"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, July 11, 2011

Companion


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.


25 comments:

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

He is so sweet looking. I watched a PBS show last night on the domesticated dog's intelligence and how they have certain "thinking" processes that puts them ahead of the primate.

The thing that caught my attention and I think is the key component of the dog's character is that he/she lives to please their person(s). So true and so wonderful.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I so struggle with getting another dog - specifically for all the love I can tell Toby brings you. But I think I don't have the energy for another puppy - or perhaps, I'm still settling from having my children need so much from me. And liking that independence.

He truly is beautiful.

Out of My Mind said...

I absolutely LOVE dogs. I had a German Shepherd that minded every command without hesitation and read my moods so well. After he died I had a hard time finding a dog to follow (not replace) him. Finally, I stumbled upon my Toby (Isn't it amazing how many of this group of bloggers have a dog named Toby)!

But, back to your post. I instantly fell in love with your Toby. You have been blessed with an ability to let others feel what you write.....thank you for the glow.
kt

Mark Lyons said...

Toby, is without question, a beautiful and unique animal. It has been a joy to watch my "nephew pup" grow and mature(though I'm not sure how much of that has happened yet).

I love you
Mark

LauraX said...

So beautiful Deb. Our Ellie is much the same. I adored this line in your writing: "He is single-minded—persistent in a way that defines faith."

blessing my friend

Desiree said...

As you know, we love our dogs hugely, too. Your Toby and our Toby would make perfect companions as they are both such gentle giants! You have written a beautiful tribute to Toby and I hope he will grace your home for many years still. Please give him an extra cuddle from me and tell him his fame is spreading. He is such a handsome fellow!

Amber said...

I love love love this. Not being a natural "dog person", who has been blessed with dogs, this reminds me of the things I see in them. I understand they have things-- great big things-- to teach me here. My heart beats steady with them, and I feel more joy. Your post makes it clear you do as well... You say it so well.

:)

Alessandra said...

Bravo! I love this post. I have 4 dogs and 3 cats and wouldn't trade them for anything. Your Toby sounds like the perfect companion, and he looks beautiful, even with a cat at his neck...lol

patricia said...

I love this post. I love that you have Toby. He is a gift from God. I know just how much comfort that Teddy gives me every single day.

Wanda said...

All true. Love.

yaya said...

So sweet and I'm glad he has a loving owner in you who recognizes his greatness! I miss having a dog. I know we'll get another one of these days, but for now we just have to enjoy our one and only Granddog Eddy.

Anonymous said...

yep! He's all that 'n more! Thanx for letting me play with him today!

M in Vancouver

Stacy Crawford said...

I love that last photo.

Julia said...

Toby is all that and more!

Barb said...

To love a dog is one of life's treasures. I love this line: "His smell feels like home." Toby is a big boy with an even bigger heart. You're lucky to have each other, Deb. I so miss my dear Golden Girl!

Pam said...

Beautiful post Deb. Animals are a comfort, healers, and such a joy.

Richard said...

I had a dog and three cats. Now just the cats. I didn't realize how much the dog kept the cats under control until the dog passed away.

Bernie said...

Oh Deb, how I can relate to your writing so beautifully about Toby. I feel too that Dodger is a gift from God and this breed is such a wonderful one.

You really really love him and you made us feel it in your writing. I am so glad you have Toby in your life. Thank you again for a wonderful essay.

Cheryl said...

Beautiful photos. We do both so love our animals don't we! Wish I could have a dog here too but it wouldn't be good for the roos to see their mom loving a dog as, sadly, dogs are often their enemy and so they must know to run away from them. Ah well.

Leslie said...

Utterly ADORABLE--thanks for the smile!!

Sandi said...

Oh what a sweet, sweet tribute to Toby. I must admit I was reading with a bit of trepidation, as I was fearful something had happened to him. What a delight to reach the end, and just appreciate the joy he brings to your life. He's a lucky dog to have you and Walt!

Lavi said...

Your Toby is a sweet companion. I'm surprised at how alike he and my own dog are. The same spirit and energy.

I hope you'll enjoy many wonderful days together.

Terri Tiffany said...

oooohhhh---I want your dog!!! He is wonderful!

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

Wow, you really know Toby so well! He definitely sounds like a great companion. Wouldn't it be great if our human companions were like Toby?

Sandy said...

What a beautiful dog. I can see sweetness in his face and posture. There's nothing better than a golden retriever, except maybe my Jack Russell Terror, Lucy. She's special but there's really no better breed than a golden. They just don't live long enough. :-(