At Camp Bow Wow, they call him “the gentleman.” At home, I believe Jasper and Lilah refer to him as “the brat.” And I’ve had it on good authority that Dawn and Athena call him “That Dog”—as in, “Crap! It’s That Dog again.”
|Lilah as a pillow for her brother.
I’m talking about Tucker, the scruffy terrier mix who came to live with us in March 2011. (Feel free to read the story of how he joined us.) When my three dogs are together (which is nearly always), they look like a color-coordinated set. Jasper is tan and silver with touches of black--somewhat like a light German Shepherd, Lilah is obsidian-black, and Tucker is an interesting combination of all of that. Imagine an Airedale Terrier, but shrink him down a bit, and lighten the black saddle. Then mix in some foxhound, particularly on his chest, which features tans and golds and white. Give him the scruffy fur of a terrier, but the build and face of the hound, including a very, very long tail that's black on top, tan on the bottom and has just a hint of white at the very tip, like he must have wagged it into a recently whitewashed fence.
|Lilah, Tucker and Jasper. You can see the hound markings on Tucker's chest in this picture.
We’ve gotten to know a lot about Mr. Tucker in the year he’s been part of the family, but there’s still a hint of mystery about him—a touch of inscrutability that makes him seem just a tad hard to read. Perhaps it’s because he’s still a young lad—actually a teenager in dog years—and his personality continues to develop. It’s often much harder to tell what Tucker is thinking than Jasper and even Lilah.
|Brothers: Jasper and Tucker.
That said, there’s plenty about Tucker that is right up front. For example, the dog loves to Play Ball. Loves. To Play. Ball.
|Tucker with the Ball.
Or maybe “play” isn’t quite the right word. Our other terrier, Rosie, loved to Play Ball; I think she enjoyed the sport of it, the chase, the feel of the Ball in her mouth, the Squeaky Squeaky sound of a brand new Ball. But to Tucker, Ball is more of an obsession. Corinne calls it his crack habit (not to make light of the serious human illness of addiction). Tucker will chase a Ball until he collapses; actually, we’ve never tested the theory because we are afraid it might be true. Throw the Ball and he’ll bring it back. Throw the Ball. He’ll bring it back. Now fast forward to the nth time you’ve thrown the Ball: there’s Tucker with his tongue hanging out nearly to his knees, eyes squinty, chest heaving as he pants around the Ball in his mouth. “Just one more. Just one. I can quit any time. Just throw it. One. More. Time.” Of course, he’ll bring it right back again.
|Bringing it back.
Sometimes, Tucker will take a brief break. He’ll lie in some cool patch under a bush. “See? I can take a break. I can quit.” Pause for about 30 to 45 seconds. “Wait. Wait! Throw it again. C’mon. Throw it. Again. Must. Chase. Ball.”
|"I can quit any time." Tucker relaxes in the cool shade of a rhododendron, with Ball at hand/paw.
The only way to stop him is to take away the Ball, or go inside (of course we have Inside Balls as well, so the game can continue) or simply do your best to ignore him.
|Tucker with his Inside Ball, taking a mini-break before requesting another Throw.
If he thinks you're not paying enough attention, Tucker will invent his own Game. One of his favorites is Roll the Ball Under the Hot Tub Steps and Try to Get it. This is endlessly amusing (though not as much fun as Chasing), because sometimes the Ball is out of Reach and then you have to Ponder how to get it. Reach a paw between the stairs? Stick your head underneath? You have to be careful because you might knock it the wrong way and make it harder to Get.
|Getting the Ball from under the Stairs.
However, when Tucker Insists on chasing the Ball (which is most often), he will repeatedly pick up and throw the ball at you until you give in. That action, by the way, combined with his love of Ball, made it spectacularly easy to teach Tucker to put his Ball in a container—like a bucket or basket.
The learning process went something like this: I put a large pottery bowl next to me outside on the deck. Tucker kept throwing the Ball at me, but I didn't pick it up. After what must have seemed like decades of me Not Throwing the Ball (which was really more like two minutes), he accidentally dropped it into the bowl. I told him "Yes! Good dog!" and I picked it up and threw it. It took him about three tries to realize the Ball will only get thrown if he put it in the bowl. After that, it took him about two more tries to figure out the same rule applies to any container I indicate when he has a Ball.
|Putting The Ball in the bucket; sometimes you have to stare at it after you put it in to make sure it's been done correctly. Otherwise Someone might not Throw the Ball.
This makes it much easier when I’m outside to use my super duper handy dandy Ball thrower, which enables me to throw the shlorby, sloppy, slobbery, muddy Ball without actually touching it. I just grab the Ball from the bucket with the thrower and not only do I not have to uck up my hands, but the leverage from the thrower helps me toss the Ball much further than I would normally.
The Tucker Games
Tucker does do non-Ball-related playing as well. He loves to tug, and is always the first to join in when I’m playing with a Pelt (what’s left of a stuffed animal after it’s been disemboweled) with Jasper or Lilah. Though sometimes, he just carries a Pelt Piece around hoping someone will tug it or throw it for him. (Hey, even if it’s not a Ball, you can still Chase it.)
|Tucker and a Pelt, which, while not a Ball, is still fun to chase.
Another favorite game of Tucker’s is Stare at the Cat. Which often turns into a fun event called Pounce the Cat. Or better yet, Chase the Cat. Let’s get specific for a moment, though. By Cat, I really mean Athena. (Dawn usually keeps a respectful distance, rarely looking at Tucker; though at Dinner time, everything changes and she’ll rub anyone—even Tucker.) The Stare/Pounce/Chase Game nearly always involves Athena. We aren't exactly certain how Athena feels about it, but we’re laying our money on the idea that she actually likes it. She seems to instigate it, even. And while Athena could easily run to safer ground when the Chase starts, she usually finds a place just out of Tucker reach. Thus turning the game into Stare/Pounce/Chase/Hiss/Swat (the latter two parts belonging to Athena.)
|Athena and Tucker playing the Swat part of The Game.
We all believe that the two of them—Athena and Tucker—have some kind of Thing Going On. They both seem to enjoy The Game, and nobody has gotten hurt. Though I do keep a careful eye on them and put a stop to The Game relatively quickly; I don’t want someone to get hurt by mistake.
|Tucker has a very different relationship with Dawn; there's no chasing, hissing or swatting. Here, he is tasting...umm...giving her a kiss while she sits on Aaron's lap.
When he’s not Chasing Cats or Playing Ball, Tucker loves to pester…umm, play with…his brother and sister. He plays very rough with them; I’ve seen him drag Lilah across the yard by her ear. And he barks at Jasper until the poor Moose feels he has no option but to respond with woofs of his own. Lilah is quite tolerant of Tucker’s shenanigans; she’ll let him bite her, gnaw on her, chase her—until she’s had enough, and with a few loud barks and some strategic growls, along with some champion wrestling moves, she’ll have Tucker on his back saying, “I was just playin’.”
|Lilah and Jasper ask for a little Respect from Tucker.
And of course, if Tucker wants to relax, he sometimes joins Athena (the cat) and Lilah (the cat-dog) watching birdies.
|Athena, Tucker and Lilah watchin' birds. All three are sure they could catch one, if they were outside.
A Bed of One's Own
One of the first pictures I saw of Tucker before we adopted him showed him lying on the bed in his foster home; I’ve seen him in that position many times since.
|Tucker as a puppy on the bed in his foster home.
All of our dogs have full run of the house, and are allowed up on all furniture and beds—except in the living room; we like to reserve some areas for people who don’t think dog fur is an appropriate fashion accessory (not sure I know anyone like that, but hey, ya never know, and I try to be respectful.)
Though everyone is allowed on our bed, the only one who may stay the night is Lilah. This is because Jasper, The Moose, is just too darned big, and his legs are sooooo looooong, and he spreads out so much that there quickly becomes no room for humans. Somehow, Tucker, who is 40-something pounds to Jasper’s 60, takes up even more room. I have no idea how he can expand so. He has this uncanny ability to curl up into a Tuckerball and make himself ever so small. But not when he’s on our bed at night, apparently.
|A Tuckerball. Very. Small. Very. Compact.
Thus, a bedtime routine with Tucker goes as follows: when he first comes into the bedroom with me, he immediately leaps onto the bed, gives Brian a sniffkiss if he’s there, and settles down. I do my personal toilette (always wanted to use that word), and tell Tucker, “Off.” Every single night, he slowly opens his eyes, looks around the room, then at me. “Me? Off? Really? You can’t possibly…oh, all right.” He pours himself slowly off the bed and goes to his own comfy (but probably not comfy enough) bed. And gets a couple of treats if he responds quickly enough.
|Tucker in his crate demonstrates how much a small, compact dog can expand. Just add blankets.
The World According to Tucker
Tucker has a unique perspective; he's not held back by any preconceived notions of the way Things are Supposed to Be.
Tucker on Deer
Tucker believes Deer are Evil and Must Be Barked About, which, at first seems very appropriate for a Dog. Except Tucker will Bark About Deer even if he doesn't see them. Even if he's in the house. Even if it's late at night. He can smell them. They're out there. In the dark. Doing Deer things. Thus you have to Bark About Them. Though it's best to Bark About Deer through the fence. Because then you're Barking At them instead of About them. Which is much more fun.
|Tucker on Deer Patrol.
Tucker on Size
Size doesn't matter to Tucker. I believe he thinks he's much bigger than his 40-something pounds. Which is why he'll try to drag an entire tree branch; hey, it's just a Big Stick.
|Tucker, champion log-puller.
Then again, Tucker sometimes finds himself in sticky situations because he's just a little...too big.
|"Um, a little help here, Mom."
Or a little too inquisitive. Stick your nose in a bush, and sometimes you come away with a faceful of sticky burrs.
|A somewhat abashed Tucker, after a walk in which he stuck his head in a bush full of tiny burrs. It took me a half hour to get every one of nature's own teeny velcro balls off his poor little face.
Tucker on Problem Solving
Always creative, if Tucker wants something, he'll find a way. Whether it's getting a Ball from under the stairs, or finding drinking water on top of a table after a rain storm, Tucker will figure out how to do it.
|"Civilized Dogs eat and drink at the table, right?"
Because Tucker is young—and a terrier type—we still take him to Camp Bow Wow, or as we call it, Puppy Camp. There he can burn off energy and socialize. It’s so funny to see Tucker when he’s there, as opposed to home. At home, he’s a full-bore turbo terrier; once he’s somewhere else, he is, as the Camp Bow Wow people have christened him, a gentleman. He’s calm, chill, sweet, friendly. He doesn’t jump, rarely barks, and greets everyone calmly. At camp, he’s often paired with the more nervous dogs who aren’t quite used to the routines, and he plays nicely and calmly. (No leg biting or pulling anyone across the pen by their ears, I’m told.)
When I pick Tucker up in the afternoon, he calmly walks out, sits for a treat, waits patiently while I open the door and stays put until I give him the Release command. Other dogs may come and go through the Camp Bow Wow office, leaping and jumping and wagging because they’re so happy their people came. Tucker offers me a subdued wag—until we get home, and the two of us are greeted at the door by Jasper, Lilah, Athena--and sometimes, Dawn. I take my coat off, put my stuff down, take my glasses off (it becomes pretty evident why) and then sit on the floor while I’m covered with doggy kisses. Suddenly, there’s Tucker greeting me like we haven’t just shared a car ride home.
And then he sits on my lap. Now, it should be stated, Tucker is not a lap dog. He’s too big. But he doesn’t know that. He just kind of backs up and plants his rear end on my lap. And sits there happily. If there isn’t a lap available because of the way I’m sitting, Tucker will give me hugs instead. A Tucker Hug is where you snuggle up real close and lay your head on the recipient’s shoulder and lean into his or her neck. It is simply the Sweetest Thing. If you’re a little too tall, he’ll put his paws on your shoulders and then Hug you. It’s probably not the best behavior, but it’s just so darn cute and loving that I just can’t resist.
And that’s Tucker in a nutshell: so darn cute and loving, that nobody can resist him.
|Mr. Adorable, Tucker.