01 Feb 2008


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.

Posted on February 1, in Blog


  1. Kathleen wrote:

    Thanks for the “wuf” story. It touched me — made me laugh and cry at the same time.


    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  2. Dina wrote:

    Ohhhh….I’m so sorry for your loss. Toby was lucky to have had a wonderful three years with you, and vice versa.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  3. Suzanne wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s good to know you have sweet memories of him.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  4. Heidi wrote:

    What a great story and what an excellent dog.
    We do grow very fond of those people wearing the little furry suits.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  5. Diane wrote:

    I’m so sorry. Losing a beloved pet is so painful.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  6. Pensguys wrote:

    I’m so sorry! We had to put down our furbaby just a few months ago. I know the pain and grief you feel. My condolences.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  7. Maus wrote:

    My thoughts are with you I know how hard it is to loose a loved companion.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  8. Jill Smith wrote:

    Awww! What a sweetie. Laughing with tears in my eyes, me. So sad to lose such a lovely lad. But what a wonderful memory.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  9. Eva wrote:

    What a great dog! I’m very sorry for your loss.


    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  10. Jeni wrote:

    What a wonderful memory of Toby. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  11. elise wrote:

    I’m sorry to hear that Toby is gone. Losing a pet can be painful, but all the happy memories can help a lot.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  12. M-H wrote:

    My old Riley cat is nearing the end of his life too. He has renal failure. but a hyperactive thyroid is keeping his sprits up (you’ll appreciate that!) and repressing the worst of the renal symptoms so he’s comfortable, but it’s actually killing him faster. His heart is racing, so much that it shakes his whole body. But his coat is glossy and he’s very very demanding. He *seems* better than he has for ages! 🙁

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  13. Bobbi wrote:

    My condolences to you and Tonia at the loss of Toby.

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  14. Kat wrote:

    I am so sorry – I have 2 Cav’s as well – and they are my best of friends, my knitting companions, and my snugglers at night.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you

    Kat, Copper, and Penny

    Posted on 2.1.08 ·
  15. annie wrote:

    Precious story. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. I have a 17 year old cat that is nearing the end of her life. My hope is that she can finally let go at home- and not at the vet’s office.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  16. Wendi wrote:

    Ohhhhh geez! So sorry to read of your loss. These 4-legged “kids” of ours sure are a huge part of our lives. While I cannot know your pain, I’ve felt my own a few months ago. Time does heal….

    Hugs & Peace to you & Tania!

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  17. Julie wrote:

    It makes me sad to hear about your loss. I’ve had many wonderful pets in my life and it has been painful for me to say good-bye each time, but, I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. The joy they’ve brought into my life has been worth it.

    My thoughts are with you and Tania.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  18. Catherine wrote:

    Brenda, I am so sorry. Nothing is quite as heartbreaking as the loss of a loved pet and family member. It sounds like you have wonderful memories of him, which are truly priceless. My thoughts go out to Toby.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  19. Jessie wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m also grateful for you and Tonia and family that it was quick and peaceful. Spaniels are such special dogs.
    take care…

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  20. Thank you for sharing with us about Toby. And for letting us remember him with you.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  21. I am so sorry for your loss. Dogs are amazing little animals and they are so much smarter than we give them credit for, it seems. 🙂

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  22. ellen wrote:

    Oh – I am so sorry to hear that your Toby is gone. Even though you don’t believe in an afterlife (and who really knows) in time you will see him running through the woods in your dreams and be comforted.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  23. Liz wrote:

    I’m sorry for you loss Brenda, we’ll miss hearing Tobys snores.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  24. Auntly H wrote:

    What a beautiful tale.
    with love,

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  25. Pam Mulla wrote:

    who do you think roddy of roddyknit is? Only the best Scottish Terrier there ever was. Miss him.

    Posted on 2.2.08 ·
  26. Cindy C wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Not up to this episode yet, but wanted to offer some heartfelt sympathy.

    I was able to be there with my Bear at the very end and even though it was sad, it was also a beautiful experience. She knew how much we loved her and we were able to offer back some of the love she has given us these past 11 years.

    I’ve been meaning to write you and thank you for sharing your thyroid issues with us. It helped when a few months later I was diagnosed with Graves and went through my treatment. You don’t realize how important your thyroid is to your quality of life until it’s gone :(.

    Thanks for being so candid and for your wonderful podcast. I love listening to it while knitting or while working at my day job.



    Posted on 2.3.08 ·
  27. carrian wrote:

    Aww Im so sorry for your loss.. What a sad tale.
    My condolences,

    Posted on 2.3.08 ·
  28. rhys wrote:

    Im sorry for your loss, I have never had a dog in my life but I know from people who have that they become a large part of your lives. Ive had fish and hamsters which have bitten me (the hamster not fish) but they dont compare to the brightness of dogs. Hope the memories will always stay with you in the good sense.
    regards rhys

    Posted on 2.3.08 ·
  29. Shevon wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Posted on 2.3.08 ·
  30. Nic wrote:

    Sorry to hear your news, losing a member of the family is always hard, however many legs they have.

    Posted on 2.3.08 ·
  31. Wayne wrote:

    I am so sorry for your loss of Toby and am very familiar with the pain. Brittany and I had to let our “Mr. Ponce” go yesterday after finding out that the cause of his weeks of limping was caused by bone cancer. We miss him so very much. It’s all about the good times and the time that was shared while sharing the brief time together. Thank you for your post! You can read more about our Mr. Ponce on Britt’s blog. http://knitwitchblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/in-memorium.html

    Posted on 2.3.08 ·
  32. Debby wrote:

    I am so sorry to hear about Toby. Toby sound like he was quite the guy and knew how to get exactly what he wanted.

    I am facing having to let go of my companion of 13 years and it is very hard. He has been with me through thick and thin and I will miss him terribly.

    Posted on 2.4.08 ·
  33. Mary Ann wrote:


    I am truly sorry for your loss. Our pets are such special gifts but their time with us is never long enough. Toby left you and Tonia wonderful memories as his legacy. And you are fortunate that his passing was quick, at home and on his own terms. We had to make the agonizing decision to let go of our beloved Lady in 2005. At 16 her quality of her life had become non-existent due to blindness, deafness, canine cognitive disorder (a type of doggy alzheimers very similar to the human disease) and finally severe degeneration of the nerves at the base of her spine. Nevertheless we felt so torn about making the decision for her. Our wonderful vet who had known her all of her life finally helped us put it in perspective by reminding us that this is the natural order for all living things. We still honor her memory by reminiscing and sharing her story. I know you will do the same for Toby as you already are. Here is the post I wrote about our sweet pup a year after her death. http://downeastyarnho.blogspot.com/2006/05/tribute-to-real-lady.html

    My thoughts are with you, Tonia and Ruby who must miss him too.
    Mary Ann

    Posted on 2.4.08 ·
  34. Amy wrote:

    Awe Brenda I am so sorry to hear about Toby. I lost my old beagle several months ago and it is still hard. They are such an important part of our lives. Hugs and love to you Tonia and Ruby.

    Posted on 2.5.08 ·
  35. Erin wrote:

    I’m so sorry. My baby/dog, who also is named Tobey, is facing some health problems, too.
    We are keeping you in out thoughts.

    Erin & Tobey

    Posted on 2.5.08 ·
  36. *hugs*

    Posted on 2.6.08 ·
  37. Pam W. wrote:

    Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. And my thanks for such a wonderful story about your Toby. May your many good memories of him give you and Tonia comfort.

    Posted on 2.8.08 ·
  38. Ru Temple wrote:

    Brenda, Tonia, and the dear (if a bit dim) Ruby, I am so sorry for your loss.
    Mortality is such an odd thing to wrestly with, no matter what – or if – one believes comes next.
    Thank you for sharing the love of this gentle, snoring dog with us.

    Posted on 2.8.08 ·
  39. Patti O'dell wrote:

    Brenda, Tonia and Ruby,

    First off let me say this has been such a hard year for you with having to decide that podcasting is not going to be your living to losing a believed member of the family. I have a dog that is 13 years old and is very arthritic. He has a difficult time but still gets up and goes out, barks, and enjoys cuddling. I am so afraid of the day that I know is coming quickly!!! I lost my cat 2 years ago and that loss is just terrrible, even to this day. I know this something everybody says abut I just have to believe its true and that is that Toby is in a better place with no pain, breathing better, and is having fun being a puppy again. He is up there with everyone else you lost waiting for you to join them when its your time (which we all hope is a long way down the road.)

    Just thinking that gives me so much peace in my heart and hopefully it will give you peace as well.

    Thanks for sharing such great memories of Toby with us all.

    Posted on 2.9.08 ·

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