Read Part One here. Read Part Two here. Read Part Three here. Read Part Four here. Read Part Five here. Read Part Six here.
Erik came to visit us in june. he had barely dropped his bag on the floor before toby was at his side, wagging his tail like mad. they had been good friends in duluth, and erik and toby and i had shared adventures together--going up the Shore, walking the Lakewalk at midnight, hiking in the woods. once or twice i smuggled Toby into my office at the college of st. scholastica, and he and erik and i huddled there and talked until late in the evening. toby curled up on the wooden floor at our side and slept.
erik wasn't the only old friend to come back and see toby during his last summer. sporty came to town, too, for a long weekend from chicago. and houser, in town to visit her sister, stopped by one day to see toby and say goodbye. sporty and houser had been roommates in duluth, and they often watched toby for me. their landlady didn't allow dogs, but toby was such a good dog--quiet, clean, friendly--that they smuggled him in anyway. (he didn't shed that much.)
sporty, whose real first name is Mark, liked to tell about the day he left toby in the apartment alone for a few hours. toby must have barked, because Sporty came home to a message on his answering machine. in her German-accented voice, his landlady said,tentatively, "Mock....do you haff a dog in dere?"
toby had been out of the U hospital for more than a month, and he was doing pretty well. his breathing was good, and he walked pretty well. his eating had remained problematic, though, and doug had taken to calling him "Mr. Anderson" and pretending that he was a dotty old patient in a nursing home. (Doug took the role as the eager young orderly.)
"Hey ho, Mister Anderson," he'd say in a cheery voice. "it's time for your dinner, Mr. Anderson." toby would just look at him as though doug was the one who was losing his marbles.
one afternoon, erik and i set out to take toby around lake como. it was a trip he'd made hundreds of times, just about a mile and a half on a flat, easy walking path. but by the time we had crossed the expanse of park by our house, walked down the hill, crossed Gateway Parkway and made it to the lake path, toby was looking tired.
"we'll take it slow," i said. i did not want to consider that maybe a walk of a mile and a half was too far. toby was doing well. this was an easy walk. of course he could do it.
we walked very slowly. we rested on benches. toby breathed hard, harder than he had in a while. it took an hour to get halfway around the lake. erik said, "maybe we should go back. toby seems kind of tired."
toby was doing well. this was an easy walk. of course we shouldn't turn back.
besides, we were nearly at the halfway point. we might as well keep going. "no," i said, trying to sound confident. "he'll be fine."
we kept walking. toby did not trot, but he walked at our side. we rested on benches. we rounded the far curve of the lake, and headed toward the pavilion. the mile and a half seemed much farther than normal. we rested again. cut across the grass, slowly, toward the crosswalk. toby breathed hard, but he did not fall. he seemed winded, but fine.
still, i knew i had made a mistake. i knew i was pushing him harder than i should. i tried to tell myself that exercise is good, that walking is good, that in the long run this excursion would benefit him.
erik and i fell silent; i think we were both anxious. we crossed the street and headed up the last four blocks toward home.
when we got to chatsworth street, toby balked. he seemed disoriented. he walked out into the street, and then stopped. cars were coming in both directions. i couldn't pull him out of the way, because i didn't want to cause him to fall.
"toby, come!" i said, tugging on the leash. toby didn't move.
"what's going on?" said erik. "what's wrong with him?"
i bent down, scooped toby up in my arms, and ran the rest of the way across the street. toby looked surprised, but he didn't resist.
we walked up to the house. "hey, ho, Mister Anderson!" said doug, who had been waiting for us at the front door. and no wonder--a mile and a half walk had taken us more than two hours. at hearing doug's cheerful voice, toby wagged his tail.
i breathed a sigh of relief. he was ok.
but i was pretty sure that that was the last time he was going to go around the lake.
.... TO BE CONTINUED ...
5 minutes ago