Finally settled in to Rumson NJ

Tucker Jackson Beagle

Last Monday, I took Tucker in for an ultrasound to follow-up on the sizable mass the vet had discovered when he did an x-ray of Tucker’s abdomen. By this time, I had googled all the possibilities. I knew the chances of good news were slim — but a small part of me held out hope. Tucker had regained much of appetite after the antibiotic shot and pain meds the vet gave him. Maybe it was just an abscess…

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The ultrasound confirmed a cavitated tumor on his spleen and lesions on his liver. Tucker was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a highly malignant cancer with a very poor prognosis. Given his age (Tucker was 12.5), and given that the cancer had already spread, surgery was not an option. The other horrible thing about this cancer is there is a risk of the tumor rupturing, leading to sudden and severe hemorrhaging, and rapid death. My dog was a ticking time bomb.

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Unwilling to let him suffer any longer, and unwilling to risk the tumor rupturing, we decided to have him euthanized. We gave ourselves until the end of the week to get comfortable with the decision, and to say our last good-byes.

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Last Tuesday, JP and I headed out to a nice dinner and a concert — Lyle Lovett was in town. This had all been arranged months prior; we had no idea that we would be trying to have a fun time a mere 24 hours after learning Tucker had a most awful cancer. Of course, to add insult to injury, there was some sort of “dine with your dog” event happening in Red Bank that night. Everywhere we looked were people out and about with their dogs. Happy people. With happy, healthy dogs. The concert was very good. But our hearts remained heavy.

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Last Wednesday, Tucker stumbled a few times. He seemed to have difficulty getting comfortable and his gums looked a little pale. I was filled with dread at the thought that the tumor had ruptured. I called the vet and they urged me to head right in. Dr. Hines met me in the waiting room and checked out Tucker. I was relieved to learn that the dog was fine. “Tucker might have had a small bleed from the tumor, but he’s ok now,” he explained. Those words brought tremendous relief.

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We spent the next couple of days doing everything we could to spoil Tucker. He feasted on meals of chicken broth and cut-up chicken. He was given a treat every time it occurred to us to give him one (which was quite often). We hugged him. We loved him. We refused to leave him alone. Every night we brought him up to bed with us. Every night he snuggled in close to me. Every night I was grateful for the time…however fleeting.

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Last Friday, at 6:45 PM, JP and I brought Tucker into vet. We brought a bag of treats with us, and fed them to him often as we waited. There was another dog in the waiting room who benefited from this as well. We were finally called into the surgery room in the back. Tucker laid down upon a soft green blanket. The vet administered a sedative which stung a bit. I think that was the hardest part…hearing Tucker yelp. Luckily we still had plenty of treats left, and Tucker soon forgot his pain. The sedative worked pretty fast…he was completely relaxed, laying on the floor. He did not flinch at all when the vet injected him with the drug that would take his life. JP and I both cried like babies as we watched him take his final breath.

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My facebook tribute to the best dog I’ve ever known:

Today, with heavy hearts and eyes full of tears, we said good-bye to an amazing dog. Born January 11, 2002, Tucker Jackson Beagle proved right from the start that he was something special.

At 3 months old, Tucker impressed us all by doing his business in a hole by a fence so as to avoid the unpleasantness of anybody stepping in it. He continued to show that same courtesy throughout his life, and when the cancer began to take hold at the very end, Tucker would still manage to seek out the most remote corners of the house whenever he got sick.

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Tucker proved time and again that he was no ordinary beagle. We were told to never let a beagle off leash during walks — that he might catch scent of something and take off — that we might never find him. Well, Tucker was let off leash often, and he never once strayed far from my side.

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We were told that beagles were small dogs (it was one of the selling points for JP when we finally decided to get a dog). Well, Tucker stood over 17 inches tall at the shoulders, and weighed 54 lbs at one point (he was put on a diet shortly thereafter).

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One day, his doggy day care provider sent home this simple note: “Today, Tucker reminded me just how smart a dog could be.” I never did find out what it was he did, but it makes me chuckle to this day.

Tucker was my constant companion on countless walks through the foggy hills of San Francisco, and along the quiet seaside streets of New Jersey. He followed me everywhere — EVERYWHERE — years went by before I finally had some privacy in the bathroom.

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It was hard to be mad at Tucker, though. He had a knack for knowing when you needed extra love. Following my two miscarriages, he made a point to snuggle in extra close, refusing to leave my side. One of the best things about Tucker is that he did this for everyone, not just me. If anyone sat down on our couch, he would crawl into their lap, whether they wanted him to or not.

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Tucker never took “no” for an answer when it came to his job as a lap dog, and in the process, he managed to wiggle his way into everyone’s hearts. Paraphrasing the words of a Frenchman who used to take care of him when we were away: “Tucker is not beagle. Tucker is people.” RIP Tucker. You are missed. Terribly, and forever.

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How I lucked out to have such an amazing dog in my life I’ll never know. Thank you for all the great memories, all the snuggles, and all the laughs. Until we meet again, my friend. Until we meet again. RIP Tucker.

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