I had a dog

His name was Nuke.

It was short for “Nuclear”, on behalf of the UC Davis Department of Radiology who used him on a weekly basis to teach the vet students how to take radiographs.

When word got out my sophomore year of school that I was looking for a dog, my friend Dan pulled me aside and told me about this awesome dog he heard about from the head radiology technician, Barb.

“Nuke is so great,” she said before taking me to meet him. “He’s a 10 year old coonhound, and we all just adore him. But, it’s time for him to retire.” She opened the door to the kennels. “He’s lived inside his whole life, so he’s not really used to the outdoors.

“But he’s not housetrained so I think he’ll need to be an outside dog.” I peered inside.

And this is what peered back:

When I was looking for a rescue dog, I was thinking young-ish, maybe 2 or 3, maybe a retriever, or a pug of some sort. I certainly wasn’t thinking of a geriatric agoraphobic hound dog. But there he was, and there I stood.

“Oh, if it doesn’t work out, just bring him back,” said Barb, with an all-too-knowing glance. “If he gets put down at least he had a chance, right?”

One week after adopting him, my husband and I were out of town for the weekend at a wedding. A classmate house-sat, leaving Nuke outside while she was at work. We got home to an, ahem, strongly worded missive from the neighbor alerting us to our new hound dog’s baying capabilities and his wife’s strong displeasure at said morning serenades.

He spent the next week getting used to the garage. He seemed OK with that, since it wasn’t really all that different from the place he had spent his whole life, but I didn’t think that was a great option either.

So I crate trained him. Without the benefit of 10 years of internet wisdom to tell me otherwise, I had no idea that was considered un-doable, so I just did it. (Conventional wisdom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.) Sure, he had an occasional accident that left my husband grinding his teeth, but for the most part, he did pretty well. And once he was secure inside the house, the baying stopped.

I took him to training classes. Nuke wouldn’t sit. Neither treats, nor cajoling, nor praise would dissuade him. I spent $400 on radiographs (oh, the bitter irony) to confirm there was no orthopedic issue making him reluctant to sit. They insisted I sign an estimate for sedation before taking the rads. “Can you please just try it without sedation?” I asked.

An hour later, they called back in amazement. “He was so good for his x-rays,” the vet said. “He’s an old pro,” which of course he really was. “Nothing wrong with his hips. I think he’s just stubborn.”

So that became our training sessions. “Everyone, put their dogs in a sit,” the trainer would say. “Except Nuke.” She would pat his head and give him a cookie, and he would spend the hour just standing around.

I never figured out if it was all the radiation that addled his brain, or if he just didn’t care. I know I didn’t care. I didn’t ask much of him, me with all my hours spent in the house studying. He was my footrest while I watched “Sex and the City,” sitting in my sweats and Uggs eating microwave popcorn and wondering why I wasn’t in New York being fabulous instead of coming home smelling of cows.

Nuke was my companion while I memorized the difference between domitor and acepromazine, my affable and oh-so-adoring compatriot, the world’s worst guard dog, my greatest admirer. He taught me the zen art of just being, and the good things that come out of just making the decision to figure things out as you go along with the assumption that somehow, you will make it work.

He taught me one more thing, that I wish he hadn’t. “That looks like a splenic hemangiosarcoma,” I said as I watched the vet ultrasound the mass I had just noticed, two weeks after graduation and 800 miles away from my safety net of specialists.

“Oh, it could be lymphoma,” she said, I assume trying to be encouraging.

“That’s not what it looks like,” I muttered, my hours in the radiology department soaking up their knowledge tapping at the back of my brain. And unfortunately, I was right.

I had a dog for three years. Talk about ‘less adoptable.’ He had nothing going for him, other than his sheer and utter wonderfulness. Oh, how sad it would have been to have missed out on the quirkiest love of my life. Miss ya, Chukies.

Filed: Be The Change, Daily Life, Musings, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , ,
  • That is such a heartwarming story. Thank you so much for sharing it with the world. It really touched me as I teared up at 8:23 AM. Animals have a way of making us more in touch with mother nature, our being, and the world. There is so much to that look they give you. You’ve been blessed.

  • Georgia Jewel

    Darn it, Dr. V! I really didn’t want to cry this morning…what a great story.

  • Lisa W

    +1 on the crying. But I wouldn’t have wanted to miss such a marvelous story….

  • Tonya

    Count me in as +2! I also agree on the wonderfulness (is that a word?) of the story. You are an inspiration, Dr. V!

  • Meredith

    What a sweet story! And that face. I’m glad he got to enjoy retirement with you.

  • LOVE! I especially love that he was “excused” from sitting in class.

  • Sylvia

    I think it is wonderful that he had YOU the last 3 years of his life. We took in a stray older kitty a couple of years ago. We named him Hobo Joe. He was also one of those wonderful, just let me be and I will love you and you can love me kind of guys. He loved to sit in our laps (when he was in the mood) and we let him. His other love was our bed. We let him sleep there too. We didn’t get to have him for long but the one thing my wonderful vet said after we had to let Joe go to Kevin (yes I believe kitties go to Kevin also) was “I can’t imagine a better place for him to finish out his time here then to be loved and in a loving place.” So that is how we decided to handle it. We were the in-between place. The holding area where we got to spoil him until it was time for him to go. We lost him to diabeties. The odd thing is from the very first time I picked him up I would say “he smells so sweet, like cookies”. Now I know why. We feel so lucky to have had him so I know how you feel.

    • Oh, sweet Hobo Joe. I agree, all kitties go to Kevin too.

  • Cathey

    Another AWESOME story of a friend saved. I have cried EVERY morning of this series and hope to do so for a few more days. I also have a “friend that was supposed to be” story, but it’s too long to relate here. Suffice it to say that when we finally got her, we spent nearly 17 years loving her. She was a gift from heaven! Many, many thanks to you all for sharing – just reading about your friends has been a blessing and you have certainly been blessings for your variously furry friends!

    • Seventeen years? What a blessing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Chile

    Sweet, sweet Nuke.

  • Leigh

    Yay! Congrats to Nuke that he got to be a footrest and cuddle-buddy for 3 wonderful years. :::hugs:::

  • I had to laugh at the obedience class … I’ve been there. I adopted a 10-year-old pit bull who had been rescued from a cruelty case. “Addled” is a good description (but the sweetest dog in the world). I took her to training classes mostly for the socialization since she spent most of her time curled up on the couch. After several weeks, I could get her to sit, but she wouldn’t lie down on command. So, the trainer decided to use us as an example. She stopped the class as she went through every trick in the book to try and get Olive to lie down, so sure that I must have just been doing something wrong. After a solid ten minutes of the class watching Olive do nothing but stand there and wag her tail, the trainer finally said “well, it’ll work eventually.” In the five years I had Olive, she never learned to lie down on command :).

    • LOLOLOL so glad I am not the only one.

  • Nuke was a beautiful dog ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you. His eyes were the most soulful I have ever seen.

  • Liz

    Nuke was a lucky boy, and you were lucky to have had him. He was beautiful.

  • So sweet!

    Have you see Sam on my blog of less adoptable Chessies? He’s available. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  • What a great dog. You do so many wonderful things for pets. I’m so glad Nuke had you in his life and he knew what being a pet was all about.

    On a total side note, I imagine there are many animals in veterinary schools that get tested on for various procedures. As a vet (or vet-in-training, as it were), I imagine it was very hard to witness these animals not live a normal pet life. Sort of ironic that they are the teachers so that other pets can live a “real” life. I hope I’m not coming off as critical, I mean to be sympathetic. Kudos to you for rescuing one of them. I hope to have a Nuke in my life someday.

    • It was hard. There was a small but vocal group that refused to do terminal procedures on shelter dogs in surgery class- we lost training but kept our hearts.

  • K

    Drive thru Nuke! The only one I never got to meet. Today Buffy will eat a treat in his name. LOL. RIP.

  • What a wonderful story. Thank you!

    I’m wondering if some of Nuke’s behaviors (or lack thereof) where Hound issues.

    I adopted 9 year old Shadow, a hound mix. Although she was a dream in the house, she was also the “dumbest” dog I ever had. Or maybe she just didn’t care. Eventually I learned that she was such a good girl she didn’t really have to be trained well to fit in great with our life.

    Although we only had 2 years together, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Older dogs are great!

    • I agree. Hounds are just awesome in their own special way.

  • Great story… thanks so much for sharing. Sometimes the puppy loves of your life come from the most unexpected places!

  • JaneK

    we – as a society – seem to be all about cause, purpose….to a fault. We need that phone for “this” purpose, we need that car for “that” reason, we need that kind of dog for “this” reaon, etc. We have overlooked relationships and the art of “just being”. We are always looking for the next thing to do instead of just enjoying the moment. Thanks for reminding us to enjoy the moment and enjoying the company of our beloved friends both 4-legged and 2-legged. And reminding us that we don’t always have to “do” something for someone to help them, sometimes, it is enough just to be there.

  • You are a great storyteller!

  • Lacy Province

    Nuke was a very fortunate fellow to have had your love, and in turn you’re a most fortunate human to have had Nuke.