Wednesday, 2 August 2017
He's called Lucky
We called him Tucker for two reasons.:
We had moved to our rural retreat after 12 years in the city centre (Edinburgh) only six months before we got him. As we got to know our fellow villagers, many asked which house we had moved into. When we described it, they said, 'Ah! Tuckers' Place.' It had been built about a hundred years ago by a family called Tucker.
Then we went to the local DogsTrust to see if they had a dog for us. They had a great many dogs, all barking , scrabbling at their cages and pleading 'Take me!' In one big cage there were five noisy, in-our-faces dogs and one quiet, sad black dog sitting at the back. Total soft touches that we are, we immediately said 'We would like to see that one.' The kennel staff were pleased. 'He's been here for three months and no one has ever asked to see him yet.' Of course, that clinched it.
'He's called Lucky,' they said. We almost laughed. In his first eleven months of life, he had been anything but. As a puppy, he had belonged to a family with young children but they tired of the work that a puppy creates and threw him out. He wandered on to a busy road and was hit by a passing car, dislocating one hip. He was picked up by police and taken to the Dogs Trust who had dealt with his injury and nursed him back to health, Now he was, as their motto goes: Happy, Healthy, Snipped and Chipped. At that point, however, he didn't know he was supposed to be happy and looked the picture of misery and fear. We didn't want to go on calling him Lucky but didn't want to add to his anxiety and disorientation with a completely different name. Then we thought of Tucker, which sounds pretty much like Lucky and would match the old name of the place where he would spend the next (happy) fourteen years.
The first week with him tested our resolve and compassion, not to mention our ability to go without sleep. He was so frightened and insecure that he howled most of the night. if he had been a wee dog, I would have taken him onto our bed and hugged him, But he was a 'collie-cross', not huge but certainly too big to share a bed with us. We took shifts at sitting on the floor beside his basket, stroking him, singing to him, petting him. When he fell asleep, we would tiptoe back to bed. Within five minutes, he was off again, clawing at our original wood doors (the scratches are still there - the 'distressed look'?) That was a very long week.
But quite suddenly, it was over. We woke up one morning to find it was not the middle of the night and that the house was quiet. Like an anxious new mother, when her baby first sleeps through the night, I leapt out of bed, convinced he had howled himself to death. There he was at the foot of the stairs in his bed, looking sleepily up at me as I tumbled down, crying, 'He's all right! He's fine! He's slept right through! Praise the Lord!'
After that, he very quickly settled and became our loving and lovable pet. Suddenly, I was looking back and realising he was now totally one of the family, reliable and perfectly integrated, loved by everyone who knew us.
For fourteen springs, he came with us to our holiday home on the Hebridean island of Iona. We never cured him of trying to chase and round up the sheep and many were the escapades, some terrifying, some sidesplittingly funny, at least in retrospect. All our many house guests there fell under his spell. He just wouldn't take no for an answer when he wanted to be your friend, waiting quietly and doggedly (pardon the pun), with supreme patience, at the side of anyone who ignored him. People who would have said they didn't really like dogs soon gave in and joined the Tucker fan club.
He had the ability to look at me and convey complete trust. I had told him when he first came to us that 'nothing bad is going to happen to you again'. A rash promise and not mine to keep, of course. Inevitably, he had ups and owns and a couple of nasty health scares.
One involved him having to wear the dreaded cone of shame for a fortnight. Like all dogs, he hated it and would gaze mournfully at me.
I read his mind: Why are you letting them do this to me? Why don't you stop this? But his lovely, patient face also said: I don't understand but I trust you. I hate it but I know you must have a good. reason.
I did a very successful children's talk at church about it - along the lines of: we don't always understand why we are having a bad time and we want to tell God to get a move on and change things for us; but we don't have the full picture; it may be for our own good.' It went down well with the kids, especially one wee lad, who asked me all about Tucker. The next time I did a talk, it was on 'the 'sheep and the goats'. At the end, I asked the children to vote for whether they wanted to be a sheep or a goat. They all voted to be sheep - except the said small boy who declared very loudly: 'I want to be a dog!' Cue a congregation in fits of laughter. Ah, well, you can't win them all.
I could ramble on with story after story, memory after memory. But now the memory box is full and the stories are over. Goodbye, my lovely boy. Love my Tuck, always.