I’ll never forget the day that we picked you out from your litter. Amidst, what was it…9 yellow Labrador retriever puppies, you were the one marked with the hint of light blue on your tail. Your two brothers were marked with red and black tails.
Your red-tailed brother was terrified of my family and would hardly come near us. The black-tailed one was quite the explorer – as soon as he was let loose in the entire yard he was off like a bullet. He hardly greeted us. You, though, were the perfect mix. You were happy to play and socialize with us, but also spent a little time off exploring. Mom, Dad, Sis, and I made the unanimous decision that you were the one.
We decided to call you Toby.
The first night, hardly none of us slept because you cried like a baby in your kennel. However, as the week went on you became more and more adjusted to life in your new home. In a way, it was like having a little brother to rough house around with.
In no particular order, here are memories and experiences we had that will forever be in my heart.
- How you never peed like a male dog. Always poppin’ squats like a bitch.
- You would never fetch.
- The time I brought you home half a Rib-Eye steak from a restaurant and you spent the next week burying, digging up, and re-burying that bone.
- The summer months – when every day, in the evening, we would go down to the school. There would be half a dozen dogs running around and all of us crazy kids would chase each other around on the jungle gym. Then we’d walk home up the big ass hill, you wagging your tail and panting the entire time.
- The “Luggable Loo” story Mom and Dad like to tell everyone…in which I threw up on you.
I think the story that most touches me is when our house burned down. When Mom screamed at me to get downstairs, I expected there to be a small BBQ fire I could take care of. Instead, the entire window was ablaze. I remember grabbing you by the neck and dragging you out of the house while pushing Mom ahead. I remember Mom sobbing into my arms as we waited for the firetrucks to come, watching the home you and I had been raised in burn to the ground.
I remember that you just sat there wagging your tail and wiggling around in any attempt to do what you could to help. Looking up at us with those big brown eyes; almost like you knew there was nothing that could be done, but that you would do anything for us if it came down to it.
When I moved to San Diego at 18 you had slowed down considerably, but still had some youth left in you. Every time I came home, you’d greet me with a wag of the tail and look at me like I owed you a surplus of treats for all of the months that I had missed. As the years moved on and I visited less and less, I could tell that I was becoming more and more of a distant memory to you. You become more senile and…kookier. I realized I couldn’t fault you for this, as memories get harder to recall as time moves on for humans and dogs alike. It made me so happy though, when I stepped into the door for Christmas just over a month ago, when you wiggled up to me and looked at me…your way of demanding that I feed you a biscuit.
I just knew though, that was the last time I was going to come home for a visit and you would be there to greet me. I just knew.
My last night home, you remember I laid next to you for a good half hour, feeding you multiple treats and petting your head. I was so sad. At one point, you looked at me. It seemed like there was a sadness in your eyes, too. I can’t really explain it, and people may think I’m crazy, but there was a moment where I think we both understood that this was our last goodbye. That you wouldn’t be there to greet me the next time I walked in the door from San Diego.
I remember nearly crying, like I am now as I write this.
It was like you knew.
I have a feeling that you held on just long enough for little sis to make it home and say goodbye to you one last time. The night after Dad drove and picked her up just so she could see you one last time…you passed peacefully in your sleep.
It was like you knew.
You knew that she needed to see you and pet you one last time, and you gave her that closure, much like you did for me a month ago. Okay, maybe I’m a little crazy and you weren’t THAT smart, but damn were you an intelligent dog overall.
I have nothing more to say other than I can’t say enough as to how much you enriched my life and meant to me from the time I was what, 9-10? I’m approaching birthday #23 now. When I had no friends in elementary and middle school, you didn’t care. When I was fat, overweight, and pathetic, you didn’t care. It didn’t matter what problem I was dealing with at that point in my life; it was all the same to you. Always the same wiggle, wag of the tail, and biscuit-demanding face.
Thank you for everything, Toby. I will miss you and always cherish my childhood growing up with you.
I love you bud.