Well, the time had to come. Our much-loved border collie was 14 and three months. His back legs had pretty much given up the ghost and his front legs were starting to show the strain of doing all the work. He was finding it harder to hold on before he could stagger outside to have a pee and he had been diagnosed recently with diabetes.
I’ve written about Toby the dog before in this column. I had never been a dog person before he came into our lives. We didn’t have dogs as pets when I was growing up and once I was an adult, I’d decided dogs were too needy and too high maintenance. All that need for affection, that obligation to exercise and groom them – no, thank you. Not for me. Give me an aloof, self-contained cat any day.
But when Tom and I set up house together, I resolved to get my Irishman a puppy for his birthday. His own dog had been dispatched after it ate the family lunch and he’d never quite got over the pain of losing it.
I wasn’t at all sure about a dog. I laid down the law and said it couldn’t come into the house and that it would be his dog and he would have to look after it. I didn’t have time, I said, what with Kate and working two jobs and running the house to look after a dog as well.
Then Toby arrived – a tiny black and white ball of single-minded fluff and we all fell completely in love with him. All my strictures and edicts went out the back door. Tobes wouldn’t have allowed such nonsense anyway. Rules for Toby were negotiable as far as he was concerned. He had such a personality, even as a pup.
On the day he arrived and changed our lives irrevocably, Tom held him in the palm of his hand and gazed at him in wonder. Tobes squirmed and wriggled and Tom’s big blue eyes filled with tears. “Jaysus,” he said. “Jaysus, Mary and Saint Joseph. Oh sure and won’t it be terrible when he’s gone?” Gone? The wee thing had only just turned four months! We had years ahead of us.
I mocked Tom mercilessly and we did have years with him. We had years of fun and joy and unconditional love. Our house was a home with a child and a dog. And then Kate left and got married and it was just the three of us.
Tobes wasn’t getting any younger but for a long time, Tom and I were in denial. His back legs suddenly gave way when he was 12 and I thought it was all over then. But he made a good recovery and I suppose
I thought that meant he would live forever. Yes, he was shaky and wobbly, and instead of visiting dog parks and beaches and exciting new places, Tobes’ world was reduced to short totters down to the end of the street and back. His brain was still razor-sharp and his personality unchanged, but he was a little old man.
Still we hung on, Toby and Tom and me. But everything was becoming such an effort. Then one day he got up to stand but collapsed back down again and I knew things weren’t great.
Our lovely vet came round to our home and she saw him struggle to his feet and told us he was tired. He still had his dignity but she
said he wasn’t going to get better any time soon.
Toby left our house the same way he came into it – held with love in Tom’s arms. I know it was for the best. I know we were lucky to have him for as long as we did. But when he took up residence in our home, our beautiful boy came into our hearts as well. And 14 years later, Tom was proved right. Sure and it is bloody terrible now our beautiful boy is gone.
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