I will never forget the day that we picked you out from your litter. Amidst 9 yellow Labrador retriever puppies, you were the one marked with the hint of light blue on your tail. Your two brothers were marked with red and black tails.
Your red-tailed brother was terrified of my family and would hardly come near us. The black-tailed one was quite the explorer – as soon as he was let loose in the entire yard he was off like a bullet. He hardly greeted us. You, though, were the perfect mix. You were happy to play and socialize with us, but also spent a little time off exploring. Mom, Dad, Sis, and I made the unanimous decision that you were the one.
We decided to call you Toby.
Toby became a part of my life as an 8-week-old rambunctious puppy when I was about nine years old.
He passed away due to cancer last week.
In the week since then, I’ve had time to reflect on all of the great times I had growing up with him. The pain of losing my childhood dog is undoubtedly one of the saddest things I’ve gone through in my life; far worse than a girl not texting me back or flaking on our date. I guess his last lesson to me was to make me look at things from a big-picture standpoint.
Having a dog in your life can be one of the most underrated joys in life. Every man, circumstances permitting, should have man’s longtime best friend by his side. They will be there through thick and thin.
Discipline and Responsibility
If you want children someday, I’ve heard a dog is a great way to get your feet wet. Truthfully, if you can’t take good care and keep a four-legged friend happy, you probably are not fit for a child.
With that being said, watching your dog progress from hyperactive, pillow-eating terror to well-trained loyal friend is extremely rewarding. You, as the owner, are solely responsible for their upbringing, social skills, and lifestyle. Doing a good job of it demonstrates that you are a responsible human being yourself.
A man can take a lot of pride in a well-behaved and well-trained companion by his side. It makes you feel good about yourself, as well as impressing other people in your life.
An Undying Loyalty And Selflessness
I think the story that most touches me about Toby is when I was 17, and my family’s house burned down. When my mom screamed at me to get downstairs, I expected there to be a small BBQ fire I could take care of. Instead, the entire window was ablaze. I remember grabbing Toby by the neck and dragging him out of the house while pushing Mom ahead. I remember Mom sobbing into my arms as we waited for the firetrucks to come, watching the home I had grown up in burn to the ground, as well as all of the memories with it.
Toby just sat there wagging his tail and wiggling around in any attempt to do what he could to help. He looked up at us with big brown eyes. He knew there was nothing that could be done, but that he would do anything for us if it came down to it.
Understand that once a dog has bonded to you, and you have been there for them, they will do anything for you. They will follow you right off that cliff, if you so chose. I hate to say it, but in today’s world of pettiness, a dog is by far the best friend you will ever have.
They will never stab you in the back, will always listen (and therefore, won’t talk too much like some bitches), and if they’re really good; they will even bring you a beer at the end of a hard day.
Alas, Toby never mastered the fetching beer from the fridge trick.
As said before, a dog will follow you to the end of the Earth and back if that’s where you lead them. This also means they are more than happy to do whatever you want to do, or participate in any hobbies you have, without complaint.
Do you like to surf? Find a dog that loves to swim.
Do you like to mountain bike or hike? Find a dog that likes to run.
Do you like to sit on your ass and watch TV all day? Well, there’s a breed for that, too.
A loyal furry friend will cherish each and every moment with you, no matter what you are partaking in; whether it be playing Call of Duty or lounging on the beach with crystal clear waters.
When I moved to San Diego at 18 you had slowed down considerably, but still had some youth left in you. Every time I came home, you’d greet me with a wag of the tail and look at me like I owed you a surplus of treats for all of the months that I had missed. As the years moved on and I visited less and less, I could tell that I was becoming more and more of a distant memory to you. You become more senile and…kookier. I realized I couldn’t fault you for this, as memories get harder to recall as time moves on for humans and dogs alike. It made me so happy though, when I stepped into the door for Christmas just over a month ago, when you wiggled up to me and looked at me…your way of demanding that I feed you a biscuit.
I just knew though, that was the last time I was going to come home for a visit and you would be there to greet me. I just knew.
My last night home, you remember I laid next to you for a good half hour, feeding you multiple treats and petting your head. I was so sad. At one point, you looked at me. It seemed like there was a sadness in your eyes, too. I can’t really explain it, and people may think I’m crazy, but there was a moment where I think we both understood that this was our last goodbye. That you wouldn’t be there to greet me the next time I walked in the door from San Diego.
I remember nearly crying, like I am now as I write this.
It was like you knew.
Some dogs (breed dependent) are incredibly smart. Toby was one of them. The day before he died, he was in bad shape. He was unable to get up without help from my parents. He wouldn’t eat, or drink. My mom told me how she sat in the backyard with him for two hours in pitch-black darkness, telling him over and over again that my sister was on the way home from college to see him.
He held on until she made it home and then passed away in his sleep that night.
I’ve had several friends, the day after they returned home for spring break from college, who had their dogs die. There is no doubt in my mind that you held on just long enough to see her, and give her closure on that part of her childhood.
For that, thank you.
Are dogs going to cure world hunger and solve our economic problems? No – but if you look close enough at your furry friend, they might have some of the answers within them.
For an intelligent dog, I think it’s sound general advice to stay away from teacup or purse sized dogs. Be a man.
I have nothing more to say other than I can’t say enough as to how much you enriched my life and meant to me from the time I was 9. I’m approaching birthday #23 now. When I had no friends in elementary and middle school, you didn’t care. When I was fat, overweight, and pathetic, you didn’t care. It didn’t matter what problem I was dealing with at that point in my life; it was all the same to you. Always the same wiggle, wag of the tail, and biscuit-demanding face.
Thank you for everything, Toby. I will miss you and always cherish my childhood growing up with you.
If I have kids one day, I can only hope they get to grow up with a dog like you.
I love you bud.
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