Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Elvis And Tucker

In the spring of 2002 I was grieving the loss of my best friend to cancer at 42 on the previous Christmas Eve. We had put down our 17 year old Schnauzer in January. My wife put me in the mini van with our kids with an ad out of the local Pennysaver mail flyer for “pound rescue” dogs about 30 minutes from our house. I really didn’t think it was a good idea. Just not into it. Didn’t want to end up years down the road having to make that final trip to the vet that I had just made in January with Heidi.

We got there and met the dog in the ad, a Jack Russell mix that was quite hyper. The kids all frowned, this was not the dog. I asked if they had any other dogs there. The lady in charge replied “Just ol’ Elvis…” We decided, with very low expectations, to see “ol’ Elvis”.

Elvis was not old, two years tops, but he had been adopted out twice in the last 6 months and come back both times for trivial reasons (picky people, which we are not). He did not play catch was one of the faults noted by previous folks. He walked cautiously up to my son and let everyone pet him. No barking, no jumping, a little guarded in his stance. We took him home with the understanding that if he didn’t work out we’d bring him back to the same shelter and not dump him somewhere else. They liked him there.

We found out that his name came from a dry canine tooth that his upper lip would hang up on giving the impression of the King’s famous sneer. He was house broken and turned out to be the best dog we ever had, including ones the wife and I had as kids. In late 2010 he developed a mental problem that tormented him. He was scared all the time as if he was hallucinating that something was after him. When it got to be a 24/7 condition we did what we had to do and said goodbye to our “3rd son”.

My kids are all older now and the time spent with a dog is not as important for them, but turns out to be even more important for tired old dad. It took about 6 weeks before I started reviewing the four legged inmates at the local rescues. I found a smaller, hairier version of Elvis in Tehachapi, about 30 minutes north of us in the mountains and arranged to go pick him up.

He was just under a year old and had been found wandering a crowded truck stop intersection on Tucker Road, just off the freeway. Mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats frequent this mountain town. This was a little dog. He came home with us and is in the running for “best dog ever that is not Elvis”. His “shelter name” was Tucker and who are we to change that which tells a little of his history, so Tucker he is.

Here is what Elvis taught me in the 8 years he was by our side. There is always another “ol’ Elvis” at a rescue shelter waiting for the reluctant dad / husband to suck it up and admit he’s in need of an unconditional friend. There does not have to be an acceptable waiting period. We do not forget about the previous dogs. The new ones are not replacements for our old friends. They are a continuous action of caring for one another. Tough to say who rescues who in these cases. I tend look at Tucker playing or laying on the couch with my wife and imagine that Elvis would approve of our actions since his departure.