In early June, a sweet puppy, about seven months old, decided that he needed to come live with me. He had spent the weekend going to various homes, shopping for a human, and when he landed on me, he decided he was home. I told him that I’m not a dog person, and that did not deter him. He hung around for three days, even without food, accompanying me to chapel in the morning. That’s when I decided to make things official by getting him his shots, getting a collar, a lead, and food, and a name: Tucker, in honor of the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology. I wish I could take credit for his name, but I am simply not that creative.
Naturally, word spread quickly about Tucker. A number of the students were reluctant to enter my office when he was there, and since that is where they robe for services, this was a challenge until he was tethered at home. However, everyone seemed pleased that I once again had a pet.
After a staff meeting, someone asked how Tucker was. A lecturer who’d not heard about him looked at me incredulously, and asked, “Jessica, is this true? Did the Lord bring this dog to you? He brought you a dog to care for you? Right to your door. Isn’t that WONDERFUL?” And she was truly amazed.
I must confess, at that moment, I shared neither her incredulity nor her amazement. Tucker was not taking care of me. I was trying to adjust to being a dog person, getting him into a schedule, ensuring that he was able to expend his puppy energy before he completely dug up all the grass in my compound, and trying to ensure that he was a civilized dog who would let me sleep through the night.
As it turns out, Tucker was born just outside one of UCU’s gates, and his mom brought the puppies inside in hopes of finding food. We have many feral animals running around, and to keep their population at bay, poison is often placed in the compost heaps. This befell Tucker’s mom and siblings, but not Tucker. Somehow he survived, and for several months, managed to eke out a living, mostly staying around the library.
I don’t know what prompted him to find a human. I don’t know how he adapted fairly well to domestic life. He loved his walks, especially in the morning with Doreen, my househelp. He hated the harness I bought him, but it made him be a bit more civilized, something of import that I tried to convey to him.
As time marched on, we fell into a good rhythm, I think, and I began to see myself as a dog owner, though I was rather stressed about who would care for Tucker when I went on leave.
On August 1, I went to get him his third collar (since he stretched out the first two trying to get off the lead to explore: ahem), as well as a bone and some toys. When I left, he was happy in the compound with Doreen and the gardener. When I returned, I showed him the new collar, and he was ridiculously happy about it, silly boy. He was happy about the new bone. Then I prepared to sit down to work, and I heard Doreen ask, “Tucker?” He had collapsed.
I called the vet, who I’m sure knew he had been poisoned by what I told him, but Tucker kept fighting, and I asked him to come. He arrived just before Tucker died. It was horrible and awful, yet I’m so glad that I was able to be home with him, and that the vet came, even if it was useless. I felt better having him to talk to.
And after everything and Tucker was buried, Doreen and I sat down and cried. I told her how much Tucker loved her, and how much I appreciated that she loved Tucker, and she said, “You loved him too. You bought him all those things” (the collars and bones, I suppose).
And then I realized she was right. I did come to adore Tucker, and pretty quickly. I came to agree with my colleague that the Lord did provide Tucker to care for me. He brought him right to my door. I don’t know why, and as much as I am still struggling with the grief of his abrupt death, I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to bring Tucker into my life. He taught me to stop and smell the roses (and the avocados on the ground and whatever else he wanted to smell). He got me out for evening walks, which we both enjoyed immensely, and then I wondered why it’s taken me six years to do. He was not deterred by my constant reminders that we would not be chasing squirrels, monkeys, chickens, or cats. He was very quick to make friends, and found very few people he did not like. I loved how open his heart was. Maybe that was the biggest lesson the Lord was trying to teach me: to be as open and embracing as he was.