Saturday, February 6, 2010

When to Say When

Sitting here this morning, I realize I'm soon to face the decision most dog owners face at one time or another in their lives. It is time to let go and give peace to my friend. Just thinking of it brings a heaviness to my heart. I look at Tucker laying here beside me and wish God could give me the ability to see into his mind and know his thoughts. We've been together for fourteen years and covered thousands of miles. During all these times, we've seemed to think as one. I seemed to always know his next move and he did mine. Now I don't know which road to take. It's not about a hunting partner; it's about a partner. Tucker was never just a tool to get more birds; he has been a friend that accompanied me whenever possible. From the time he was a pup he has always made life challenging and exiting for Barbara and me. I now look into his eyes and see the sadness and heaviness in then. God, please help me with this.

Yesterday, I took Tucker to the vet to have him checked out and give him a shot for his hips. He has been having a real hard time laying down. Even worse, he wasn't able to poop. I thought maybe it was because he was hurting when he tried to squat and if we got his hips working better that might help. During his exam, Katy, our vet suggested the time is going to come when we won't be able to help him any more. Katy has always been Tucker's vet and has done wonders with him. I trust her completely, but wasn't ready to talk about it yet. The xrays showed Tucker's heart is extremely enlarged and he has a strong murmur. The good thing about that is that his heart might just give out some day and he will not suffer. Although I'm not ready to see Tucker go, I would rather see him go that way than what I am seeing happen to him today. He has quit eating, which has even been and issue with him, or any other shorthair I have ever known.

The decision has nothing to do with hunting. I have Tucker's son and another shorthair who are trying to fill Tucker's shoes in that department. Tucker has only gone out on a few short hunts this year due to his age. He has been satisfied to just walk our property and hold down the fort. He has passed on the responsibility of keeping me in shape to the other two dogs. For those reading this, that is a good reason to always have another dog coming up. I owe these two dogs to hunt then and use their instincts the same as I owed Tucker. If not for them, I would find it hard to keep hunting chukars, because of the special bond that we have had. Tucker has trained these two; a good reason to keep hunting.

From the day I picked Tucker up to this day, we have always had a very special relationship. He has been my dog and only my dog. Time after time I've had hunting partners tell me that Tucker would approach them in the field and when he would see it wasn't me, a look of panic would come over him until he located me. Other dogs were not allowed next to me when we would be just sitting around. More than one has gotten a nip on the nose, telling them that they are not allowed any attention from me. There was never a fight; just a point to be made. While hunting, it was a totally different ball game. Tucker was all business and respected every other dog's points and retrieves. There was never an argument in the field. He, as most people's dogs, would only bring a dead bird to me.

A week has gone by now since the visit to the vet. Tucker's hips have gotten worse, although his eating and pooping have improved. He stumbles and falls a lot. Mostly he lays there on his bed and just watches what goes on around him. Right now, I'd love to see him sneak into the kitchen and steal some food like he used to, but food doesn't even interest him now. I feel guilty playing with the other dogs while he is watching. I know that dogs are not supposed to be able to reason, but we have always been to tight that I sometimes wonder if he thinks I abandoned him. His eyes don't have that glow they always had when he would see me. I lay on the floor next to him and pet his head as often as I can. That usually makes me feel even worse.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Tucker was to have a couple of good couch years after hunting so hard. He has only had 6 months of that and 2 of them weren't that good. Did I hunt him too hard? Would his hips have lasted longer had I retired him a year or two earlier? I tried to do for him what I would want. To keep hunting as long as I was able. Maybe that was selfish of me. All I know, is when he looks at me his face says that he doesn't understand. All I want is the right thing for Tucker. I wish so bad I could read his mind and he could tell me that either I'm alright or I'm ready to go. I don't want to make that decision, although it is my responsibility to him. How do I know?

Today, although it was a great day, makes the decision even harder. It was a warm sunny day so I thought I'd try Tucker on a short walk. He stumbles down the steps outside and I helped him up wondering if this was a smart idea. We ended up walking a mile through his old training grounds and by the time we got home, he wasn't dragging his hind feed quite as bad. We got back in the house, he drank some water and is now lying down snoring. The exercise seemed to perk him up. If that is what it takes, I'm more than willing. But what about the next time he goes down for a week? Do I just let it go on, thinking he's be better when he can go for a walk again? I wish it could stay at least like today. I know he is comfortable.

Today was the 12th day since the visit to the vet. The last 4 days have been good. His walks were a little longer and he quit falling down as much. But today was different. Although he didn't fall, he walked slower and showed signs of wanting to turn back towards home. He made me very happy by acknowledging with his nose, where I had seen 4 pheasants take off just seconds before. He stopped and sniffed in the direction for five or six seconds, then looked my way. He is totally deaf now so I know he didn't hear them. We made out way home.

Sitting here watching Tucker lay beside me with open eyes, going in and our of sleep, it finally came to me. This really isn't about how Tucker feels anymore. It's about me. No matter what my decision or when, I'm going to feel guilty. If I let him go now, I'll wonder if I gave him enough time and if I wait until he passes or it's very obvious he is in pain, did I wait too long? The weight is on my shoulders, where it belongs. God bless you Tucker, for the may great years and God help me to know when. I love you Tucker...

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