Tucker Taught Me … Don’t Forget to Eat!

Brain Injury Blog by Marie Cooney 

May 25, 2011

Tucker Taught Me… Don’t Forget to Eat!

It was a Monday night, over a candle lit dinner with music softly playing in the back ground, when my partner of ten years informed me that we needed to separate. I was shocked. “For how long?” I asked. “Permanently,” she stated. “Then that’s a divorce, not a separation,” I clarified.  “Yes,” she answered. “When?” I asked. Suddenly, I was fired as friend, lover and life partner, with a few weeks’ notice. My world began to crumble.

She got the parsonage, the congregation, and almost everything we had come to own in the past ten years. I fought for Tucker.  “You’ll never find a place that will let you have such a large dog.” She seemed so certain. “You can have the cats. I’m not giving up Tucker.” I knew I was going to need all the help that I could get. I knew I was going to need Tucker, more than ever!

Tucker and I started our new life together in January 2000, approximately three and a half years after my head injury, even though I wasn’t officially diagnosed until after a year had passed. Apparently, that is not very unusual. I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong, but I didn’t know how to explain what had happened or why everything seemed different. Now it was even worse than first imagined.

People might forget to eat, but dogs never forget to eat. Tucker would bark at me, nudge at his bowl, or do whatever he could to make me understand he was hungry and wanted to eat. One day, however, Tucker just sat there staring at his bowl and then up at me. He didn’t budge. I stared back quizzically, trying to figure out why Tucker wasn’t eating. Tucker barked at me. I tilted my head, just like he sometime tilted his head at me. He still would not eat. Instead, Tucker nudged his bowl at me. That was weird. He nudged the bowl again, more insistently. This time I finally got his message.

I was top dog in our now reduced pack, but I had stopped eating and was losing a lot of weight. Tucker was telling me he wasn’t going to eat until I ate. That’s the way it’s supposed to be in the wild, and that was the way it was supposed to be in our new home. So I poured myself a bowl of cereal, sat down with him, and then Tucker and I ate together. That became our daily ritual: Each morning, we would have a bowl of food for breakfast, together.

Then I started buying cold cuts for sandwiches. Tucker would watch me make my lunch, knowing if he were a good dog then he would get a little bit of cheese or meat. At night, I’d fill his bowl again. If I didn’t make myself something for supper, Tucker wouldn’t eat his supper. So I started making dinner again, and I always give Tucker some leftovers as a reward for helping me learn to eat again.

Eventually, Tucker knew that the leader of the pack was back and all was well again. Then I didn’t even have to eat first. I could just say, “Goodnight, Tucker!” Then Tucker would get ready for bed, knowing he would get his evening dog treat after I brushed my teeth.

Marie Cooney is a playwright, writer, storyteller, educator and public speaker.

4 responses to “Tucker Taught Me … Don’t Forget to Eat!”

  1. John Flynn says:

    Marie, Next Thursday April 12 the Illusion Theater is presenting their production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s “What’s the Word for”, a show about brain injury with a social hour prior and a panel discussion after the show. My plan, subject to change, of course, is to attend. Perhaps I will see you there? John.

  2. It was wonderful to meet you in Minnesota at the Brain Injury Association conference last month. I so enjoy your Tucker stories – dogs have a special sense and gift for their owners. You can always count on Tucker to be there with you no matter how tough the day may be.

  3. Marie G. Cooney says:

    Feel free to reprint this and any other Tucker stories in Headline. “Tucker Taught Me… Find a Good Lap!” blog has a photo of him at http://www.lapublishing.com/blog/2011/brain-injury-blog-dog/. “Tucker Taught Me… Let’s Chase Rabbits” is at http://www.lapublishing.com/blog/2011/brain-injury-blog-rabbits/. “Welcome from Marie” is at http://www.lapublishing.com/blog/2011/brain-injury-blog-post/ which also has a picture of Tucker. Or you can just scroll first four pages of blogs. You can also write to me at mariecooney@msn.com for photo, but include “RE:Tucker” or else it will be dumped with junk mail. Thanks.

  4. What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. I would be interested in reprinting this in Headline and would love to have a picture of Tucker to go with it .

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