“Promise me you won’t get mad,” my daughter said in a phone call from college three years ago. It was the end of a long, hard day at work and I was tired. “I can’t make that promise,” I snapped in reply.
This is the story of Toby, my energetic, dopey and loveable … grand-puppy. It is also a parable about the blessings that come from having a family pet.
Allison had gone to the pet store with a friend who was buying dog food and came home with a six-week-old puppy of uncertain pedigree. I told her she had to take it back. She said it was too late. I told her she was not prepared for the responsibility of a puppy. She’s insisted that she was. She asked if I wanted to see a photo of him. I did not.
History was not in Allison’s favor. Our family already had a dog, Daisy. The best dog ever. When we got Daisy in 1994, Allison and her brother promised to feed her, walk her, bathe her. Any parent reading this knows how that turned out.
Later that evening, I was walking Daisy when I ran into a neighbor who was kind enough to let me rant about Allison’s impulsive mistake. When I finished, he looked at me and said, “Carolyn, of all the statements that could have followed ‘Promise me you won’t get mad,’ ‘I got a puppy’ is not all that bad.” Thank God for good neighbors and perspective.
Allison proved to be a good mom. She crate-trained Toby, made sure he got all of his shots and had him neutered when the time came. In return, Toby was just what Allison had wanted; a puppy she could snuggle with, put in her bike basket and ride to the beach, and dress up for Jaguars games. But then, he grew.
Best guess is that Toby’s lineage is a mix of Rhodesian ridgeback and Vizsla; both strong and fast hunting breeds with boundless energy. When Toby was a year old and 50 pounds, Allison realized he was more than she could handle. That’s when she made the hardest decision a mother can make. She gave Toby up to someone better prepared to care for him. Her brother.
Like Toby, John is active and athletic. They run 4-5 miles together most days. Other days, John will ride his bike or skateboard while Toby runs alongside. Until recently, John lived in South Florida with two friends in a rented house on a canal with a pool and fenced yard. Toby loved the bachelor life — riding in John’s truck, hanging with the guys and hunting lizards and iguanas.
To say I am over-the-moon in love with Toby is an understatement. Three years ago, I didn’t want to see a photo of him. Today, like any grandmother worth her stripes, I have dozens of photos of Toby on my phone eager to share with everyone. I enjoy taking him for walks around the park, buying him dog toys and sneaking him people food my son does not allow him to eat.
The moral of my story? Dogs make life better. They teach children responsibility and compassion and bless the entire family with joy and unconditional love.