Tucker: The greatest "man's best friend" ever!!!

It seems hard to imagine, but Tucker is gone. No matter that I knew it was close. I could see that he was getting weaker. The Feldine I'd been giving him for hip-displasia no longer did the trick. He was barely able to make it out and back to the field behind our house, where only a year ago he would run along beside me. Lately his breathing had become labored.

When I first noticed the lump in his throat that seemed to suddenly appear, I feared the worst and made an appointment with the vet. I hated to leave him there but knew it was the only way. I was heartened later in the day when the vet called to fill me in. The distended throat was caused by a large cyst filled with infected fluid. He explained that Tuck would have to stay there a few days so be could be treated with antibiotics. What a, relief it wasn't a tumor.

Tucker. The greatest "man's best friend" ever!!!
Tucker. The greatest "man's best friend" ever!!!

Later in the week. I called and was told that he was making good progress. The vet

suggested that I bring him home for the weekend so he'd be in comfortable environs.

Friday arrived to welcome what was billed as the worst hurricane in 50 years. Like many others I stayed home and prepared for the possible devastation that mercifully never materialized.

Knowing that storms upset Tuck, I called to see if I could gel him then instead of waiting for Saturday as planned. The assistant relayed the vet's message that it would be better for Tuck if he had another day with them, but that I could get him on Saturday morning. I was disappointed, but glad to know he was okay. It crossed my mind to go visit him, but I decided it would upset him too much to see me and then be left again. How I wish I had followed my instinct and gone.

When the call came that morning my first thought was, "They're calling me to tell me I can come get Tuck." When I got to the phone the assistant asked me to hold for the doctor. Fear struck my heart. "No," I told myself. "He just wants to tell me when I can pick him up."

"Hello, Mr. Davis." the voice said. "I'm afraid I've got bad news for you. Tucker died last night. It was too late to call you. If you have any questions or there's anything we can do, please don't hesitate to ask. We'll keep the remains until you decide what to do."

"I'll call back," I gasped.

The hurricane had been nothing compared to the storm of grief that overwhelmed me at that moment. I stumbled outside and found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the base of one of our backyard trees.

Eventually I returned to the phone and was able, barely, to inquire how I could get Tuck. He was wrapped in a large plastic bag, I was told. I could either pick him up or choose for him to be cremated. I listened numbly as the process was described. They would put him in deep freeze until the company that did the cremation picked him up. They made the rounds every two weeks. I replied that I'd be there soon to get him. Two hours later, dripping with sweat, I tossed out the final shovel of dirt from a spot I had picked in the I had planted in July while Tuck lay on the grass keeping me company. The grave was about 4ó-feet deep and large enough for him to lie in comfort. The work had been good for me. I felt that at least I had prepared him a wonderful place to rest. Time to bring him home.

Driving to the vet the lump returned to my throat. Thankfully, they were ready for me and he was quickly loaded into the back of our station wagon with an official "sorry" from the vet.  I drove home slowly. talking to him all the way. if anyone had heard me they'd think for sure that I was nuts talking to a big plastic bag.

My wife and a neighbor were there when I returned. We put a sheet on the ground. I lifted Tucker out of the car, placed him on the sheet and pulled off the plastic bag. There he was, my magnificent creature. He was pure white German shepherd with a beautiful face and a gentle, delightful personality. I recalled how it all began.

I was about to move to an apartment near Central Park. Friends who lived in my Chelsea apartment building told me I should get a dog. Their youngest dog had been mated with a white German shepherd and produced a mixed litter, some white and some black. From that litter had come Sabra, a pure white female who had been raised by friends. Sabra had been mated also to a white shepherd and had just produced a litter of eight pure white puppies. Why didn't I go look, they suggested.

As soon as I walked into the Greenwich Village apartment I could both hear and smell the pups. They were barricaded in the bathroom in an attempt to maintain some semblance of order. After the preliminaries I was seated across from the bathroom and the barricade was removed. Out stumbled and rolled the cutest bunch of furry little white balls I'd ever seen. They half walked, half flopped in different directions but one of them, the smallest of the group, came directly across the room to my feet and looked right up at me. I'll never forget the moment. For some reason, at that instant, the name Tucker popped into my mind and I said out loud, "Okay Tuck, you've got me. From now on it's you and me!'

We walked in Central Park three times a day and Tucker thrived. He grew from an adorable puppy into a magnificent dog. A day rarely passed when someone didn't stop me to comment about him and ask me his name. Everyone knew Tucker. When our baby girl, Genevieve was born, we decided it was time to leave the city and find a place where the kids could run outside to play without worrying about the crazies, and where Tucker would have a nice environment to live out his final days. After a year of looking we found our house on a wonderful street in Greenwich. The children could walk to school, and the market, library and village were all within easy reach.

The best part of all, though, was that the ball fields belonging to the school down the street started right behind our house. It would be ideal not only for the kids, but what a great place to walk with Tuck.

Rest in peace my friend. I finally truly understand that old saying about friends and dogs. Whoever thought it up must have gone through a day like I did. So long Buddy. I knew you were on your way. I just hated to see you go.