It’s been a month since our fourteen-year-old dog went to doggy heaven, and I still see her out of the corner of my eye from time to time. Tinker joined our family in December 2000 when the Humane Society volunteers ran an ad for a “death row dog” who’d been given a reprieve from being put to sleep the day after Christmas. I’d been thinking my husband needed a new dog because his “best ever” dog, Fuzzy, was getting older. I didn’t want something to happen to Fuzzy without us having another animal to turn to.
Tinker was a handful, only 9-18 mos old according to the Humane Society folks. Though the vet immediately dubbed her a Border Collie mix, we determined she was a Flat-Coated Retriever mix, and like most retrievers, she loved to fetch. We’d throw tennis balls off the second story deck for a good 30 minutes before she’d start to flag. She ran down the stairs, around the wooded yard, found the ball and raced back up the stairs—over and over again. She never learned to drop the ball and only dropped one if you had another to throw.
When we got her that cold December day, our electric fence wasn’t working and the repair folks couldn’t come for a week, so we built a large chicken wire pen over a downhill portion of our backyard to keep her safe. We gave her a weighted water bowl, which she promptly turned over and started rolling downhill. When it stopped at the fence, she’d pick it up in her mouth and carry it back up the hill and start over again. Did I mention she was the brightest dog ever?
We adopted Banjo, another Flat-Coated Retriever mix five years ago, and we three had a morning routine. I’d get up, go downstairs to let them out the kitchen door and fix my coffee. When they came back in, they’d follow me upstairs for the treats in my office. Banjo would get his two itty bitty biscuits and lie down under my desk, but not Tinker. She was incorrigible, getting several treats and then placing her head in my lap to ask for more. Can’t you just hear her saying, “More Mom?” She’d hang out in the office, and every time I left the room and returned, she’d expect more treats.
As she aged, I altered the routine to take her out the front door where there were only three steps, and I often had to help her back up. Even then, she still made it upstairs to get her treats; the climb just took longer. Last autumn, when I was gone on business trips two weeks in a row, she got out of the habit and never climbed the stairs again.
She mostly slept these past few months but still got excited about going outside; even when she stumbled and fell, she’d get back up and start up the driveway to get the morning paper. Her hearing and eyesight were failing, and she stopped playing with her balls and other toys, but she still perked up for greenies and animal crackers. If you went anywhere near the jar of animal crackers, she’d get those hips off the floor and follow you. After she fell in the yard one day, and we had to carry her inside, our real sign that we were losing her was that she turned her head away when offered an animal cracker.
Sweet ol’ Tinker—in her own way, she let us know she was ready to go, and we were able to schedule Sweet Dreams to come to our house and send her peacefully on her way. We carried her to the screened porch, one of her favorite spots, and cried as she headed off to greet Fuzzy. We picture Tinker and Fuzzy romping in doggy heaven, chasing squirrels, deer and balls and wondering when their “people” are gonna come play.