If I Knew Then…

February 25, 2016 by Melissa

I had a different blog idea in mind for February. But today a dear friend had to say good-bye to her sweet dog; he was a beautiful, wonderful boy and made the world a better place just by being here. So the other blog idea disappeared somewhere and my mind started remembering things… Memories of life, love, loss and lessons learned. Memories of dogs, my dogs and those I have had the privilege to meet through work and friendships, classes and social activities. And all of those memories brought overwhelming emotions…

I cannot blog about every dog who became a part of my heart; there is not enough time in world for me to write it all down. Today, in honor of my friend’s sweet boy, Curly Jo, I will share with you why dogs are forever a part of my heart and soul. And, I promise you, Curly and your Momma too, Tuck and Koda were waiting for you at the Bridge so you can hang with the “cool kids” and get first in line for peanut butter! Because believe me, Tuck was 100% certain he was the ultimate cool kid and no one in heaven or on earth can get to peanut butter faster than Koda Bean!

Tucker was born to be my teacher, my inspiration, my reason to find a better way. Forceful training absolutely did NOT work on Tucker. He was having none of the choke collar and could have cared less about Bitter Apple or water sprays and so on. Actually, those things just made him “dig in his heels” all the more and refuse to cooperate. Or, as I know now, shut down. He would just walk away and ignore what we were trying to “teach” him.

I needed to find a way to communicate with him because it hurt when he was play biting, frustrating when he was pulling on his leash and really not at all appreciated when he was chewing the walls and furniture. The need to communicate so we both understood each other led me into the world of positive, science based dog training. It took me several years to learn the basics of the profession and become a trainer, but Tucker set me off in that direction.

People claim humans are the leaders, the teachers, the ones “in charge.” But I tell you, Tucker was my teacher, leader, and showed me the way to my future happiness. Tucker was not my dog; he was my best friend, my guardian angel, and my strength. Sure, he happened to be in the form of the cutest yellow Labrador ever, but he was way more than “just a dog.”

When we lost Tucker to kidney disease in 2012, I was certain I would never be able to go a day without tears. I was certain I would never be the same again. And, I was certain I could never love like that again – I would stop loving my other dogs so much so it would not hurt so badly when I had to say good-bye.

Well, I was right on one of three – I will never be the same again.

I may not cry on the outside every day, but my heart cries each day because I miss Tucker’s smile, happy tail and reassuring strength.  I also laugh out loud when I think of our happy times together and the mischief he loved to cause. I remember our trip to Mackinaw and the fun we had with Tucker there. I laugh about the times he would trick us into feeding him “second dinner” because our vet said to feed him if he “looked hungry.” A hint to all you newbie Lab owners out there, Labs are ALWAYS hungry!

And, to try to not love my other dogs… Pffft! I love my other dogs EVEN MORE with each passing day. Plus, we brought home Quincy because I missed having three dogs in the house! So much for the best laid plans…

As I have written about before, I have learned from all of my dogs. Each of them, Tucker, Takoda, Kirby and Quincy, is a unique, special relationship. However, there is definitely a common theme with all the dogs – understanding, learning and love. And, saying good-bye is beyond paiful, even if it really is just a “see ya later.”


If I knew then… 14 years ago, on April 8, 2002, when the phone rang and I learned Tucker’s litter had been born; would I do it all again?

If I knew then… Takoda would bring a special light to my life that no one else can replicate; would I have said yes, let’s get another puppy?

If I knew then… That letting them go – Tucker and Takoda – would be so painful; would I open my heart to them?

If I knew then… Kirby would be my heart dog, and will some day break the very heart he stole from me as an 8 week old baby puppy; would I take him in my arms and my heart and never let go?

If I knew then… Quincy would slowly and ever so beautifully weave his way into my heart, and would have the ability to see into my soul; would I have allowed him in?

If I knew then… Dogs would change my world, make me a better person, bring me friendships with people so amazing, selfless and loving, and fulfill my every dream; would I follow the same path?

For each of you in my life because of dogs, I am blessed and thankful. For each dog who has been a partner, a teacher and a friend, I am blessed and thankful. For every moment I have with my dogs, I am blessed and thankful. I know I will always have dogs in my life. I never want to be without their love, devotion, trust, and friendship. Truly and honestly, I can say the blessing of having dogs in my life is the best thing that ever happened to me.

So, if I knew then, what I know now… I would not change ONE SINGLE THING. Not one.

Tucker - 8 weeks old

Tucker – 8 weeks old

Me and Tuck at Mackinaw

Me and Tuck at Mackinaw

Koda Bean - 5 weeks old

Koda Bean – 5 weeks old

Me and Koda - 2013

Me and Koda – 2013





Kirby - age 10 weeks

Kirby – age 10 weeks

Me and Kirby - 2013

Me and Kirby – 2013

Quincy - 8 weeks old

Quincy – 8 weeks old

Quincy - Movie Premier Day

Me and Quincy – Movie Premier Day