All Toby, All the Time

It’s been two-and-a-half months since Toby, our black Labrador retriever, died. The house seems empty; “not enough fur to vacuum up,” as Jeff says. I especially noticed it when Jeff was at work during the day and there was no fuzzy companion lying next to my chair as I wrote or licking the bowl after I was finished with my ice cream.

Toby: A Portrait.

Toby was a black lab with gray–no, silver–on his paws and nose. His thick tail wagged frantically and his eyes brightened when his human walked in the door. At night, he would keep all the monsters away with his hoarse, baritone bark; if there were 100 dogs talking in a park, you’d easily be able to pick out Toby.

If you went searching for him in the woods, you’d spend an hour or two walking the trails just to return home and find him keeping watch on the porch. If you thought he was exploring the cow pastures, you’d find he was instead curled up on the driver’s seat of the truck. During trips to the ice cream parlor, you couldn’t eat your ice cream until Toby was completely finished with his pup cup–you’d be holding his Styrofoam cup for him, your ice cream (requiring a spoon) just out of reach in your other hand.

As he grew older, Jeff would pick him up and cradle him against his shoulder, lifting him into the back of the truck or the passenger seat of the car. He’d know what was happening and raise one paw as Jeff approached, always a good helper. On the farm, he’d watch the chickens with curious, bright eyes, or sniff around the sheep pens. He helped build the chicken tractor, feed the sheep, and water the cows. Once, he helped by stepping on the ATV’s gas pedal to unexpectedly zoom the vehicle backwards, closer to the gate I was unchaining.

Wherever you went, there was Toby. It was “All Toby, all the time.” As Jeff says, “The best dog ever.”

Toby barks.

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