this is the story of toby's last year.
every time i say i'm going to write this, doug suggests a different topic and, easily diverted, off i go to write about raw-food diets, or setting out bowls of water for passing dogs, or the time boscoe pulled my niece off the back porch and she bonked her head.
but now i think i will tell you about toby's last year.
remember, as you read, that the story ultimately has a happy ending: toby's ordeal ended, and riley joined our family.
(as i write this, riley has walked onto the porch where i am drinking my coffee and typing to you all. he just looked at me, his impassive expression saying: in a box, in the closet, which is what he reminds us whenever we talk about toby. and it's true; toby is with us still. he is in a small white cardboard box, which i have never opened, on the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard.)
but i'm getting ahead of myself.
the winter of 2000-2001 was a snowy one, and i took boscoe snowshoeing in the park several times. i used to take toby snowshoeing back when i lived near the woods in duluth, but dogs have small feet and don't do well in deep snow. toby used to walk behind me and--instead of walking on the trail i broke--he used to try to walk on my snowshoes, which pulled the snowshoes off my feet.
so when i took boscoe snowshoeing, i put him on the leash and made him walk beside me, not behind me. he's a border collie, and he's good at solutions. his solution to the deep snow problem was brilliant--he moved as far to the right of me as he could, and walked on the sidewalk. i imagine we looked pretty silly, me tromping through the deep snow on my tennis-racquet-like snowshoes, and my dog sensibly trotting along beside me, 10 feet away, on the nice dry sidewalk. but this way we were both happy.
it was a glorious day. it was snowing. it was not terribly cold.
when we got home, doug and toby met us at the door. toby had just turned 12, but he was still a gorgeous dog, with a big plumey tail. "when toby dies, i'm going to cut off his tail and make a quill pen out of it," i used to say. but that was nonsense, of course. toby wasn't going to die. toby and i had been together through thick and thin--through the breakup with W., through my summer in the haunted thurber house, through my move to st. paul, through my sister's cancer diagnosis. he was at our wedding, smiling away at the end of the leash held by our good friend (and his former babysitter) sporty. (photo above is from the wedding.)
he was always at my side, or in my car, or at the foot of my bed. always watching my face, always ready to spring up and do whatever i wanted to do.
boscoe and i stomped the snow off our feet and we all went into the living room. doug built a fire. toby got up. he didn't look quite right. he staggered around the living room in a tight, wobbly circle. and then he collapsed.
TO BE CONTINUED