Monday, July 11, 2011
His needs are few: a ball, shadows to chase, the companionship of his pack. He finds ecstasy in the scent of deer, swimming for a stick in the river, and belly scratches. He grins wildly when one of us returns after a long day. He is the picture of abject defeat when an invitation to play is not responded to with enthusiasm.
Like Dug the dog in the movie Up, his weakness is squirrels. He'll explode out the back door, into the bird area, ready to chase, before he's even checked to see if there are any squirrels there. Since there almost always are, he's rarely disappointed. He's never caught one, but I'm not entirely convinced he couldn't if he really wanted to.
It's all or nothing with this dog. Full tilt or catatonic. He still will not obey automatically—there's always a space of time, sometimes long, in which he decides for himself. He'll do anything for a treat, though, whether commanded to or not. Sit. Lie down. Sit. Speak. Lie Down. Sit. All in a dizzying routine during which his bright eyes never leave the desired treasure.
He's the earliest bird in the house. His inner alarm is highly accurate, but has no adjustment for weekends or mornings I might want to sleep in. My day always starts with the sound of his ninety pounds hurtling down the stairs and his nose bumping whatever part of me he can reach easily.
He is single-minded—persistent in a way that defines faith. If he wants a thing, he believes it will happen if only he waits long enough or asks loudly enough. He seems not to know about impossible. It doesn't matter whether it's convincing me it's time for his walk, or time to play, or he needs loves—he's certain it will happen.
This is a dog who has never met a stranger or an enemy. Every new person is both his friend and a potential playmate. He willingly shares his toys, even with the canine companions of human visitors. He never lets rejection interfere with his friendliness, and always gives people as many chances as it takes for them to recognize the gifts he offers.
Sharing a home with three cats is not something all dogs could do with as much forbearance as he. He tolerates Emma's romancing of his face and curling up between his front legs. He avoids Cooper (won't even look at her) because she's been known to hit for no good reason. And when Grace decides she wants his food, he backs away (and looks longingly for me to rescue him).
Just looking at Toby lifts my heart. His magnificence, his quiet power, the light he radiates. His smell feels like home. Stroking his ears, still so much like angel's wings even in adulthood, soothes all the way to my center. It's impossible to be with him and not smile. The comfort he offers, the joy he creates, just by being his grand doggy self is a gift beyond measure.