“A book about me? [gasps] I’m gonna be a star! Steve, you’re the best! Oh, my God, Stan, how upset are you? Seriously, on a scale from one to pissed. Oh, who gives a flying fig? I’m a star!”– Episode “Star Trek” from American Dad
Mr. Tuttles is a 13-year-old Shih Tzu mix my wife and I adopted from the Boston Animal Rescue League in 2008. We are nearing the anniversary of his adoption day! He has led an incredible life. He has gone everywhere with us. Whether we lived in Boston, Honolulu, city, or suburb, near and far, he has always been with us. He has bad ears and heart, but he is the happiest and most snuggly dog. He loves to eat, be picked up and held, snuggles on the couch both outside and in, and enjoys a good nap, while eagerly awaiting a new adventure. We are lucky to have adopted him so many years ago. Honestly, he is as wicked traveled as me! He has flown more miles than many humans, that’s not too bad.
Back in late May, while, of course, managing life during the pandemic, Mr. Tuttles fell off our couch and fell on his head, near his left ear. At first, he seemed ok, but for the last year, he has had a mass growing that we had been managing but knew needed surgery, but it wasn’t an emergency, so most vet offices asked us to wait until after the lockdown. Less than a minute after he fell, we noticed he was bleeding from his ear, and then to our horror, noticed that the mass had exploded and he was bleeding uncontrollably. We managed to get him to the local vet ER, and they thankfully stopped the bleeding, and he had emergency surgery the next day. Tuttles has always had a heart murmur, so surgery came with a higher risk, but he went under and came out with his heart still beating, the mass in his ear gone, and a new lease on life signed.
When he went through that surgery, my wife and I were distraught. I will not speak for her, but the emotions I went through were gut-punching. I don’t know what life would be like without him, and luckily that is not something I have to think about now. Moments like that make you reflect on those moments before, like all the walks, the snuggles, and our frequent travels and constant moving.
As I said before, we adopted Mr. Tuttles in 2008, two days after my brother’s wedding, and are coming up on his adoption anniversary, which is one reason I was inspired to write this blog post. We walked into the Animal Rescue League of Boston and walked by his cage, and he looked like some wild monster. His hair was a mess, and while I feel he looks like an Ewok, that day, he looked like he lost the Battle of Endor or appeared more like Animal, the drummer muppet from Electric Mahem, or Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. But he was jumping on the door of the cage, and my wife looked at him and asked, “are you mommy’s baby?” He smiled, and we knew he was coming home with us. We filled out the paperwork, found out that they had considered sending him away for reasons we still don’t understand and can’t comprehend, and hurriedly took him home. Now, we didn’t name him Mr. Tuttles; the shelter did. When we first saw him, he looked like such a mess, and the name worked, so we kept it, and the rest is history. Mr. Tuttles then, today, and forever. Although, we have a running list of nicknames like King Tut, Mr. Tan Toon, Mr. T, and the vet always calls him Mr. Turtles. Like the man of many faces in Game of Thrones, Mr. Tuttles is the dog with many nonsensical names.
We brought him home to our small apartment in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. It is from this point Tuttles became a city dog. I swear that dog needs concrete or brick sidewalks to go to the bathroom. Even though we have a wonderful backyard today, the grass seems to annoy him and possibly confuse him. Don’t get me wrong, he has no problem rolling in it, but he will choose our driveway over the backyard for bathroom duty nine times out of ten.
Tuttles loved Boston, he had a friend across the street, loved watching all the activity outside, and had one of us home all the time because of our work schedule. Yes, it could get loud, but he enjoyed our roof deck with views of the city, he enjoyed the walks to Boston Common, but he hated the city snowstorms. So when we moved, he was sad but ready for the next adventure. Over the next year, Tuttles seemed to enjoy life. We lived in an apartment with tons of space. We lived on the top floor, so Mr. Tuttles enjoyed looking out the window and snuggling on the couch to watch television. He is the best television partner since he will just lay on your lap and not move for hours. The snoring can get loud, but I will take it because petting his belly as I watch TV is everything. He had tons of toys, sweaters for the New England winter, and grandparents, my mother-in-law Mary and father-in-law Pat, who spoil him rotten. He loved our trips to NY and still does. Sometimes I think he would rather be there than anywhere! Even now, in the pandemic, we try to see my wife’s family once a month. If we didn’t, he would be beside himself, since we had gone so long while under lockdown, but also because Tuttles demands it.
When we found out that we would be moving to Hawaii, we were both excited and scared. It was a great professional opportunity, but there was no way in hell we were leaving without Mr. Tuttles. The process of getting him to Hawaii would be one of the most stressful things we, at the time, had to undertake. I will be forever grateful to my mother-in-law for taking care of Tuttles as we got settled in Hawaii and then dropped him off at the airport in Newark, NJ, for his flight to the island of Oahu. Let me say this, asking someone to put your dog on an airplane and send to Hawaii is a big ask, a huge ask. I can only imagine how stressful it was for my mother-in-law and what we must have put her through as we stressed out over our pup’s journey across the country and then the Pacific Ocean.
When his flight was delayed in Texas, we freaked out! Would he miss his connecting flight, would he get water, food, or some comfort. We felt horrible but quickly noticed that he was back in the air and on his way to us in Hawaii. The next day, we went to the Honolulu Airport animal pickup area and waited anxiously for him to make it through the quarantine procedures. We had done so much paperwork, bloodwork that we expected him to satisfy the Hawaii authorities to avoid the mandatory 120-day quarantine, but, nevertheless, we feared the worst. That was until our little Tuttles was wheeled out in his “live animal” crate, and we were free to go. With our beloved dog with us, we headed to our apartment in Waikiki and began our family life and a new adventure in Hawaii.
Mr. Tuttles is 100% a Hawaii dog. He loved to sunbathe, enjoyed the breezes, and lounged around on a lanai like the best of them. We lived in Hawaii for a couple of years, and I truly believe that Mr. Tuttles enjoyed every single day. He went for long walks and hikes on mountain ridges, enjoyed doggy playgroup so he could play and sleepover with other dogs, especially when we were traveling. Overall, he enjoyed the constant attention of my wife and me daily. It seemed that every apartment we had also had views, a window, or a door for him to look out and see the beautiful outside. Although Mr. Tuttles seemingly was living the good life, he did blow his guard dog duties in our first year in Hawaii when a centipede attacked us, and all he did was snore, incredibly loud. We lived, of course, yet traumatized by the fact my wife was bitten on her neck. Still, Mr. Tuttles managed to quickly forget the incident and continued to snore louder and louder at night. During the day, he was taking in the Hawaiian breezes and views of Diamond Head and Honolulu.
I also think that Mr. Tuttles was at his heaviest weight, too, not to shame him, but to show that he was loving life, and it was as easy and stress-free as could be. Although, because we had Mr. Tuttles, finding an apartment was not always easy, we lucked out for those years and were still able to find a couple of dog-friendly apartments that Mr. Tuttles ended up loving. In our second year in Hawaii, when I was working on my comprehensive exams for my Ph.D., we lived one block away from the University. It was perfection. I was at the college almost every day, and my wife worked there, so Mr. Tuttles was never alone for long and enjoyed watching all the students, faculty, and staff walk by our home every day. He had the perfect screen door to look out, and he loved laying down in his “turducken pose” while sending out a small chirp bark, letting every person know he was there and watching them.
No matter where we lived in Hawaii, Tuttles was my perfect work companion. Whether I was studying, writing, or conversing with my Dissertation Chair, Tuttles was there for me to snuggle and bounce ideas off. He was indeed my study buddy. Well, the more I talked to him, the quicker he rolled over, and I rubbed his belly. He always has this ability to make me feel ok, even when I was, or am, stressed out. Working on my dissertation and studying for the department’s comprehensive exams was incredibly stressful. But, to be honest, I could not have done it without Tuttles and my wife. I mean, think of it, Tuttles got to live in Hawaii, get some sun, enjoy the relaxation, and had fun with other doggie friends, and I had to do a ton of work every day. He had it made, and I don’t think he wanted to leave.
But, after three years and once I finished my studies, defended my dissertation, and graduated from the University of Hawaii, it was time to move back to the Northeast, but that meant putting Tuttles on a plane again and sending him home. I didn’t particularly enjoy doing it the first time and tried not to think about it for the previous three years. So, we decided to fly him home first and dropped him off at the airport two days before we left, and my mother-in-law would pick him up from the airport. It seemed the easiest and smartest way to make sure he arrived safely. Flying at the same time would have proved a nightmare and stressful.
When we dropped him off, it was so sad. We had to place him in one of the airport hangers with other animals and say our goodbyes. It was tearful, but we knew he would be ok. The next day we got a text from my mother-in-law with a picture of Mr. Tuttles, at the airport, having just been “claimed.” He made it back to New York, was so happy to be with Mary and Pat, and would await our return in a couple of days. On our arrival home in NY, we reunited but made a promise never to move anywhere ever again that required Mr. Tuttles’ flying. I don’t think we could do it again, although I am pretty sure he loved it.
After Hawaii, we moved to Salem, MA, and were there for the next several years. However, we did stay in NY with my wife’s parents for two months. Those months may have been Mr. Tuttles, and my, favorite months. Dog park, rail trail, and Mary was giving Tuttles’ tons of chicken, beef, and all sorts of stuff he loved! Mr. Tuttles also loved Josie, which was Mary and Pat’s fantastic dog. While she is no longer with us, she was Mr. Tuttles’ best bud. They did everything together, and while she was ten times bigger than him, Tuttles always tried to protect her and lead the way. She let him, but she was indeed the one in charge. So, after a couple of beautiful months with my in-laws, we moved to Salem.
Tuttles loved Salem and also just tolerated it. While we had a fabulous single-family home, and he had tons of space to play, lounge around, and enjoy views of the water and tons of people who walked by our bay window, he didn’t have a backyard. He only had a Beacon Hill patio, and whenever he went outside, he had to be leashed since there was no back door, and therefore it was not safe to let him out the door without restraints. For the first couple of years, Mr. Tuttles spent all seasons of the year on his kitchen benches, laying in his bed near our screened-in side door and standing with both front paws leaning against the side window, barking at all those who walked by. He loved to tell every single person that he lived there and to recognize his awesomeness. Ok, I might be adding that last part.
Holiday parties, Halloween trick-or-treaters, and a busy small urban city – all made Mr. Tuttles feel very active and anxious. Mr. Tuttles is a great dog but gets stressed and scared around large groups and noisy events. So, for years now, my wife and I shielded him from bad situations or any circumstances where he’s in a position to fail. We don’t know what his life was like in those early days before we adopted him, so we protect him and love him. But Salem was a loud and busy place, and while Mr. Tuttles enjoyed it, for the most part, we know he would live anywhere as long as we were all together. He did miss the Hawaiian weather and pleaded with us for a place with no more snow, but we could not promise that!
After several years, we decided to sell our home, which was an incredibly frightening and displeasing experience. I like to think Mr. Tuttles took it like a boss and didn’t mind leaving the house each time we had an open house, or didn’t mind the vacations in NY as we prepped, had meetings, and planned for a new future, the three of us, as a family. No matter, after several months, we were able to get an offer and sold our home. But, almost as soon as we began the selling process, we noticed an issue with Mr. Tuttles’ ear and forehead. He seemed to have some growths, but since he has had a heart murmur his entire life, we were instructed to keep an eye on it, but surgery would be risky for a dog his age and with his preexisting condition. So, we watched, cared for him, and supported his continued travels to NY, NH, and other Northeast states for fun walks, treats, and breezy car rides.
While not our first choice, we decided to move to an apartment complex after Salem temporarily. We would have rather not moved Mr. Tuttles to that type of environment, but it was supposed to be for six months until we figured out our next move since selling our home had taken longer than expected. So, Mr. Tuttles moved into a one-bedroom apartment, which was tolerable for the first few months. He went for walks, watched his mom get on the train to the city, hung out with me, and watched The Boys, Star Trek: Picard, and tons of other television shows and movies as I worked from home. Some were good, and others were bad, but Tuttles never seemed to mind; he just enjoyed snoring as I watched something and rubbed his belly. He seemed to tolerate the place and loved not having to climb any stairs, which had started to be a significant problem in Salem. The staircase in our former home was steep, and Mr. Tuttles is getting older, so one level of living was perfect for him, my wife, and me.
Almost as soon as we started to prepare to leave our temporary home, COVID hit, everyone went into lockdown, and we extended our lease out of a genuine fear of moving into this environment. But it seemed that bad things continued to happen regularly. Where we lived became way more stressful, and slowly began not to feel safe in this environment. Then, as you learned at the beginning of the post, the growth in Tuttles’ ear and on his head continued to get larger. There was no way to help him since vet offices were only taking in emergency cases, which we were not, that was at least until we were.
As I wrote in the beginning, Mr. Tuttles made it through his surgery with flying colors. Then we leaped and moved out of our temporary apartment and into a permanent home in a rural area with tons of land for Mr. Tuttles to roam. Although contrary to my father-in-law Pat’s wishes, Mr. Tuttles enjoys being inside, snuggling on several layers of blankets on the couch or bed, much more than being in a large yard. However, he does love being in the yard when he can sleep on our patio furniture. All he needs is some space to sprawl out and the sun in his face, and he is as happy as can be. Seriously though, Mr. Tuttles seems to have a new lease on life since his surgery and now appears at his most joyful living in this new environment. While the pandemic is still here, we find happiness in our new home with our happy and healthy Mr. Tuttles.
Since 2008 Mr. Tuttles has probably traveled over 40,000 miles, maybe more, and could have circled the entire earth. Not bad for a 24 pound, 13-year-old Shih Tzu mix with a loud bark, wonderful smile, the most kissable face, and a “side-eye” that can make anyone laugh uncontrollably. Those miles do not include those he trekked before we adopted him, although I am sure he came from far away, no matter, he found his way to us. From Salem, MA to Poughkeepsie, New York, or Storrs, Connecticut to Jefferson, NH, and of course, from Newark, NJ to Honolulu, HI – are a few of the places and miles Mr. Tuttles has traveled and wicked incredible places he has stretched his paws.
Whether it is the hundreds of trips to see his Grammy, or getting licked by a cow, or playing in the waters of Waikiki, or rolling in the grass in Boston Common or fields with views of the White Mountains, or sleeping on my lap as I watch television, Mr. Tuttles is the luckiest dog. Still, my wife and I are probably more fortunate. While he enjoys a good nap more often than not, he is always up for a good adventure and to see and smell a new location. Even so, he is a little “mister” who can easily sleep until noontime as long as my wife or I am still in bed. He loves food and will follow us around like a shadow. He is the same today as he was when we first adopted him. His days of flying may be over, but his puppy spirit is still going strong and observable when he gets a new toy, rolls in wet grass, or wags his tail when we come home from being out. While he has had some wicked extraordinary adventures, he is always ready for the car door to open, to be buckled in, and to take off with the breeze making his ears flap and his smile radiate. Mr. Tuttles’ marvelous life is just getting started.