Sunday, May 7, 2017
a tribute to my big buddy, Tucker....
On April 26th, I lost my big buddy, Tucker. In an effort to work through my emotions and to share his legacy, I felt the need to tell his story.
Tucker had a hard life, but despite everything he went through, his first and foremost goal, was to please others. When the Guardian Angel Basset Rescue found him, he was suffering from some horrible skin allergies which caused him to constantly itch. He'd become so overwhelmed with it, that he eventually rubbed off the majority of his facial fur and caused permanent scars. He looked rough. Along with Tucker, was his partner Jess, who was pregnant when they found them. The rescue took them both in and immediately worked on getting Tucker some relief. Over the course of his stay, he came down with bloat. Luckily, his foster parents saw what was happening and immediately rushed him to the vet and had to have emergency surgery to have his stomach tacked. However, that never dampened his spirits. Always a lover and a dog who never gave up, he pulled through and with the help of some allergy medication, started on the road to recovery. Along the way, 6 puppies were born. All healthy, happy and adorably cute. As the puppies grew, so did Tucker's popularity. He was soon ready for adoption. This is where I first met Tucker. Reading his story online and feeling like he was a good match for our family, which included one little basset spitfire named Lucy, we set a time to meet him. We when all first saw him, we already had fallen in love and before long, he was in the car heading back to his new forever home. One of the first things we did, was took him to the vet and started working on a long term plan to continue improving his skin condition. Over the course of the next several months, he was placed on new medication and dog food. It was a lot of trial and error to get there, but soon he was almost itch free and the fur on his face started to return. You never would have believed it was the same dog. His beautiful tricolor coat was soon punctuated with a stunning red face. It was an amazing transformation that saw him showing on the outside, what was always there on the inside. A lovable, fuzzy little boy who wanted nothing more than to love and be loved in return. At approximately 6 years old, by this point, it was a long time coming.
Over the next year and a half, we saw him blossom and become a true basset in every way. A classic, in every since of the word. However, about 6 months ago, a tumor developed on his paw. Not wanting to waste any time, he was immediately taken to the vet for an evaluation. It was determined that he needed to have a minor surgical procedure to have it removed. There was no way we were leaving it to chance, as the vet was concerned it could be cancerous. After it was gone, the pathology showed it was a sheath tumor and benign. He was back on the road to recovery. The medications he was on for his allergies, slowed down the healing process and forced us to have to put him back into surgery, to re-open the wound and create fresh tissue in order to help it heal. This time, it worked. Before long, he was on all fours and walking proud. This was very short lived. Within about a month, we noticed a large cluster of bumps on his hindquarters. Soon, they were almost everywhere on his body. The vet took a biopsy of one of them and found that Tucker was suffering from a cutaneous lymphoma, unrelated to the tumor that had been removed. We started him on a chemotherapy treatment, to slow the progression of the lymphoma and hoped to increase his lifespan for another 9 months or more. Sadly, this was not meant to be. He made it through two rounds of chemo, but his immune system was not responding to the other medication and his body was becoming prone to infection. Because the bumps were irritating him, no matter if he was wearing a cone on his head or not, he would find a way to break the skin. This brought on a series of infections and antibiotics were required to help get him healthy enough to continue his treatments. His fur began to fall out and he started losing weight. He no longer was interested in food and we feared that he might not make it. Eventually, when my mom came to visit, a breakthrough happened. She brought one of my childhood favorite foods, Vietnamese egg rolls. At one point, I still had some on my fingers and Tucker perked up at the smell of them. I quickly grabbed one and put in front of him. He gobbled it up and looked up at me, asking for more. I took another one and fed it to him. A wave of relief came over me, as he was finally eating again. From there, I saw his interest in food return, as I hand fed him just about anything he wanted. Striving to provide protein rich foods, he was eating fairly well and putting back on some of the weight he had lost. For about a week, he looked as though we had made it through the worst of it, but soon the infections were back. So, another round of stronger antibiotics were prescribed. Shortly, before those were finished, he stopped eating again. No matter what I tried, he didn't want any of it. He wasn't strong enough to continue the chemotherapy and was in need of more antibiotics, as the infection reared its ugly head again even worse. On Tuesday morning, Tucker went in for a full exam and the next round of antibiotics. He wasn't able to go outside anymore, without being carried and he barely moved. There was some discussion of if it was time to let him go, but I could see it in his eyes that he still wanted to fight. So we made the decision to use an injectable form of antibiotics and to take it one day at a time. On the way home in the car, he held his head high and sniffed the breeze. Looking like the proud boy that he was, I felt confident that he was in this for as long as I was. The vet recommended daily baths to help break up the sores and to get him over the infections that continued to plague him. So that night, I bathed him, made sure he was completely dry and he did something he hadn't done in a while, laid in his favorite spot on the couch. He climbed his little stairs on his own volition and slept peacefully on the couch that night. There was hope.
The next morning, he did the same thing. Climbed right up those stairs and laid on the couch, until it was time for me to go to work and the kids to go to school. About 6 pm, as I was just getting done at my job, I got a frantic text from my daughter. She told me that Tucker had stopped breathing and she was sure that he was no longer with us. I rushed home as quickly as I could. When I got there, it was too late. Tucker was gone. There was nothing more I could do. I spoke quietly too him, as I wrapped him in a blanket and took him to the car. I was heartbroken. The boy that had come into my life only 2 years before, was gone. When I came back in from the garage, my children told me what had happened. Once they had gotten home that night, he greeted them by wagging his tail, then laid down and had never gotten up again. He had decided it was his time to go. On his terms. We all felt a huge loss, in that moment. Here was a loving creature that wanted nothing more than to love and be loved in return, waiting to say his goodbyes, before letting go. One final act of unselfishness. That was our Tucker. The next morning, I took off of work and the kids stayed home from school. It was raining pretty heavily, as we took our last drive to the vet. When we arrived, the techs came out and moved his body onto a stretcher and took him inside. There, they took an impression of his paw, something for us to keep in remembrance of our special boy. We said our goodbyes and that was the last time we saw Tucker.
In the days since then, I've thought a lot about the life he lived. How everyone that met him, loved him. How he would waddle over to anyone who came into his vicinity, push his head up against your leg and wait for you to reach out and pet him. The way he would ride in the front seat of the car, right next to me and be the perfect passenger. He loved to eat and he loved to cuddle. He was never a kisser, but he wouldn't shy away if you wanted to give him one. He was always happy to see you and rarely caused any problems. All he wanted was to be the best dog he could be. Tucker will be forever missed, but he left a legacy of 6 beautiful puppies, who continually share his enthusiasm for life. I was lucky to have him and I will never forget him. He was my big buddy and there's not a day that goes by that I don't miss him.
Thank you for everything you did, not only for me, but for everyone who ever had the privilege of meeting you. Rest in peace, Tucker. 4/26/2017