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.