Best. Puppy. Ever.

I know some of you dog owners out there will disagree, but I had the best puppy ever. And beggingnow he’s gone.

After our last dog died, I didn’t want another one, but my wife Barbara and daughter Casey insisted.

And of course, Toby became my constant companion.

He was very smart and awfully cute. He stayed cute, in fact, until the end. No one could believe he was over 12. And he was smart enough to know his cuteness would let him get away with almost anything.

Toby was a Shetland Sheepdog who never got to herd any sheep. But in the fall, when the leaves blew, he chased them endlessly. I’ve seen contestants win a million dollars on game shows, and athletes win championships, and neither exhibited as much pure joy as Toby did when herding leaves.

It always made me think that we humans had the meaning of life all wrong.

leavesHe trained me well, Toby did. Got me to conform to his schedule, got me to play his games by his rules. He loved playing ball. If you threw a beachball to him, he’d bounce it back to you off his nose. We could keep that going for dozens of throws, an actual game of catch between a father and son, albeit one without opposable thumbs. If a third person came along, Toby loved that even more, directing the ball between the two humans. He loved soccer, or any game in which two or more people kicked, or threw, or hit an object around and he could play defense. However, he steadfastly refused to fetch under any circumstances, as if it was beneath him. If you wanted the ball, he seemed to imply, you shouldn’t have thrown it over there in the first place.

He didn’t respond well to the standard commands. He liked complete sentences, liked it even better when they were in the form of questions. “You want to go to the park?” would be met with enthusiasm or not, depending on his mood and, more recently, the state of his arthritis. He would come when you called him, but he really didn’t feel that sitting or laying down when you wanted him to was very important.

I agreed to his terms.

I’ve owned dogs my whole life, but I never had one get to me like Toby did. I didn’t really snowknow why until, when he was a few years old, we took him for agility training. “I like him,” the instructor said. “He has a sense of humor.”

And, yes, that was exactly right.

I know experts say that dogs don’t really smile, that we are anthropomorphizing, but the hell with them. Toby would beam. At times, he appeared to laugh (whether with me or at me, I was never sure).

But I do know this: at least several times a day, on every day of his life, Toby made me smile.

And is that not the most wonderful thing one being can do for another?

Rest easy, old friend. I will miss you terribly.

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13 Responses to Best. Puppy. Ever.

  1. Lisa Athnos, Laurel Ledge says:

    I am SO sorry for your loss. I know what you mean about dogs, and about shelties in particular. I’ve had two and they were so darn smart. The first could read my mind, I swear. I had her for 8 years and she too suffered from what we thought was hip dysplasia. I might have been arthritis. She was on steroids for that and it helped for a time but finally led to her demise. She died in the middle of the night one month after I married 30 years ago. I have always thought she waited until she thought I was being cared for before she felt OK dying. She was a love and thinking about her now makes me miss her all over again. The second sheltie we got when our daughters were very young and he was a male we named Nicholas. He was potty trained instantly and forever when I caught him urinating in the house soon after we got him, told him no, and took him outside to finish. That clicked with him and that was that.

    The only thing for you to do, when you are ready, is to get another. I am so sorry you are having to go through this. Its tough.

  2. markhal says:

    Thank you, Lisa.

  3. Gwen sister says:

    I will miss Toby too! You made me cry! Big hugs to all of you! Love ya!

  4. KAJA ROSS says:

    this is such sad news. i cried too. i loved when toby came over for a neighborly visit in downingwood and checked our place out. and yes, it was great fun playing ball with him in the parking lot! he will be missed by many. hugs to all of you. kaja

  5. pmrshll says:

    So very sorry to hear this about Toby, Mark. As you know, we well understand the Sheltie thing, smart, funny, and no lack of personality. I can imagine, and appreciate your sense of loss.
    I’ve lost dogs before, and was never affected as much as I was when our two Shelties died, particularly Smokey. When Cathy’s Reba died, it took Smoke about a year to get over the loss of his best pal. It’s been over a year since he died, and I’m still not over it.
    All I can say is, that damn Rainbow Bridge thing better be real…

  6. Janice says:

    Mark I’m crying again as I write this, wrote Barbara first. He was really a great dog!! Barbara told me his health was declining and I said I was worried about you. Having a dog that you have a loving relationship and companionship like you two had is hard to let go of. I still miss my Sydney girl and she has been gone a long time. You need to grieve her loss, but after the wedding you may want company other than Barbara, especially working at home. Toby is running comfortably again somewhere……..

  7. markhal says:

    Thank you all for your kind words.

  8. Allan Gross says:

    Mark, I feel and share your pain as I continue to miss my Chico gone now just 6 months ago. I also wrote a long goodbye filled with memories and tears and that great sense of loss I felt. I posted it only to myself as a way of moving on and didn’t share with anyone. Your beautiful memories and thoughts of Toby brought everything back to me, tears and all and I thank you for sharing. As a P.S. I remind you of your comments to me 3 months ago when you found out I decided to get another puppy after 3 weeks of torture and swearing “never again”, “I didn’t think you’d ever go back in again”. Well I did and while there will never be another Chico I also know there will never be another “Dukee” our new 4 month old Golden Retriever puppy. So with a few more aches and pains than when Chico came to us 15 years ago I’m again on puppy duty and loving every moment. So when the time is ripe I hope you too will think about “going back in again”. Best Regards, your friend, Allan.

  9. Nancy Hadden says:

    Tom and I are so very sorry to read your sad news. We too lost a wonderful Sheltie and still miss him. Hugs to you both. Nancy

  10. Pingback: Entry 437: Somewhere Over the Rainbow…Bridge | The Upsizers

  11. KK says:

    I know what you mean about the sense of humor. One of our shelties, Woody, had a goofball sense of humor and always made us laugh. The first time we had to leave him at a kennel we were worried and called to check on him. Turns out the kennel owners were so taken with him that he was out of the kennel and living with them in their house for the week. “We don’t usually like the long-haired dogs (they were Labrador breeders) but we really like Woody. He’s such a funny dog. He makes us laugh all the time.”

    So sorry for your loss. We lost Woody in February of 2015. We have two other shelties now and they make us laugh too, but Woody will always be that one special dog for us, like Toby was for you.

  12. dawnkinster says:

    Lovely. I get it. My Katie-girl is almost ten. She had some similar traits…but they are all so individual. He sounds like he was very special. I’m sorry he had to go so soon.

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