The dog that didn’t want to leave
His official, registered name was Toby von Rockyfellow.
We called him Toby, or Dopey, Tober, or Toblerone.
We didn't know when we first got him--the last of the litter--that Dalmatians could be high-strung and temperamental. Every time we moved and had to find a new vet, they'd balk a little at the idea of an un-neutered (nope, we never did), male Dalmatian coming in for a visit. They'd ready the muzzles, the restraints, and their nerve.
Then they met Toby.
And fell in love.
Granted, when he was young, he had boundless energy. In these last days, I'd forgotten just how much energy until we pulled out some old pictures.
He'd run, he'd jump, he'd tear through the house or the yard.
He was a people dog. He slept on the bed (yes, we let him) until, at last, arthritis stopped him. He sat on the couch, right next to you, as though he were part of the conversation. Then, slowly, he'd lean into you, pushing and pushing, until you either gave up your spot, or gave into the idea that the two of you could occupy the same physical space.
Moments after we brought Andrew and Kyra home from the hospital, he knew. These were the people puppies and it was his job to watch over them. On one of her visits, my mother-in-law mentioned how Toby followed the kids from room to room, often inserting himself between her and them. Just in case.
Near the end, it was hard for him to do this, but on good days, he'd make the effort to lumber to where the kids were playing and find a spot nearby to nap, or wear a feather boa.
I suspect we held on longer than most people would. If he was the dog that didn't want to leave, then we were the family that couldn't say goodbye.
A month and a half ago, we had to. His spirit was strong; his body was not. It was time.
I'm amazed at how empty the house feels without him. It's more than a lack of physical presence. A quiet that doesn't feel right. I keep expecting to hear the slow click of his claws on the hardwood floor. I glance, surprised not to see his dog bed in the corner of the bedroom.
There are good dogs and great dogs. Brilliant ones, show dogs, and smart dogs. Toby wasn't overly bright. He'd let the kids drape him with blankets, then look at the world with a hangdog expression because he couldn't figure a way out from underneath. He could sit on command and raise a paw for you to shake (I taught him that). In fact, he'd offer to shake without prompting, then looked confused when no one shook back. He wasn't the smartest dog.
But I never knew a sweeter one.
And we miss him.
Toby von Rockyfellow
April 1993 ~ April 2007