Pet Story - Dog Poodle Toby - Celebrating Our Pets

Toby was an angel incarnate. He was my personal Forever Dog. Others have preceded and followed him in my life, but Toby was a magical being.

I'll never forget the day he came into my life. I saw his picture in a newspaper spread of dozens of dogs looking for homes. I instantly knew that he was mine. I could feel him reach out to me. I had not had any plans to get a dog, but seeing his face, I knew it was a done deal. I called the phone number in the newspaper and spoke to Penny, a wonderful woman who has been rescuing dogs for many years. She explained that I could come to her next adoption event the following Saturday, and that my application would have to be screened. I could hardly wait. My companion and I showed up at the appointed place before the dogs arrived. Then HE emerged from a van, pulling on a handler’s leash. I quickly ran over and announced: “That’s Toby! He’s mine!” Penny was more skeptical. Several other people wanted him, too, she explained, and I would have to fill out an application and wait until she contacted me. I answered all the questions on the form, and she said she would get back to me the following week. I refused to budge. About an hour later, when she saw I wasn't leaving, she excused herself to read my application and let me take him home.

As we drove away, Toby molded himself into my arms. I was beyond joy. Once we arrived at the house, he fit in immediately. He seemed to come from a world where dogs already know everything and don’t even need to be trained. Even though he was under a year old, in the six years he lived with me, he never destroyed anything and never peed in the house.

I was a little concerned about my two cats, but I needn't have worried. The three of them sorted things out right away. Semantha and he became buddies and did everything together. With Pippi, the wild rescue who had spent most of her life in hiding, Toby became her protector and brought her out of her shell. As I tried to teach Toby a few tricks, Semantha would copy him. When I said “Sit!” – she would sit, too. When I said “Beg!” – she would beg. Soon their act was synchronous, and I could confidently entertain friends with this amazing show. When we took walks, Semantha would join us and follow close on our heels, stopping and sitting beside us at street corners when I told her to wait. We were the talk of Pacific Beach.

Toby was always happy, and he would show it by spinning in circles. It was a delightful dance, and people used to count the spins: 23, 24, 25… We did a training course at the Humane Society. When his fourth-place ribbon was announced at the end of the course, everyone broke out in cheers. That’s the effect he had on people. Once he learned to heel, I could count on him to follow beside me in perfect step.

When Semantha died, Toby and Pippi became inseparable. They slept together in a ball, like a yin-yang symbol. When I fed her, he would wait patiently until she was finished; she would then turn to him and give him a signal, and he would clean her dish. They would catch mice together: she would corner them, then give him the sign and let him finish the job. He would body-block anyone who got too close to her. I eventually had to put Pippi to sleep. The vet came to the house and explained that Toby should be present. Toby lay beside her as she relaxed into the preliminary medication. He licked her ears the whole time. His demonstration of love was her last conscious experience.

Our life together was perfect. Toby lit up my days like no other creature ever has. One evening, when he was six years old, I had a painter staying at the house while he did some work for me. It was after midnight, and I was already asleep. The painter decided to go outside for a smoke and took Toby with him for a walk, off-leash – which I had repeatedly admonished him never to do. A neighbor, Diane, saw Toby in the greenbelt and started to pick him up, but the painter said “That’s OK, he’s with me.” A few moments later Toby was attacked and killed by coyotes. It was so stupid. So unnecessary. My heart is still raw.

Muriel Vasconcellos
San Diego, California
Veterinary Medicine Translations

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