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The hardest goodbye to your dog

/ Featured in Dogs

For the longest time, I dreaded the day we would need to put down our golden retriever, Tucker. Just thinking about it would fill my eyes with tears. I would think, “How can I live knowing he is no longer with us?” It was an extremely uncomfortable thought, and having been through a loss like it before, I deeply feared the event that was inevitable in my life.

Dogs are with us only for a short while. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that they come into our lives and make us love them so much, and then just as we have created so many fantastic memories, they get old, tired and sore. They always leave us too soon. When they leave us, it’s like losing a child or a sibling. At least for me, that’s how it feels.

Tucker the golden retriever
Happy smiles from Tucker

Dogs are such lovable creatures. A dog’s main goal is to please you. Your happiness makes their day! You develop the most special relationship–something that will never be replaced, not by another person, not by another dog. It’s one-of-a-kind.

Making the heart wrenching decision to say goodbye is the worst. You question it. Maybe make the appointment, then cancel. You’re waiting for the sign that it’s time. Should it be when he can no longer stand up? Or when he starts to go potty in the house? When he refuses to eat? You’re hoping your dog gives you some sort of sign so that you can justify your actions. In the back of your mind, you wish he would just choose his own time.

Tucker (whom I actually called Beau or Beaubi since I tend to develop quirky nicknames for my pets) is the second dog I’ve had to say goodbye to in my life. The first dog was a golden retriever named Duke. It doesn’t get easier, and the guilt doesn’t go away.

Tucker lived with my parents and was with me all through my 20s. While he was technically their dog, he was my baby. I raised him the summer before my sophomore year of college. I got up with him every night when he was a little pup. And let me tell you, he became a little duckling that truly thought I was his mother! Leaving for college in the fall was tough, but I was able to develop a bond with him that would last his entire life.

I look back on all those years and remember the moments I spent with Beaubi. He was my rock throughout my twenties. All the ups and downs. When I would cry (in secret), he would put all his weight on me and lick those tears away. He also did so many things that still make me smile.

When it’s time to say goodbye, you put a bookmark in your story, but you never get to finish it. Making memories is over. After it happens, this feeling of loss is overwhelming. Your dog is gone, but to top it off, you’re losing the opportunity for anything new in that path of your life. And I just want to keep writing pages of that story.

Dogs come and go too quickly. They are around just long enough to hit some major milestones in our lives. Then it’s their time to move on. Their unconditional love is so powerful and all you hope is that they know how much you love them in return.

Old Tucker, golden retriever

Now that Tucker/Beau/Beaubi is in the magical place of doggy heaven, I feel like I’m handling things a little better than when I said goodbye to Duke. Maybe it’s just that I knew what was coming, and how I could better handle my emotions. But even though I’m staying strong, I do miss my boy. He was a good boy, like many other pups out there.

Here are a few things I loved about Tucker/Beau/Beaubi:

  • Early on, I let him sit in my lap while I sat on the floor. Fast forward to many years ahead: Hey, are you sitting on the floor? He would still attempt to sit in your lap! He was a big golden, around 89 lbs. (He might have been 91 lbs at times, shhh.)
  • When I’d be asleep in the morning, my dad would come up to my room to get Tucker to potty him and feed him breakfast. Tucker rarely left. He would wait until I woke up. And if he did leave, he’d run right back upstairs, barge through my dog, and jump on the bed. The lock on my door never worked after he decided to be a rhinoceros.
  • When my mom and I would walk the dogs together, Tucker demanded that I hold his leash. If my mom or anyone else tried to hold his leash, and I was on the walk with them, he would flat out stop moving or bite the leash until it was returned to my hands. He truly wanted to maximize any time with me.
  • Tucker loved bath time. I’d hand him a towel and he’d march up the stairs with it in his mouth.
  • Tucker also loved a baby pool. He’d splash and have fun in the water.
  • Tucker was a good boy in the car. He was quiet and stared out the window.
  • Lots of dogs liked Tucker. He must have had a very calming and neutral vibe to other dogs. I don’t think he ever got in a fight.
  • Tucker was a licker. Sometimes this can certainly be annoying, but I love a dog that licks. He was very affectionate. That’s probably my most favorite thing about him.

I wouldn’t be remiss if I didn’t comment on some naughty or mischievous moments from Tucker:

  • First thing, he was a stubborn dog. Oh my, so stubborn at times! Whether he wanted to turn around on a walk or not turn around and keep going, we just had to make sure he didn’t start biting his leash, because he bit through it many times.
  • Tucker ate poop. Yuck.
  • The phrase, “Take it nice” was derived from Tucker’s chomp when handed a treat.
  • I always wanted to trust Tucker off the leash. I could with his predecessor, Duke. But when I became too trusting, he’d see a deer and take off.
  • Beaubi Marie (full nickname here) had anxiety. This translated into him mouthing my arms a lot. In return, I would have bruises all along my arms. They were love bites! And gosh did they hurt. But I never let it bother me. I loved him so.

Through all this grieving I find myself at odds mentally, because I’m also grateful. I have a baby boy in my life (I’m a new mom) and that gives me a lot of gratitude. One story has stopped, but another one started just early enough for me to love hard on something else. Tucker was my first baby boy (in dog form). Having a (human) son is so wonderful for me during this time. And if 2020 isn’t already the year of unpredictable global events, having a baby is a blessing in life that I’m not taking for granted.