Many of my readers know that I have an Instagram account for my Labradoodle, Skylie, just as I had for Raegan. The news feed on Skylie’s account is full of adorable puppy photos but the meaning of her account goes far beyond oohs and aahs and cuteness and cuddles. Communities are formed and friendships (both online and off) are made.
Just about a year and a half ago I connected with a fabulously spunky Goldendoodle named Tucker on Raegan’s account. Over the past year and a half, Tucker has regularly posted photos and I feel tremendously close to him and his parents through the photo-sharing platform. How is it possible to feel close to people (and dogs!) I’ve never even met? You see…it’s because the 1,317 photos that Tucker and his family have shared do a beautiful job at telling 1,317 stories. In a sense, I’ve been reading Tucker’s family’s journal since January 2014.
They’ve been reading my stories, too. When Raegan passed, they were part of the community that pulled together for me and made me exceptionally aware that they were available to support me. When I got Skylie, they were one of the first to welcome her to Instagram and to my life.
Tucker’s stories are tales of love, humor and fun. Oh, how Tucky loves going to Starbucks! He loves his playdates with friends (and makes us all wish we could play with him)! Squirrels (all of them…every single one) only exist to taunt Tucker. Tucker’s sassiness is abundantly transparent with his daily antics and fantastic mischief! I’ve looked at photos on my phone, laughed and said, “Ohhhh, Tucky!” aloud many, many times. I know I’m not alone when I say that Tucker brings a lot of laughter to my life.
Yesterday’s story took an unexpected turn, though. Tucker’s Dad was on a week-long bike trip, bicycling from San Francisco to San Diego. His recent photo posts have been taking us through the “journey” of sending his Dad off, progress on the trip and what was going on at home with Mom.
All was well until a group of us received the unthinkable private update late yesterday afternoon. Tucker’s Dad, Kevin Childre, was in a horrible crash on his bicycle and the injuries to his brain were too severe to battle. I had to read the message three times to understand its meaning and even after I read it for the third time, I seriously thought Tucker’s Instagram account had been hacked. How could Father Tuck (as he is affectionately called in the Instagram community) be gone? How does a naval officer who returned home from deployment just a few months ago pass away in a cycling accident? I still can’t wrap my mind around it.
Shortly after the private update, Tucker (and his Mom) put up a public post about Kevin’s accident and the photo sharing started with the hashtags #RIPFatherTuck and #foreverinourheartsFatherTuck. The purpose of the hashtags is so Margarget (Tucker’s Mom) can easily find the photos that people are posting when she has some time to read all of them. Hundreds of people are sharing truly loving tributes. It’s heart-shattering and touching. Clearly, I’m not the only one who feels such a connection to Tucker and his family.
This connection comes from the authenticity of Tucker and his parents. Sharing about deployment news, squirrel stalking, vet visits, Starbucks trips, beach activities and more give people a true glimpse of life in Tucker’s world. Oh, and if you don’t think that we all live in Tucker’s world, you’re wrong. Through descriptive captions that come with each photo, it’s very easy to understand exactly what Tucker thinks. It’s very easy to see that Tucker is NOT a fan of his limited diet. No treats?? No fair!! It’s very easy to see the love that Tucker has for his Dad and that Father Tuck had for Tucker. It’s simply undeniable. Tucker’s photo gallery tells a wonderful tale of two BFFs. His gallery gives us the opportunity to learn about Kevin Childre, a veteran, doodle father, cyclist and all-around great guy who had an enormous amount of love for his family, his dog and his country.
In upcoming weeks and months, I hope that Tucker and his Mom feel the closeness that so many people feel for them. We can’t even begin to fathom what they’re experiencing but our hearts are broken along with theirs. I know I speak for many people when I say that we’re here for you, Margaret and Tucker. Your Instagram family loves you.
RIP, Father Tuck. You are already very, very missed.
If anyone would like to honor Tucker or Kevin, consider a donation to the EOD Warrior Foundation, a philanthropy that was very close to Kevin Childre’s heart.