Society Subset: The Building Blocks for Family Traditions

A tribute to Tippy.

This generational family building block adventure, a pebble in the pond, began many years ago on opening weekend of my annual whitetail deer hunting season in south central Wisconsin. As usual my hunting buddies and I headed out very early to our annual hunting spots in the hills just north of Bear Valley, Wisconsin on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. After a long day of hunting just north of Bear Valley, Wisconsin on the property of a gracious family, we headed in to share some time with the family of our hunting ground host. The result of this year’s hunting trip was about to take an unexpected turn for my family and I.

After our weekend hunt we stopped into the property owners place for a long visit. When we got here there was a little black puppy running all over the house which wasn’t there a few weeks earlier when we stopped by. The puppy was very friendly. They told us that they were at an auction the week before and bid the winning bid on a surprise box and the puppy was inside. Unfortunately one of the family members was allergic to dogs and they were looking to give the puppy away. I told them that I would take the puppy home and introduce it to my family and if they bonded I’d keep it but if they didn’t seem to be getting along I’d bring the puppy back the next weekend when we returned for second weekend of deer hunting. So the nameless puppy went home with me.

I got home very late at night as usual after a long weekend of deer hunting and everyone was asleep in their beds. I put the puppy in the nearly vacant spare room in the basement on the other side of the house so the puppy whining wouldn’t bother the sleeping family. I went up stairs and when I woke my wife up getting into bed I told her about the puppy and that if it didn’t work out for the family I’d take it back the next weekend.

The next day was Monday and after work the puppy got properly introduced to my wife and son. The family and puppy seemed to bond quickly so the next steps were to name her and go to the pet store. We all agreed that her name would be Tippy because the tip of her tail was white and our home, that was relatively new to us, with a big back yard became a dog home.

The building blocks for a our new family tradition was born.

This photo was used as our home made Christmas card the year we got Tippy.

As family dogs go, Tippy was a jewel. She was an energetic medium sized mixed breed, very playful, very lovable, very well behaved, a good watch dog, and had a bark that would scare off people that didn’t belong in our yard, and she was trained to be very protective of our children.

Over Tippy’s lifespan, we shared many hours with her leaping 4-5 feet in the air catching a frisbee, she was smart and easy to train. She could balance a treat on the tip of her nose and remain motionless for a very long time until we said “ok” and she’d instantly flip it up and snatch it out of the air. You could spell OUTSIDE in any tone of voice she’d head straight for the back door. If I told her to “go play in the traffic” she hang her head and slink off. Even with her size she was trained to sit on her hind legs with her front paws and nose outstretched upward and then with the command of “timber” and she’d fall over stiff like a tree was cut down and sometimes you could hear the wind rush out of her when she hit. Tippy was faithfully there to joyfully greet us at the door when we arrived home, wag tail, lots of loving doggy kisses, a few leaps and then bring us a toy to play. After my daughter was born and in grade school, Tippy went to school as a show and tell to do all of her tricks Tippy exuded controlled joy to all those in her presence.

Unfortunately our peppy energetic four legged family member had medical problems throughout her life. She developed epileptic seizures at a young age that kinda freaked us out when it happened. We had to give her daily doses of phenobarbital which seemed to keep the seizures under control for the most part. Much later in her life she go very sick and after an exploratory surgery they found out that her liver was slowly failing. I was told that medication would slow the process and help with the pain but the end was not far off. I was asked if I wanted to take her home or put her down, I choose home and medication so we could all have some time left with her.

Our family shared some of our last moments of quality time with Tippy for a week or so, Tippy was a real joy to have around, then one day when I got home from work it was painfully obvious to me that Tippy’s pain medications were no longer effective and her quality of life was at an end. She seemed fine that morning but now she was in severe pain, she didn’t understand it, and she looked at me with fear and wanted help. Tippy and I went to the vet they gave her something strong for the pain, we shared a few pain free minutes, then I approved the injection that would end her pain permanently, and we shared out last moments together. It was a hard moment for me and it still brings a tear to my eye just writing about it. Tippy was an outstandingly joyful member of our family, Tippy died in December 1996.

I had to leave the vet and meet my second grade daughter at a script read through rehearsal for our very first theatrical play. That was a hard rehearsal for me. My daughter found out about Tippy’s death after we got home.

The years have gone by, I’ve since developed an allergy to dogs and cats and even after the desensitization shots I still have problems with prolonged exposure to dogs and cats. As for my wife and I, our home remains petless but the joy of having pets around is not forgotten. Our children are both grown, they have children of their own and they both have continued the tradition of having joyful dogs in their home. We have grandchildren and granddogs and we get the joy of playing with all of them when we visit. I really hope the tradition continues for generations to come.

The building blocks of family traditions, like having the joy of a wonderful energetic dog be part of the family, is contagious and becomes a generational seed. These seeds are like the ripples created by a single pebble in the pond that can have far-reaching effects in the building blocks of family traditions and in turn a seed within the building blocks of society.

Side note: This blog post had been in the works in my drafts for a couple of weeks and I was inspired to finish it today by another blog I read. Pets are very important “pebble in the pond” members of families, sometimes those pebbles are monumental in family life. My heart goes out to any family who’s lost a four legged family member.

Featured Image Credit: Background is a cropped photo that I found online, I added the quote to the photo.

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