Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hi, My Name is Tucker

Hi, hey there.

So my name is Tucker. I’m a young boy. Not sure of my origins; I know very little about me.

How did I get introduced to BRAT? Well, not in the best of situations. My previous owner sadly went to jail; once or maybe more than once, only he knows. In his best effort he told them he owned a dog; that’s me, Tucker.

Unfortunately my introduction to shelter life wasn’t all peaches and pearls. My unhappiness was very noticeable. Someone called BRAT. Hey, I thought that was my name!

My First Foster Mom took me in. She was told I have a lot of baggage, but there are no words for such a term in Doggie Language. So I chilled at Foster Mom’s place with her husband. Another human term, ugh. I’ll just call them Foster Parents. It’s nice and peaceful, so much better than the shelter. I was still not feeling quite right, though, so my Foster Parents let me be in a safe place by myself. My food changed – no grains, high quality and very tasty. Not the kind of stuff that the shelter could afford to give me.

I was a bit squirrelly when I joined the BRAT club. Foster Mom wasn’t sure if I would settle down. She couldn’t quite point to one thing to say why, but she wondered if I could ever be trusted. I would run the fence and get worked up whenever another dog came around. I don’t know why – I couldn’t help myself. Now they did have this female basenji, and we didn’t see eye to eye; maybe because she wanted to taste test me, or maybe I was just plain annoying. I don't know, I’m young. We would argue.

I started to feel differently over a couple of months. I didn’t need to run the fence. I didn’t feel so edgy or squirrelly. Foster Mom started to really work with me. I did well. She was pleased. She thought it was time to test the new, improved me.

Foster Parents are so wonderful, patient and caring. I recommend them to every Basenji!

Packing up time again. Nope, not the shelter - another Foster environment, this time to see how I do with long work hours. Basenjis have to work?? I arrive at this house, but it doesn’t look like a Foster Parents place. I’m a little confused, so it's potty time!!!

Wow, I met the resident Alpha Basenji Girl, and she has some social issues. Well since her mouth is open and making all these weird sounds, I might as well sniff through the gate and stick my nose in it. K, she’s safe, no chomping on me. I look up at Foster Parent and Alpha Girl’s Mom; are you going to help her? Because she’s wigging out. So I go back outside to enjoy the lawn while Alpha Basenji Girl is being just plain dumb.

So Alpha Foster Sister decides I’m fun, and not at all scary. I have a blast playing the Nylabone game with her. My foster mom laughs and laughs. I’m so cute at it that Alpha Foster Sister can’t resist me. I guess you’re wondering what her name; I call her Diva Hag or DH. I have other doggie friends, and the Lab next door is really cool.

Why are they taking pictures of me? I’m not standing still for this. Ok, well maybe one. Foster Parents are smitten with me and Diva Hag's mom tells BRAT how wonderful I am. So I’m posted on BRAT’s site. I do look quite handsome.

Wow! It's time for my “Forever Home,” my very own! I’m smitten with my Dad. Dad sent pictures to Diva Hag's Mom after a month or so. I’m so happy. Everything seems just great, but I noticed that my food tastes different. Hmmm, it seems I’m getting grains again.

I don’t think I’m feeling quite right. It’s been a couple of months since my food has tasted differently. I don’t know why, but I lash out at one of my fur siblings. I can’t remember the details or Dad’s and Mom’s reactions, but a month or so has passed since I first lashed out. I haven’t been able to stop myself from escalating my attacks on my fur siblings. I wish I could talk to one of my old foster moms – they would know what to do. I don’t feel right and now my skin is a bit itchy. I manage to take it out on one of my siblings a bit too seriously – I got through their dense, long coat and left my mark. Mom doesn’t trust me. Dad has to let me go, but first I have to stay somewhere else for a day.

Where am I now? I don’t understand. I don’t feel well. When I get home from my day away, I have a wound on my neck. My humans don’t get it – they think it was from a harness. I have been itching myself. The stress of a day in a kennel, where I was confined to a large crate for the day, was too much on top of my itchy, uncomfortable body. Why hasn’t anyone noticed the rash between my back legs?

I hurt and itch and lash out and don’t stop when I should. Moved again. My new Foster Mom notices the scratch mark on my neck and the rash between my legs the moment I step out of the car. – YEA – Someone noticed! There are a lot of happy, well-balanced basenjis here, but I don’t feel well. My Foster Mom realizes that I’m eating the wrong food. Finally, I get stuff that tastes right, but I don’t feel right yet. The happy basenjis leave me alone. Sometimes, I will forget my troubles and play with them, but mostly I’m itching. Foster Mom rubs a huge amount of hair off of me – is it shedding season? My neck is looking much worse. I shake my head like I have water in my ears. A gentle oatmeal baby shampoo bath provides some temporary relief. Foster Mom takes me to see the vet. I lash out at someone trying to help me – I don’t know why. I can’t help myself. I do it a few times. Right before my fit, Foster Mom sees the instantaneous change in expression and very dilated pupils. My eyes look almost black. The old Tucker is gone.

More pills; doing a little better, but just a little. I whimper, there she is, my new Foster Mom who consoles me. She wishes she could do more, but once the wrong stuff is in my system, it can take a couple of months to get out. The pills can only do so much. I am feeling a bit better at times, so I play with my new basenji siblings – Tucker is back. They look at me a bit strangely, but are very patient while we figure out how to play together. Hey, I think they like my style – head swing and butt bump. It was fun, but I’m still not feeling quite right. I don’t understand it, but I can’t stop myself from suddenly attacking my play pals. I don’t understand myself – is this a nightmare where I become a demon? The old Tucker is gone again. Foster Mom corrals and restrains me with a barrier as calmly as possible until the demon passes, but it takes days for my hackles to disappear. I don’t know what to think. One of my pals hurts himself and cries out like a child – I attack. I can’t help myself. I’m attacking all my friends.

Foster Mom is very understanding but I’m not and it’s unsure if I ever will be. Foster Mom is very distraught. It’s likely to happen again. She might be able to fix it, but it will take a very long time to be sure. What if a new home was to change something again? Foster Mom can’t control the rest of the world. She is so sad. She loves on me right until the end.

I have no more time, but I’m unaware. They hurt, it’s a hard decision to make and not done lightly.

It was such an honor to be loved by BRAT members.

Hi, my name is Tucker.

NOTE: To all adopters and even foster homes. Food allergies are serious and can really alter a dog and if mishandled, mistreated or misdiagnosed, can become a liability to everyone around them and a sad ending. The majority of dogs start to show food allergies between 2 and 6 years old, though it may happen at any age. In addition to wheat, corn and soy, other common food allergens are beef, dairy, chicken and chicken eggs. It may take 2-3 months to manifest symptoms once a dog has been exposed to allergens, and may take 2-3 months to clear their system once the allergen has been removed. Some possible signs of food allergies are skin rash, head shaking, itching, anal itching, foot, leg and tail chewing, hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea and behavioral changes. If the dog you get is sent off with certain food, don’t change it for several months and don’t add in different treats. Check your dog all over regularly to look for any rashes, bumps or lumps. If the dog you adopt becomes a dog you don’t recognize or exhibits behavior you don’t expect, call BRAT the FIRST time you notice any indication.

In Loving Memory of Tucker, Feb 2011.


  1. Poor little beautiful,yet so sad.
    Thank you for the reminder about food allergies. Sometimes I think though it may have been more than just food that made this little guy so ill-fated.

    Thank you for trying and for giving Tucker a good end.

  2. This was a hard post to read... I was not expecting the end. I'm so sorry.

    I agree that food allergies need to be monitored carefully and, as frustrating as the process can be, requires a lot of experimentation and close observation to control. I hope I'm not misinterpreting this post that Tucker was put down *just* because of food allergies. It sounds like there was a lot more going on with him...

  3. Poor doggie! How come the forever home did not contact BRAT before Tucker went back into foster?

  4. This post confuses and upsets me. I need to understand that this dog was put down for reasons other than allergies. Please explain.

  5. Tucker became highly and dangerously unpredictable. Most of the time, he just wanted to hang out with the pack. Unfortunately, his demeanor could change in a split second, unprovoked. The numerous and extreme attacks he committed on other basenjis in the home minutes or hours after playing nicely and the numerous lunges he made at humans indicated a serious level of dangerous behavior that couldn't be ignored. Most of the time, he was cute, pleasant and social, much like the dozens of other basenjis that have been in the foster home. While it may be possible to keep a generally aggressive and unsocial basenji content and safe by keeping him separated, Tucker wanted to be a part of a pack most of the time. He would not be happy being caged.

    Food allergies have been concluded to be the likely cause of his behavior change. The timelines of food allergies and his behavior fit, though it could have been other allergies as well. While his allergies were being addressed, they were not yet under control. It would have taken many months to get to that point. Unfortunately, food allergies can and do change as well, so, even if they were controlled by returning to his diet that worked well for him prior to his placement, he might have had additional allergies surface in the future, with the same reaction. It is unknown how the adopters reacted when the first instance of attack occurred in the adoptive home. A reaction or correction that may have seemed appropriate or benign by the owners at the time may have had the effect of escalating the behavior. It is very easy to make a mistake in handling this kind of behavior, so it is VERY important to contact BRAT for help the first time something happens, rather than waiting a month, during which the behavior is repeated and escalated.

    The highly unpredictable and aggressive nature of the attacks made it apparent that Tucker was unplaceable. Limited resources and Tucker's usual preference to be with a pack - humans and dogs - made it impossible for BRAT to keep Tucker without assuming a significant liability. It is a very difficult decision to make, but there are so many other basenjis with a much brighter future needing help that would be placed at risk if the amount of resources necessary were put into this unfortunate, highly unpredictable basenji. It is very heartbreaking. Please don't wait to ask for help, no matter how small the issue. We are here to help.

  6. Having gone through some extreme allergies with my Shiba (which I've chronicled on my blog), I've learned a few things... 1) allergies are hard to diagnose precisely -- what may be food allergies may *also* be a combination of or aggravated by other allergies, such as environmental allergies or flea allergies, and 2) my Shiba was eventually diagnosed as hypothyroid, which my vet had never mentioned as a possibility even though dermatological or allergic symptoms are frequently (but not always) reported alongside other symptoms like aggressive behavior, because there's a close relationship there. Hypothyroidism also manifests in behavioral changes that sound eerily like the ones you describe (and like the ones I experienced in my shiba).

    I would hope that at the very least, Tucker's thyroids were tested before he was put down. Now, I know there are issues of how resources (financial, time, and available foster home experience, etc.) are allocated. Please do not take my comment as a presumption to know the whole story or to try and dictate what SHOULD have happened. I just felt that it should be mentioned that given the prevalence of thyroid problems in the breed (I first heard about hypothyroidism from basenji people, after all), this is something that I hope ANY current basenji owner, fosterer, or potential adopter will consider seriously before they make the even more serious decision to put a dog down.

    Again, I'm so sorry it had to come to this. There are wise, thoughtful, kind people in BRAT, and I'm sure you did all they could for him. We can't save them all. But it'll never be for lack of effort.

  7. It is ineresting that this is mentioned, I had a Jack Russell that I rescued, had skin allergies also, and he also had an unpredictable aggression toward people also, it was almost like he would be like Jeckel and Hyde, Most of the time he was the SWEETEST dog, but he would sometimes, if mildly angered, or even mildly upset, would lounge bite on to someone, and not just nip, but aggressive mean attack. I never considered food as a source of this aggression, at the time he was put down his skin condition was under control and he was very healthy, but still attacked. I loved him and weep at the mention of him, I hated giving up on him, but he bit me and a neighbor, and with a history unknown, he may have done it before, he was a liability, and my greatest fear was a child being attacked by his unpredictable mood.
    It was an awful decision to make, to have him put down, he died in my arms, with all my love, and I hope to be greeted by him at the rainbow bridge where he will be a happy, loving, trusting pup..without the anger. :''''(