I realize that it likely says something about me that my best friend in the neighborhood was a dog and not a person. I am okay with that. There was no one else in my neighborhood who made a point of bounding over to greet me whenever I was outside in the spring, summer, and fall. Toby was always there – wagging his tail, smiling that way he did – he was always happy to see me. And I was always happy to see him. He brought joy to my life.
When Toby was born his mother inadvertently chewed off a couple of his toes. When he was a new puppy in the neighborhood I never really noticed the effect those lost toes had on his gait. Puppies are clumsy little balls of fur who scamper about in every which direction. When he was young dog, all I ever saw was a bundle of energy happy to share love with everyone he encountered. As Toby grew older it became more apparent to a casual observer that he had some troubles, but you would never have known it from the way he frolicked with abandon. He was the official greeter of all folks who visited his home and the homes on either side of his home. Some folks would be taken aback initially when they saw this big furry ball of energy lobbing toward them, but Toby was never a threat. Toby was a friend to all.
He became an extended member of my family. He trained all our family members to give him a bone when they came to visit. I remember well the first time I gave him a bone after I returned home and he had followed me to the door. It only took that one time to cement our pattern. He would sit dutifully on the porch as I set down whatever I was lugging inside and wait patiently for me to return with his bone. That was our thing.
Last summer, Toby would come and sit with me, and sometimes on me, while I was gardening. It was a happy time and those memories will likely play over and over again this summer as I garden. It won’t be quite the same without him.
Toby became very ill this winter. He had a terminal disease, was losing weight, and was in pain, yet still he bounded across the yard in true Toby form. His owners finally had to make a decision to let him go. I cannot imagine how difficult that decision must have been for them. I can tell you that it is difficult to imagine the neighborhood without him, so it must be incredibly difficult for them to imagine their home without him.
I know I am not alone in being saddened by the loss of Toby. Everybody around here loved Toby. He was a beautiful soul. The neighborhood will be less vibrant this spring, summer, and fall. And in the moments when I no longer have my best friend bounding across the yard to greet me I will recall the gift of his friendship, unbridled joy, and ever-wagging tail…and I will miss him terribly. So long my friend. When it is my time to leave this earth I’ll once again expect to see you bounding up to me…and I will have your bone ready.
Day one thousand three hundred and thirty-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da