The hardest goodbye


I had a different blog post planned for today. I had planned to share things we loved in September. But this weekend took a turn and now I need to revise that list and put Tucker at the top. We loved having Tucker with us in September. Because now it’s October and he’s gone.

We weren’t oblivious that this day was coming. We both knew it was — even by the end of this year wasn’t out of the question. We both thought it but didn’t dare speak it aloud. But Sunday was the day. And we didn’t see that coming.

After a morning at the pumpkin patch with our friends, we returned home and Tucker greeted us as normal. I don’t even know the moment it all changed but all of a sudden Tucker couldn’t use his back legs… at all.

I should back up. In 2018, Tucker had a cough for a few weeks. We finally took him to our vet thinking he’d somehow gotten kennel cough. Dr. Baucom, being the brilliant vet she is told us to rush him to N.C. State.

There, Tucker was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We spent hours (and thousands of dollars) at N.C. State to see if they could save him. We were told 6 months to maybe a year if we were lucky. However, the medicine somehow worked a miracle and visit after visit he was getting better. They couldn’t believe it.

But he kept losing weight…

So, we went back to the vet. More tests. Bloodwork. Xrays. Ultrasounds. His symptoms resembled Bud’s hemangiosarcoma so I believed he had it, too. But there was no mass in his abdomen. No fluid on his heart. No spots on his bones. He did have hypothyroidism and severe arthritis but that didn’t explain the weight loss.

JJ Horton Photography

So back to Sunday. He was fine until he wasn’t. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t get his back legs under him. If I held him up he could stand but the second I let go he fell over. And then he developed tremors or muscle spasms all over. I texted with our incredible vet, we gave him pain meds but the tremors continued and he couldn’t walk. I spent almost the whole afternoon laying with him either on the couch or the floor.

Not knowing if he was in pain or suffering, we decided at 6 to take him to N.C. State. He was so excited for his car ride. They checked him in and did an exam before calling us to talk through things. We even laughed when she said, “so besides his heart failure, inability to move his back legs, arthritis, thyroid, and decreased appetite, he’s otherwise healthy?”

Then she described the next steps of tests they could do. They’d already looked at his heart, his abdomen, and run an electrolyte panel. It could be that he had a stroke or there was cancer in his spine. But when we asked if they did any of those tests, if there would be a way to fix him if they figured out what it was, the answer was “no.” They couldn’t make him walk again.

My big, beautiful, strong boy who loved to go on morning walks with his dad, play fetch with me in the backyard and play tug with his human brother wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. So of course, we had to make a decision for his quality of life but it was so hard.

We got to spend some time with him telling him what a good boy he’d been — even when he chewed up doors or remotes or shoes. We told him how loved he was and how much we would miss everything about him. The doctor at N.C. State was very compassionate and we are so thankful for their, and Dr. Baucom’s, care for our boy. They gave us 18 more months with him and for that we are infinitely grateful.

Tucker’s goal in life was to love and be loved. If you met him, you loved him. He wanted nothing more than to cuddle with everyone. He saw laughter as an invitation to bring one of his toys to you so he could also join in the fun. He loved ice cubes, licking peanut butter from a spoon and the ends of bananas. He was pretty sure all dog food was supposed to be topped with frozen green beans.

He once peed on our fake Christmas tree — presents included — but to be fair, it’s confusing when your people move the forest inside to the living room. He disagreed that he didn’t belong on the couch and would wait approximately 2 seconds after Landon left the room to make his move. He lived for being with his people — finding ways to squeeze his giant body in small spaces so that he could touch as many of us at once as possible. He loved running in the snow, swimming if it wasn’t too deep and preferably in a pool, and he REALLY loved being dried off with a towel, even if he wasn’t wet.

He was forever a puppy. His energy, even in his last days, was puppy like even if it only lasted for a few minutes. He could do fetch about 4 times before he was tired, but he could still do fetch.


He was 19 lbs at 12 weeks old and never once stopped believing he was a 19 lb dog. If you sat in the floor, he believed it was an invitation to sit / lay in your lap. He was the most grateful dog for every toy or treat he got — each one was like Christmas for him. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of all the hair he shed in our house and cars and I’m certain that we’ll never stop missing him.

I’m so glad we got to take him on one last trip to the lake and I know he enjoyed every second of being there. Walks and cuddles with dad, sleeping with mom and hanging out with everyone by the fire pit.

We are all heartbroken and devastated that we had to say goodbye. Our house is far too quiet and empty without his big goofy presence. Not one of my co-workers commented today on how it sounded like Clifford the Big Red Dog was drinking water while I was on a call. Every time I walk towards the living room, I look to see if he’s back up on the couch. It’s where he belongs. How lucky were we to have the two best dogs in all the world?

I had a few questions on how our 3 year old handled it:

  • We explained why we were sad and that Tucker needed to go to the doctor and he might be too sick to come home
  • We gave him a chance to hug, kiss and say goodbye at home just in case we didn’t get to bring his doggie back with us
  • We let him FaceTime him once we made the decision and he said goodbye again
  • We talked about it yesterday, why Tuck wasn’t here, how he’s not in pain anymore, how the doctors helped him but couldn’t fix him and that he is indeed gone forever

We think L is pretty advanced so we felt comfortable with the info we were giving him. He saw me crying and said “well if he’s not gonna come home then I’m gonna be sad and cry too!” Which is normal and okay. He says he misses him and he was a really good dog. We read dog books last night at bedtime and talked about our favorite memories of Tuck. His is when Tucker would lick all over his face.

“Dogs lives are too short. Their only flaw, really” – Agnes Turnbull

3 comments on “The hardest goodbye”

  1. I loved Big T very much, he was my first Grand pup. I enjoyed visiting and knowing I had a big bed bug with me.
    Even when we went to the beach and my room had bunk beds we slept together. I believe he thought the work picture was a treat, he did get a lot of pictures ( he had a great mommy and daddy), and then came along a baby brother. Liam and Tuck loved each other and were adorable together. One of my visits when I was sitting on loveseat Tucker just crawled right up beside me, Landon was on the couch and Tucker just acted like he wasn’t there or I would let him stay. Best grand puppy I have had. Tucker and Bud were special to me.


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