugger all the time. Thanks for reading, Donna. Take care of Sugar Monster!