"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, November 1, 2010

Toby Turns Three


Our magnificent and goofy boy turned three yesterday. Because it's fall and because I'm a year and three days away from sixty, the passage of time has been on my mind a lot lately. There's nothing quite like having a child or a dog to remind you just how fast time goes.

Having caught on to the trickeries of the calendar, I have been determined not to let a minute with Toby slip past without celebrating the wonder of him and his presence in our lives. There's been a special magic about him from the day I met him, and if anything that seems to be getting stronger. I'm certain he's here to teach. I'm even relatively certain he knows that.

He is a study in paradox.

Greeting each new person who comes into his life as though they are long lost friends, he expresses his pleasure with tooth-baring grins and wide plume sweeps of his tail that have managed to  significantly thin the leaves on a house plant in our entry. Then he'll run to me (or to Walt) and bury his head against our thighs,  looking for reassurance, pushing so hard he breathes like Darth Vader and I have to lean on something for support. Confident to shy in no time at all.

Bred and born a bird dog, he adores things with wings. However, not quite in the way one might expect from a retriever. He loves playing outside, especially when the sun is out and there are bird shadows to chase. He'll gallop after them for hours without stopping. But his game only works, apparently, when one of us sits on the patio while he runs. We're not invited to join him, but neither are we free to go. He doesn't actually retrieve anything, unless he wants someone to throw it for him, and then he may or may not bring it back. Independent but needing connection.

His hearing ability is sporadic - coming and going without warning. If he's found a nice fresh cache of deer poop, he goes completely deaf. On the other hand, he could be upstairs, sound asleep, and hear the rustling of the treat bag downstairs on the other end of the house for which he'll make a run and sit perfectly, just like he learned at school. Stubborn and oh so sweet.

One of his new habits in this last year has quickly become a favorite. At bedtime, he'll get up on the bed with me for a while, then move to a corner of the bedroom, then to his favorite corner of the kitchen. At some point, he wakes up, comes into the bedroom to check on me, goes upstairs to check on Walt at his computer, then crawls into the big blue chair that has become his to spend the rest of the night. It's the fact that he needs to check on each of us before he calls it a day that just takes my breath away.

At three, there's still a lot of puppy in Toby. If he wants to play and I'm not paying attention (trying to get some work done here) he'll stand behind me and make noises like an engine trying to turn over until I turn around. If I take too long, he throws himself on the floor and sighs a sigh of despair, whimpering until I can't take it any more. It works every single time. Cesar Millan would not approve.

As Toby helps me end this decade of my life, reminding me daily what's important and what's not, insisting I laugh and play and love, I wonder if he realizes what a truly great teacher he is.

25 comments:

Gail said...

Dogs are wonderous creatures! Your Toby is beautiful and sounds like a Godsend.

Teresa aka JW said...

I love love love Toby and would kiss him if he were here. That is so sweet that he checks on all of you before he sleeps. I love that.

PS-YOU are so pretty. Sixty is going to mean nothing negative because you still got it going on! :)

Wen Baragrey said...

Aww, he's just gorgeous, Deb! I love that second photo, I've seen that pose in my house so many times :)

Loren said...

Oh Debbie! This is precious! Dogs do teach us so much about unconditional love. A Heavenly Fathers unconditional love ~ HE waits patiently for us to come home. HE Loves and greets us no matter what time of day or night. HE is always there to offer Love, to listen and just be a Presence!

Years ago we were seeing a Lifecoach and she was DEATHLY afraid of dogs! Of course just about every house she went to had a dog and she shared her fear right away. One day she was asleep under a huge tree. She woke up to a huge german shepherd wrapped and cuddled up to her. She is no longer afraid and shares always how the LORD gave her this dog to TEACH her more about Gods LOVE!

Toby is beautiful! My schnorkie turned 3 in Oct too :)

love and blessings to you!

Janna Qualman said...

He sounds perfect.

kario said...

I can't believe this gorgeous creature is already three! And I'm here to tell you that, as a retriever, even when he is thirteen he will still have a lot of puppy left in him. CB is six and doesn't show any less puppy-ness than he did when he was nine months old!

Love you all.

Barb said...

My Golden Girl, Breezy, has been gone 6 years now, and I still miss her greatly. Your boy is very handsome, and I'm sure he has come to you to teach you many life's lessons. Especially: play hard and then rest deeply!

Carrie Link said...

Totally. Laughing, playing and loving. Those are the big three.

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

Wow, he's so adorable! He reminds me of our family dog, Grendle, who looked similar to him. He had been a great companion and yes, a teacher, and it pained us to see him pass away.
I'm glad you have Toby for a company as you travel along in life.

Lilith said...

He's beautiful and I had to laugh at your description of him trying to entice you to play. They don't talk but have no trouble getting their message across.

Jerri said...

What a beautiful boy he is. Happy birthday, Toby.

Kathryn Grace said...

What a love! No one can ever tell me animals are not persons. Nor can they tell me animals are dumb. I'm pretty sure they're smarter than we are, for all our gadgets and doodahs.

In case I miss it tomorrow, happy, happy day! May it be a day full of treasures, especially the memory making kind.

M said...

From one great teacher to another! Give the birthday boy a hug and a love from his "favorite" uncle.

I love you
Mark

Katie Gates said...

What a lovely tribute to your 3-year old teacher! Although I am a "cat person," I can relate to so much of what you share here. And I love watching the patterns of my cats and how they include me in their routines. (If I've done the math correctly, Happy Birthday tomorrow!)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Both of our dogs have been Goldens. I think they're the best. I've struggled with getting another. My "grand dog" reminds me I don't need a puppy.

I like how you say - getting you through the decade. I've never thought of our dogs being here for a decade, but so true.

Suzy said...

Happy Birthday Toby!

Love

Suzy

colbymarshall said...

Happy birthday, Toby! I am familiar with that selective hearing bit in dogs...my lab has that same selective hearing sometimes!

TALON said...

Hi, Deb. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Toby is beautiful. Dogs are amazing at keeping us in the moment...though some of their moments aren't exactly the most fun for humans (like all forms of fecal matter) - lol! I haven't lived a day without a dog in my life...and I hope to have a dog by my side right to the end.

Amber said...

Sounds like he has worked hard to get you trained! lol

Animals ARE teachers. Yes, I so think so!

:)

Wanda said...

Happy birthday, Toby! Looks like you had a great nap.

Cheryl said...

Ah he's gorgeous and now it's my turn to envy you. I adore dogs but simply can't have one here because of the roos. I've discovered my blog address change has created a problem for some followers - though it looked as if all had come over to me, so let me know if my posts aren't appearing in your reader. I'm popping a link on the old website to try to solve the problem Busy with NaNo - pleased to say I have made it over 10,000 words so far.

LauraX said...

Happy Birthday Deb and yes indeed there is nothing/no one like your own dog to teach you about wisdom through his or her love and playful curious being.

Kathryn Magendie said...

He looks so wise! OH, I'd love to hug up on Toby.

As I read I thought< "hey Toby sounds kind of like me" *laughing* -- no one knows which Kat their going to get...

This entire post made me smile ....

and by the way - I'd have never guessed you were turning sixty----Folks, she DOES NOT look it -she's gorgeous!

Linda Myers said...

These animals in our lives. Lovely!

deborahjbarker said...

How did I miss this post? Glad I spotted it today anyway.Toby is lovely. Flossie has a long way to go (eight months old today) but she is already talking to me in that throaty, gentle way she has. No whining,just that expectant purr that sounds as though it should come from a cat, not a dog!
She drives me to distraction but is always by my side as I type.Happy belated birthday to you too! :-)