Tigger

Yesterday, my family went to a local animal shelter to walk some dogs and pet some cats. As I walked “Taz”, an old dog with a mellow personality, I realized that I haven’t mourned the loss of Tigger. I want to tell you about Tigger, and while it won’t bring him back, perhaps it will help him to never be forgotten. And maybe, I’ll be able to get past his loss instead of just bottling it away inside.

I didn’t want a dog. Really. I didn’t want to housebreak a puppy, I didn’t want to worry about feeding and caring for a dog every day. I didn’t want to find a dog sitter every time we left town. Dogs were messy, stinky, hairy, and stressful. That day so many years ago when the girls were staring over the fence next to the church, and gawking at puppies, it was very clear to everyone we were NOT getting one. Still, puppies are cute, so I walked over to the pen myself in order to gather my girls and look at the clumsy little pups as all the kids from church reached through the fence to pet their noses.

When I got to the fence, I saw just what I expected. Sure enough, there were puppies gathered at the fence, stepping on each other to get closer to the children that were giving them affection (and possibly crumbs of cookie still stuck on their fingers from Sunday School.) What I didn’t expect to see was a puppy halfway to the fence laying spread eagle and wagging his stub of a tail, but not coming over to get scritched. I thought perhaps he was shy, or scared, or that he had just eaten so much food that he ran out of gas on the way over to the kids. Moments later, however, I saw the problem.

All the pups had slight neurological problems, and walked a bit more awkward than a normal clumsy puppy. I hadn’t noticed before, but realized it after looking for a while. This pup, however, was much much worse. He had spent the 15 minutes or so since church got out trying to get over to the fence, but had only made it halfway before collapsing from exhaustion. His back legs couldn’t quite support his weight, and try as he might, he never made it over to the giddy children. It was in that heartbreaking moment of realization that Tigger became my dog. Honestly, I didn’t even know it yet, but looking back — it was that moment.

I jumped the fence, decked out in my Sunday best, and walked over to the squirmy puppy. Since he was unable to walk, he was covered in mud (and probably other things), but I picked him up anyway. I wish I could describe the joy that little puppy showed when I picked him up. There are some amazing joyful times in life for people: The birth of a child, scoring the winning point in a game, marrying your spouse — but in the life of a dog, I don’t think it’s possible to be more happy than Tigger was at that moment.

I carried him out of the gate, over to our van, and into our lives.

Looking back, it seems like a rather bold move for me to make, introducing a dog, especially a crippled dog, into our house without talking to Donna about it. I don’t recall her ever questioning me though. We took him home, cleaned him up, and let him play in the front yard with the girls. It was that day he got his name. See, Tigger wasn’t strong enough to walk, but when he tried, his back legs would bounce his butt up and down. He didn’t walk, but he sure could bounce! Thus, Tigger was his name.

That summer proved to be quite challenging for Tigger. The vet told us he would probably never walk right. He had about a 3/4″ overbite, bad legs, he shook constantly, and had possible brain damage — but his brain didn’t appear to be swollen, and he wasn’t in any pain. The best we could do would be to walk him often and strengthen his back legs so he could get around.

Yes, house training a dog that can’t walk is a challenge. Thankfully, since he constantly shook, Tigger liked to sleep wedged between the couch and the wall to help hold still. We knew when to take him outside, because as he came out from behind the couch, he would bang against the wall as he tried to get up. “THUMP THUMP THUMP!” It was time to carry Tigger outside to do his business. 🙂

Every day we would walk and walk with Tigger. At first he would only make it to the end of the driveway before collapsing, but as days turned into weeks he was able to go for short walks. We’d generally walk him as far as we could get him to go, and then I’d carry him on the way back home. The bigger and stronger (and heavier and harder to carry!) he got, the further he was able to go. We started tying his leash to the stroller, and he would pull the girls along on our walk. It was good for him, and the girls though it was awesome. Summertime sled dog!

While he had a taste for garbage (not so much in his older years), and he liked tangling with skunks (actually more often the older he got), Tigger was the best dog I could ever imagine having. He spent almost a year sequestered from the family due to an undiagnosed thyroid problem, which caused a constant nasty skin infection. But his last days were spent with the freedom to roam around the house again. He lived longer than the vets ever expected, and almost fully overcame his leg problems. Tigger had a funny little limp when he ran, but he was able to run and play throughout most of his life.

Sadly, Tigger was in the house when it burned in January. When I opened the front door to search for the animals, I found him, already gone right by the front door. With all the grown up responsibilities, duties to perform, children to care for, home to provide — I’ve never really taken the time to think about Tigger. My dog. My friend. My loyal companion.

So Tigger, it breaks my heart that you’re gone. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you. And while your passing rips out my heart, I can honestly say that even though I’m typing this through the blur of tears — that look on your face when I picked you up after church all those years ago makes my pain bearable. Thanks for being there for me, when I didn’t even know I needed you.

22 thoughts on “Tigger

  1. Those moments of immediate bonding are, to me, the most beautiful in life. Whether with people or with pets, I can always point to that one shining second and say “There. There’s where my life changed in a wonderful way.”

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend, and I hope that writing this helped you process more of it. I’m still not entirely over the death of a dog I had who was put down (health, old age) in 2001. I’m waiting for another shining second of connection with another dog. Until I have it, the memories with her will remain painful.

    I believe, and I mean truly believe, that animals have spirits (don’t confuse with souls, although I’ve had moments of wondering) and I think you’ll come upon another one that has been placed just-so at the time your family needs, and is ready to accept, another spiritual connection.

    Sending you and your family hugs.

    Sending you and your family hugs.

  2. People who make their pets part of their families understand the pain and sorrow associated with losing them. Acknowledging your grief for your lost friend is a good memorial to his companionship.

    You know I feel your pain, my friend. My empathy and love for the loss of Tigger, great friend and true companion.

  3. Oh, Shawn. I don’t really know if I have words adequate to express my sympathies. It’s hard to lose an animal friend under any circumstances.

    If it helps ease your heart any to know this, know that you’ve given Tigger a beautiful eulogy that sounds like it was well-deserved.

    My thoughts are with you.

  4. Sounds like he was a great dog. Your story brought tears to my eyes and a desire to get a dog to my heart.

  5. As I’m a soft touch when it comes to animal stories (and the loss of your animals in the fire was the hardest for me to bear), it makes sense that I have tears in my eyes.

    Thanks for sharing Tigger’s story. Your choice to adopt him confirms what I already know about you and your values. Thanks, on behalf of the Tiggers of the world. Your love and the love of your family was appreciated.

  6. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us Shawn. I hope it helps you to address your pain and deal with it in a healthy way 🙂

    I pray that the Lord continues to bless you and your family.

    -c

  7. I must say, even though I too am typing through blurred vision, that this was a very touching story and I appreciate your openness to allow us all into your life.

    I am a dog person as well; I love animals and have had a dog since I was in Jr. High school. I recently lost my dog due to health complications (cataracts and old age), she was a 13 year old poodle. She had been through a lot with me like my parent’s divorce, and all other life hardships. She was my sister that I never had. It pained me when we had to get her put down. She was just not living the quality of life. After the two Dalmatians attacked her twice in two separate instances(not my dogs although I would love to have them destroyed out of anger) she was never the same, but I wouldn’t be either. I told myself that I would never have another dog as long as I lived because I didn’t want to experience the hurt that I had experienced.

    That was until my wife heard about a breeder from work that was selling some puppies, and since I am allergic to dogs (I know, ironic) I can only own certain types of dogs. I told her I didn’t want to go, but she insisted! I looked in the pen similar to in your story, and saw a big mass of sleeping puppies. There was one puppy that was off from the pack trying to get onto the warm mass, when I came over to the pen he waddled over to me whining and stood on his hind legs as if to say pick me up! I picked him up and he laid his head on my shoulder as if to say you’re my human, and I told the breeder we will take him! He was 6 weeks old, and had to sleep in bed with my wife and I for the first few weeks (until a little accident in the night). He is now 6 months old and I couldn’t have asked for a better puppy!

    I am sorry for hijacking your story and turning it into my own, I just needed to say these things to help me get over it I think. I understand your horrific loss and I hope that you accept my humblest apologies. If you need anything or are in the Mid Ohio Valley give me a shout and I can help you with whatever it is you need. Again, my apologies and condolences. Hang in there, I am pulling for ya!

    JR

  8. I don’t know what to say. You made me cry. Crap. That sucks. I’m so so so very sorry, Shawn. He sounds like an awesome dog.

  9. Man, I am a sucker for sad pet stories. I am sadden by your loss and hope you find another great dog.

    While adopting a dog or cat is worthy and commendable, I have always been partial to getting a pet when they are very young. Having them grow up around me seems to imprint on them in a much more personal way. Although, every so often when I visit the local animal shelter I find myself wanting to adopt more animals.

    Personally, I am a cat guy. I have had many great cats over the years and, obviously, lost many of them. When I lived out in the country, they would just disappear every so often since they were indoor/outdoor cats. However, having to put down my sick cat last year was one of the worst days in my life. It’s truly amazing how much you can love a pet and how much they love you in return!

  10. I’ve been so out of touch and busy, and I’m sorry. This was an absolutely beautiful post, Shawn. You made me cry and I’m very sorry for Tigger and all the pets that were lost that day.

    Big hugs.

  11. A great tribute to a dear friend.. It must be hard enough to go through what you have without also losing a family member, which Tigger obviously was. Can’t remember the last time I teared up while reading a blog post. I’ll give my dogs an extra scritch behind the ears tonight because of this.

    Your family has been in my thoughts ever since I read about that awful fire. I can only imagine what you all have been through. Hang in there Shawn, and thanks for sharing memories of your four-footed friend.

  12. Beautifully written. I was more than a little bit teary reading it. It sounds like he was a wonderful companion.

    I hope that your visits to the animal shelter lead to you another dog who’ll enrich your life just as much as Tigger did.

  13. What a wonderful post. I’m so sorry that you lost Tigger, I don’t have words that quite express my sympathy. Thank you for sharing your story, I hope it helps you grieve. Talking about the loss of my dog has helped me deal with the loss.

    On this Friday, I’ll celebrate the 1 year adoption anniversary of my dog. Just as you remember with Tigger, I CLEARLY remember that moment when “I knew” he was meant to be in our family. I too cherish that memory.

  14. I remember that Sunday well. I think about the day my old doggie will be gone and hope I can hold up as well as you. My eyes are teared up because it’s the day after tax day… Yeah, that’s it…

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