Toby turns two today. He turned our life upside down when he came to live with us that first Christmas. As a grown dog, he's turned into a wonder of a being whose presence in our home feels like a gift that grows every day - much like the trees we've planted over the years. Stronger, more beautiful, more clearly evidence of a loving God.
Toby's first year in our life was marked by uncertainty (maybe we should have waited) and disappointment (he's not like any other Golden we've known, and he's not what we thought we were getting) and frustration (won't he ever learn to walk on a leash without dislocating my whole being?).
He was almost impossible to wear out. He wouldn't stop chasing the cats. He preferred chewing and tugging to cuddling. He barked. He wouldn't sleep through the night.
This second year has been something else altogether. He has a perpetual smile lit by bright brown eyes that are full of fun and challenge and doggy love. His smile widens to a heartbreaking explosion of joy that motors a wild wing of a tail every time one of us comes home.
He is only completely happy and relaxed when we're both home. After his full body greeting, he will bury his head into the legs of the most recently gone and stand leaning into that person while we pet him. If we try to move away, he pushes harder.
He is Emma's favorite being on the planet. My going-on-eighteen, demented, snooty tabby adores Toby. She starts yeowing for him from rooms away, then rubs all of her all over his face and chest, eventually settling between his front legs. He allows it, all the while on alert for her frequent changes of mood during which she might turn and slap him. Then our eighty pound boy just blinks, looks at one of us for rescue from that eight pound monster, but never even considers slapping her back.
He is the perfect companion for my new at-home life. A little bit of playing with the tug toy in the morning, lunch together on the patio - me with a book, him with his ball and bird shadows to chase, him napping quietly on the rug behind me as I work in the afternoon.
Toby loves everyone, regardless of the species. He's not bothered if they don't love him back. He's really good at asking for what he wants - his low growly voice persists until someone understands what he's asking for. He's affectionate and independent and curious about new things. He loves to run with abandon.
He sleeps on the bed with us. A fact that is so rich with irony considering the hell we went through trying to crate train him in the early months.
I am so in awe of the fact that this is the dog we've attracted. This is the dog of our healed lives. This is our teacher and companion and playmate.
Happy Birthday, Puppy Dog. I can hardly wait to see what the next year with you brings.