Dear Tucker – a love letter to my dog

11.13.12 new pics 117tuckchairsleep

Dear Tucker,

Last weekend when we were taking care of H and K, I was struck at least a dozen times over by what an incredible dog you are.  I am sure you know this, of course.  After all, I tell you all the time that you are not just a great dog, not just an incredible dog, but the best dog.  Like, anywhere.  Like, ever.  I tell you this first thing every morning, and last thing every night, and, on the days when you come to the office with me, at least twenty trillion times in between.  I’ll tell you honestly – there are people out there who don’t agree with me.  Because the thing about people and their dogs is that, unless the dog in question is a total pain in the ass, and sometimes even then, people tend to love their dogs an awful lot, and because they do, they tend to believe that THEIR dog is the best, the cutest, the smartest, or whatever.

The difference between me and all these other people is, in case you were wondering, actually pretty simple. The difference is that all of those other people are just kidding themselves, and that is because you, Tucker, are the absolute best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none.  Also the cutest, and definitely one of the all-time sweetest, but probably, objectively, not the smartest – your brother Dakotah*  would win that award.  You are smart, too, of course, but Kody was smart with a capital S; in fact he was scary smart, or “wicked smaht” as they say in some parts of the northeast, even if he was crazier than a bag full of cats with their tails tied together.  Although, as you know, crazy or not, I loved him madly, and miss him to this day, and I’m sure you do, too.  He was such a good big brother to you.  But I digress …

Like any good romantic, which in my deepest soul I am, even though I try to pretend that I put no stock in such things, I have always, at least ever since I became acquainted with the concept, believed in love at first sight.  I’ve read about it in novels, and seen it in movies.  It just had never happened to me.  Usually, when I fall in love, you know, like with men, it happens slowly, and it is not so much a fall as it is a gradually dawning awareness that the world as I knew it has changed, that the focus has shifted, and all I feel like doing is talking to or thinking about the person I have suddenly become aware I am in love with.  It’s kind of like falling asleep.  One minute you are awake, and cognizant of what’s going around you, and the next you are not, and you don’t even realize you’ve fallen asleep until you find yourself waking up.  But once you’re aware of it, whether you come to the realization slowly or it hits you over the head like the proverbial ton of bricks, love can be a pretty all-consuming feeling.  When I’ve “fallen” in love in the not-at-first-sight way, it is like a stone tossed gently into a tranquil pond:  it results in a lot of ripples, spreading ever outward to some yet-to-be-identified conclusion.  Love at first sight is not like this.  It is a freaking METEORITE dropped into a tranquil pond from a great height (like, you know, outer space), and it tends to make a pretty big splash.

Which is what happened when I fell in love with you … at first sight, of course.  I wasn’t really looking for another dog, (except perhaps in the most vague of ways, because let’s be honest, you and I both know that I am one of those people who is always half looking for another dog, not because the one(s) I have aren’t amazing but because I just love dogs so much and also because I know how many are out there that need homes and I know, too, that a lot of them will never get one, and it makes my heart hurt).

Uh oh, I’m digressing again.  The point is, I wasn’t actively looking for a second dog when I found you, and even if I had been, no offense, buddy, but a little guy like you wouldn’t really have been what I was looking for.  I had always liked big dogs, like Dakotah, and I kind of thought my next dog would be a Greyhound. Greyhounds (and sighthounds in general) have always intrigued me – long and tall and lean and regal creatures that they are, with that look of eagles in their large, wide-set eyes.  I’d even volunteered with a local Greyhound rescue.

Which just goes to show that love is about as predictable as a tornado.  You may be the best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none, and of course you are, but you are no sighthound, my friend.  In fact, when we first met, and for a long time afterward, I wasn’t sure what breed (or, I assumed, erroneously as it turned out, mix of breeds) you even were.  You didn’t look like any dog I had ever seen before, and let’s be truthful – in the beginning you were what could probably be most kindly termed a hot damn mess.  You were skinny and scrawny and you only had about fifteen hairs on your entire body.  Clearly you were suffering from some pretty serious allergies (which turned out to be food-related) and your poor paws were fire-engine red.  It took months to heal them up.

But your face – oh, your face!  I was a goner, as  soon as I saw it.  You didn’t have much cause to be grinning when we met, but grinning you were, at least in the doggy sense, with your pink tongue lolling out one side of your mouth and your wispy little tail wagging faster than I’d ever seen a dog wag its tail before.  What hair you did have on your body was sticking out in about a hundred and sixty seven different directions, and the shock of tan hair on the very top of your head was sticking straight up, like Albert Einstein’s probably was after he got done puzzling over the Theory of Relativity, or maybe Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown in Back to the Future.

The point being, and I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but on paper you weren’t at all what I would have chosen. The thing was, though, that none of that mattered.  One look, and I was as smitten as I’ve ever been in my life, by anyone or anything.  I knew we were meant to be, and the truth is that it probably wouldn’t have mattered if you had turned into the Tasmanian Devil once I got you home.  No, I’m serious.  I really don’t think it would have made a difference. Actually, I know it wouldn’t have.  You could have eaten every stick of furniture in the house, eliminated on every single rug.  I would have loved you anyway.  I wouldn’t have been able to help it.  Love is like that.

It was just plain dumb luck that you turned out to be as perfect as you were, and are.  I’d like to take credit, but as you and I both know, I really can’t.  Sure, I taught you some basic behaviors, and you can sit and lie down and stay and come and heel with the best of them.  You’ve even got a handful of tricks in your repertoire and you were a darn good agility dog even if you never did quite get the hang of the weave poles and you thought the teeter was for showoffs.  But who really cares about that?  The point of agility was to have fun, and eat lots of string cheese and turkey hot dogs (well, that was you more than me) and we definitely did that, on both counts.  But none of those things are why you are, (no matter who else in the world out there may be laboring under the misconception that their dog is the best), absolutely, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt the very best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none.

The reason that you’re the very best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none, is because, well, you just are.  I could try to break it down and say it’s because of your awesome hair, which almost always looks as though you’ve just stuck your paw in a light socket, but on you just totally works.  Nobody rocks the bedhead look better than you.  I could say it’s because you earned your Canine Good Citizen certificate, and are also a certified therapy dog.  I could say it’s because you are almost always happy, and just want everyone else to be happy too, which is why it’s almost impossible to be in a bad mood when you’re around.  You are a joy-spreader, plain and simple.  Honestly, I could say it’s because of a hundred different reasons, and they’d all be true, but they still wouldn’t be the reason.

Trying to explain why you’re the very best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none, is like trying to explain why the sky is blue.  Yes, there is a scientific reason for the sky being blue – which is actually something called Rayleigh scattering.  In case you don’t know, Tuck, different colors of light are affected differently as they move through the atmosphere, and the higher frequencies (the blues) are absorbed more often than the lower frequencies (the reds).  So then the absorbed blue light is radiated into the sky in all different directions and is scattered all around the sky, so no matter which direction you look in, you see the blue light.  Cool, right? Yeah, not really.

Because the thing is – who really cares why the sky is blue?  (I mean I know some people do, but I guess I’m not one of them.  I just know that I want to look up and see something beautiful.)  The point is – it just IS – in the same way that eating chocolate icing straight out of the container with a spoon or even your finger makes you feel better when you’re sad. (This is a people thing, not a dog thing, by the way, since chocolate is toxic to dogs, so don’t go getting any bright ideas.  Remember when Riley** ate all the chocolate covered almonds and had to have surgery?  No bueno.  Also, remember when you snarfed down one of Aunt M’s weight loss pills when she dropped it on the floor- I guess because they had fish oil in them and you love fish oil so much – and then had to go to Dr. G and take all that yucky stuff that made you puke?  Talk about a lapse in judgment!  Which reminds me – what the hell were you thinking?!!!!!!!)  Anyway, the point is – some things just are.  The sky is blue (well, unless it’s raining or nighttime, but you get my meaning).  Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes.  The opening credits of Napoleon Dynamite are better than almost any actual movie that’s been made in the ten years since that movie came out.  You are the very best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none.  You know it and I know it, and other people can believe what they want, but that doesn’t change what is.  It’s all the same to us, right?

Hmm … it’s not all the same?  You really want to know why?  Well, I guess the best way I can put it, buddy, is that you just get it. I can take you anywhere, put you in almost any situation, and I don’t have to wonder or worry about how you’ll behave, because you’ll either instinctively know, or, if you don’t know, you’ll look to me for guidance, and I’ll clue you in, and once you know what I want you to do, you’ll pretty much just do it, no questions asked, no drama, and no bullshit, because we’re a team, a partnership, and that’s how we roll, and it’s something that just can’t be learned or taught.  Like last weekend when we were babysitting.  I took you with me and had Aunt K watch Phoebe because I didn’t want to be worrying about two dogs in a strange environment with two kids and another dog also in the house.  I could have taken Phoebe, and she would have done fine, maybe even great, but you were, as you always are, just on a whole other level.

You know how some dogs herd sheep and some dogs guard things and some dogs find lost people and some dogs sniff out drugs or contraband produce in airports?  They call those dogs working dogs.  But you are a working dog, too, and by that I don’t just mean that four or five days a week you come with me to the office where you basically allow people to pet you and give you treats behind my back that they don’t think I know about, and snooze in your bed or on the chair next to my desk in the afternoon when the sun shines in the window. Let’s be honest – the sleeping part of your job takes up most of the day, but when your eyes are open, you are spreading the joy like the joy-spreading fool that you are, and everyone in the office, especially me, is the better for it.

This past weekend, though, we were babysitting, and even though you had never babysat before, you freaking nailed it.  If there was a babysitting Olympics, you would be the gold medalist for sure.  You were gentle and patient with the kids, dispensing endless kisses, and performing your repertoire of tricks tirelessly and with good humor, even when the treats ran out.  And at night when they went to bed, you foreswore your usual spot on the sofa beside me to lie in the hallway at your self-appointed sentry post outside the bedrooms where the little angels slept.  I had a hard time even getting you to come to bed.  You finally did come, but you were clearly worried, and a bit undecided about whether you should.  After all, your gentle brown eyes seemed to say, we were there to do a job, and that job, you knew as clearly as if I’d told you in so many words, was to watch those kids.  You were in it to win it, even if I was wimping out by going to bed.  Eventually, I was able to convince you to come too, but first thing each morning after your obligatory morning constitutional, you would sprint back inside to make sure that those kids were right where you’d left them, seeming to breathe an actual sigh of relief when you found them still sleeping.

This, of course, is nothing that I taught you, nothing that I could have taught you even if I’d wanted to.  It’s something that came from you – from your loving heart and your sweet, gentle soul.  (This is another thing that people don’t agree on – the dogs having souls thing – but I am with Albert Payson Terhune on this one  – I believe that dogs, at least some very special dogs, have souls and I believe you are one of them.)  And it is for this reason and so many other reasons I can’t even think of now, that you are the very best dog in the entire history of the world, bar none, and a paragon of perfection, in my eyes even if in no one else’s.  I hope that answers your question.

Love forever and always,

Mom ***

* Dakotah (nicknamed Kody) was the Alaskan Malamute / Chow Chow mix I had for sixteen years.

**Riley is my parents’ Bichon Frise. He eats everything that isn’t nailed down.  His nickname is Jaws.

*** Yes, I realize that I am not Tucker’s actual mother.  No, I don’t think he is a four legged furry human, but what else am I supposed to call myself in this situation?  You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that I am not one of those people who try to sneak their dog into a mall by putting it in a stroller and pretending it’s a baby.  I promise!