Wednesday night, as I passed the bedroom door, I noticed Toby lying in his usual position at the bottom of the bed. I stopped in to give him a stroke, and noticed again how hard his little heart was working, and how labored was his breathing. He’s been in the last stages of mitral valve disease for many months, and these past couple of weeks, I’ve really noticed him struggling. I leaned in close, and stroked his head, and told him what a good dog he had been, and that it was okay to go. That I was ready, and he didn’t have to worry about me. Last night, Thursday night, he died. It was sudden, and blessedly quick, here at home, with his people around him.
This morning, as the sun came up, Tonia and I buried Toby in a little out of the way corner, in the woods that he loved. I’ve never buried an animal before. It was hard, in both the digging and the grieving sense. I cannot console myself with images of Toby, chasing cats across pastures green, in an afterlife I no longer believe in. I’m just grateful to have had him in my life, and secure in the knowledge that we took good care of this little dog for the three years he was ours. He brought us a lot of joy, and I know he found some of that with us too.
My favorite Toby story begins on the sofa in the office, as Tonia and I prepared to listen to the final edit of a recent podast. It’s a habit we got into in the first year of podcasting, and it’s become a kind of ritual. We listen together, usually with a refreshing bevvie to hand, as I write the shownotes, just before I save the final MP3. If I need to adjust anything, I get one last chance to do that, before I send Cast On out into the world.
That evening, Toby was on the sofa, on Tonia’s right. I sat down on Tonia’s left, and Ruby hopped up between Tonia and I. This central position is where Toby usually sits, and you could almost hear the wheels turning inside his head, as he hatched his plan. One low “wuf” was all it took to send Ruby flying off the sofa, hackles raised, in search of whatever it might be that Toby was barking at, something that clearly needed defending against. It took Toby two short hops, from the sofa, to the floor, and back to the sofa, to claim his rightful place, between his people. Five seconds, maybe less, and all the while Ruby ran up and down the hall, barking at nothing.
We have always known that Toby was smart, just as we have always known that poor Ruby is not at all bright. This was the first time we realized that Toby knew that Ruby wasn’t bright. And it was priceless.
As sad as we are, as much as we miss him, one “wuf” is all it takes to set us both giggling through the tears.