When Katie and I were eleven, Dad bought you from a stand on the side of the HWY 281. He passed it twice. Our other dog, Cody, had just died and he wasn’t sure we were ready for another. When he finally stopped, you were the last one left and also, the fattest. So fat, in fact, that we almost named you Pudge.
When he got home, we were upstairs watching a movie. He called for us to come down.
“Allie’s here,” he said (I’ll never really forget that lie because it was so forgivable, so wonderful in it’s misdirect).
When we finally got up and looked down, he was at the foot of the stairs holding you in his arms, grinning wide and proud.
When you were nearly one, you ate an entire milk carton, a butter tub lid, the twist tie off the bread and the mechanisms of your favorite squeaky toy. Since then, the number of shoes, baseballs, softballs, tennis balls and rocks you’ve demolished is similar to the number of decimals in Pi (I wish that you were capable of understanding math jokes, Tucker. But it’s okay, a lot of people don’t think they’re funny anyways).
I’ve always thought of you as a dog of mythical proportions. You could dive for rocks in the pool and open the back door. You ruled the house like a benevolent lion; letting the cat groom you, letting Charlie eat out of your bowl. Your giant paws, your gentleness, the expressiveness of your eyebrows which always verged on quizzical, as if you were wise to some joke that missed us all, your determination to convince us to give you just one more cookie (author’s note: it was NEVER just one more). These were the traits that only you could have, that only you could do justice to. These are the things that made you ours.
The Earth has had you for precisely 5,000 days but today, August, 10th, 2017, is the last of them. To my twenty-four year old brain, 5,000 of anything seems like a preposterous, exorbitant amount. And yet. In terms of you, that number seems like an unjust and cruel personification of brevity.
Two years ago, I wrote a story about this for my MFA application. My fiction professor told me that it alienated some readers.
“People won’t understand why the death of a dog is worth an entire story,” he said.
To be frank, I do not like those people. They do not understand that dogs live as though they will never die, which is precisely why they will always be worth writing about. They do not understand that dogs live solely to be part of our stories, which is exactly why they will always deserve their own.
Those people, they do not understand that the time we share with our dogs is borrowed; that they are never really ours to keep. That at some point, we have to force ourselves to be unselfish. That we, as humans, must someday choose to end their pain and in turn, wound ourselves.
Because surely, if they had known you, if they’d had the privilege of spending more than half their life with you, they’d have realized that you deserved vastly more than fifty pages of amateur, comma-spliced fiction.
There is no melodrama present. There are those that think it’s foolish to mourn the loss of a dog, I don’t expect them to understand me or my family. There are those who think it’s foolish to mourn the loss of a dog which could only mean they’ve never loved one and in light of that, I feel incredibly sorry for them.
Today, the Atlanta sun comes in patches. All of great things I wanted to say come that way too. Today, my Tucker boy, our hourglass is out of sand. Our clock’s hands are stuck. Our borrowed time is up. Today, my sweet boy, I hope the sky is very blue and very bright in Texas. A perfect sky for swimming.
What else? The pool, Charlie’s cookies, the Rodriguez’s newspaper, the space beneath our feet. Those things will always belong to you.
And as for me, I love you in present tense.