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Tribute to MY River Dog

The first time I ever laid eyes on Toby
he was bouncing around the play yard at
the Humane Society. At 3 months old he was
fearless, happy, and had way too much energy.

I absolutely knew that I’d fall totally in love
with him. And, a day would come too soon,
when my heart would break.

I actually weighed and pondered this thought
right then. And made a decision: It was worth
the risk. There was some-thing unique—
and special about this overtly friendly pup.

What is a Dog’s Life Worth?

An abandoned river dog, Toby was found by a good Samaritan at the river when he was just 3 weeks old. Too young to make it on his own, Toby most likely was the only survivor of his litter. As a result Toby was filled with anxiety. Truth be told, at that time I had the same issue. We bonded quickly. Over time we healed from our anxieties together. And yet, because Toby was my shadow, and rarely let me out of his sight, I always worried. That his heart that might refill with abandonment anxieties during my rare overnight absences. Even when he was left in good hands. Eventually, Toby was given 2 brother cats which quelled his solo angst immensely.

Eight applications were on file already at the Humane Society asking to adopt this wide eyed puppy doll. Several had been interviewed and home checked. Scrutinizing me, the interviewer told me to take Toby home right then and there. I had not brought a carrier, and had no leash. Nothing because I knew there was a 2 week waiting period. She waved their customary home check, simply eyed me and said, “He needs to go home with YOU. Today.” It was apparent she saw their special puppy now had met his perfect match in me.

Toby (12) Toby (4) Toby (11)

From 6 months of age Toby was socialized through obedience training with the intention to become a therapy dog. True to Toby, he passed his therapy dog certification with high accolades. Toby loved our weekly therapy dog visits at the VA hospital. He was the only one to wrestle on the floor with the veterans. If we missed a week the guys all asked where “Toby” had been. They never learned my name.

Toby loved to run. And jump. Particularly my four foot fences. I raised my fences higher. I hot-wired them. Toby was revealing he needed to focus his energy. We started agility training. The river dog took to it like water. True agility dogs are born, or rather, are destined for this sport. Toby excelled. His love for jumping and running, plus four years of agility training, found him to be an instant rising star. This newcomer turned heads. This year: 2017 was to be TOBY’s agility year. With mounting qualifying scores and his weave poles mastered, Toby was ripe to title numerous times.

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River dog Toby was often openly invited to hike the trails with the numerous hiking clubs ‘we’ belonged to. He wore his own backpack proudly, packing his own essentials. He was loved and adored by all his hiking peers for his enthusiasm, temperament, and amazing trail behaviors. He was our guardian. The Border Collie in him was always watching. Always making sure, waiting- and accounting for every last hiker, on every hike. Every Rogue Valley trail has seen Toby’s paw- and my foot-print side by side.

Toby was well traveled. He went everywhere with me. Everywhere that didn’t require air transport. He helped my family heal during my mother’s passing. He was a welcomed and an honored guest wherever we went. Upon arrivals, first comments were typically: “Where’s Toby?”

Toby had tons of dog friends. Somehow Toby’s energy transformed the broken and the meanest of canines. Toby didn’t care about their human issues, he cared about them as dogs- and as playmates. His joyousness was infectious. To Toby, absolutely everything was about fun. He was always happy.

Toby (6) Toby (45) Toby (23)

Toby never missed horse feeding time at the barn. Mornings, he would accompany JD and Lily out to pasture, and secure their safety before returning to me. Trail rides were Toby’s highlight. He would follow in Lily and JD’s horse tracks right underneath their tails. The horses were confident with Toby as their scout. And, they followed him into any questionable- or hidden trail.

Toby loved going to Denman Park. A place where he could run and swim the river to his hearts content. Although, his first river crossing was met with desperate howls and a refusal to follow us across. So my riding buddies returned back to Toby’s riverbank, then searched down stream for a shallow spot to build his confidence. Thereafter, Toby became a true river dog. Swimming endless times back and forth, in lieu of our one horse crossing.

The river dog loved water so much I built him a pond in my backyard. It was only Toby chest deep, but he spent hours circling its circumference, tail wagging wildly, and looking endlessly into its depths. One time he actually surprised himself when he caught a fish. Wiggling in his mouth it was quickly released back to his pond.

Toby (14)a Toby (29)a Toby (30)

There was not a day that Toby did not run my property for the pure joy of it. Or accompany me to the store just for the car ride. Dare I walk our road- or visit neighbors without him. His howls could be heard from down the road.

Ocean trips, the sand, and running in the surf were his thrills. Toby loved his cats and they attached to him like glue. They even took on Toby’s behaviors- and acted just like him!

It is true. Toby was spoiled. Whenever a visitor came to the house he believed they were there just for him. Claiming the center of attention Toby would disembowel his stuffed toys. Often he would toss them about- then fling his toys straight at guests. Impressively, always just missing their heads!

Every night he’d cuddle up next to me on the couch, often with one or both of his kitties curled inside his grooves. Head in my lap, often I would read or watch Netflix. If animal shows were on, Toby would pounce off the sofa and down the hall to find them. Or, he would peer around the backside of the TV to figure out where they went.

Toby adored all creatures, no matter their size or genre. He was a gentle soul, without a malicious intent. When challenged or provoked, Toby’s response was to smile and wag his tag. Although dare another harm his friends. Once, in a group training a large poodle blatantly ran down Toby’s best friend, a much smaller Cavalier, in an attempt to devour him. From across the arena, Toby saw this and broke free. With agility speed Toby intervened in a nick of time. That was Toby’s way: Loyal to his friends.

Toby (8) Toby (2) Toby (16)

Every person and every animal was enhanced and impacted by Toby’s exuberance for life. He left no stone unturned. Nothing unexplored. Nothing undone.

Toby was the love of my life. HE WAS MY LIFE. I was- and am honored to have had that much Unconditional Love and Loyalty at a time when I needed it most. Virtues that I never believed could be possible, much less experienced from another being, in my lifetime.

Except for memories, our chapter is now closed. There will be no more agility trials. No more trail rides. No more of US hiking the Rogue Valley. No more nightly couch cuddles. No more good morning wake up licks. No more bed hogging. No more therapy dog sessions for me- or for others. And, no more river crossings.

So how do I measure Toby’s worth? In terms of his endless blessings? Immeasurable. In terms of an endearing friendship? Infinite. In terms of family? He was my child. How does one put a price on family? Toby’s worth is Incalculable. His fifth year of life is now finalized. Irreversible and definitive.

Toby’s worth is- and will always be irreplaceable, eternal.

Toby (44) Toby (18)a Toby (42)

And, it was to the credit of my River Dog Toby, who inspired my mission of passion: Patty Ann’s Pet Project.

For 4 years Toby cuddled against me on our couch, or curled up at my feet, as I wrote every single book listed on this site. Many of my books reflect Toby’s lessons and silly antics. He even has a few books starring himself~! Toby’s photos, and his examples for living are chronicled, and often interwoven inside some of my toughest life journeys.

All sale proceeds from go to Patty Ann’s Pet Project which donates to rescue groups that save the unfortunate. Most are abandoned animals with physical, spiritual and mental scars. Because of Toby, donations now go to some amazing folks who save throw away river dogs much like him. My intention is that other animals will get their forever home and experience the life much like Toby had.

Toby (38) Toby (33) Toby (36)

As typical of Toby’s example for living life, he continued to teach others, profoundly, through his death. Words don’t teach. Consequences do. Our choices are a testament to this fact.

On a typical Sunday morning Toby and I returned from barn duty. As typical Toby wanted back out to his well fenced backyard. Also, as typical I went to check my morning emails.

His fate was preordained at hands of others to which unfolded fast. Despite strict warnings to my RV tenants to NOT let Toby beyond my gates; absent of thought, once again, they let Toby out front. Over the past year our neighborhood had held much animosity towards speeders disregarding community safety. Not only was my gate left open, but one of these speeders hit Toby dead, and ran off.

I asked the universe the day I brought my Toby home: “Please do not let him suffer when his day comes.” My wish was granted. It was so swift I didn’t even hear him yelp from inside my house. But I knew. You always know when a part of your soul dies.

As serendipity would have her way, a string of events unfolded. Immediately I summoned law enforcement. Within the hour they came. Even before we buried Toby. So the Deputy got to view the heart of my soul, forever asleep. My neighbors surveillance camera identified the hit and run car that came from our dead end road. The Deputy took photos from the surveillance camera, and the matching tire tracks leading to the road scuff where Toby died…not a foot off my property. The Deputy said a hit and run equals a year in jail. He set the expectation of a speedy apprehension.

As of this writing the driver is still at large, and most likely will remain so. Numerous, anonymous –and exacting leads were directed to this Deputy in charge. And yet, Toby’s case has been severely disregarded; dismissed just like the rest of our neighbor law enforcement pleas. It is sadly apparent, The Worth of a Dog’s Life is of no consequence according to the Medford Sheriff. Many letters were written-not just by me. I had hoped that Toby’s life–and particularly his senseless death–would give pause to other’s consciousness to make amends. I would have appreciated giving a ending of reposed closure to my dog’s life well lived.

Toby (47) Toby (46)

My property now sits quiet. A severed friendship violated by lack of respect and trust, now finds my RV spot empty. My land is void of robust energy. Only a mound in my garden remains. Toby’s toys, his neon orange winter coat, his hiking pack, assorted hanky neck ties and his agility ribbons and prizes remain. Now all boxed and put away. Toby’s only legacy, besides these words of homage, are those who are left remembering… with his paw imprinted upon their hearts.

Toby’s love for this life was his ultimate sacrifice to get others to LISTEN. He is granting others the biggest opportunity of their lives to learn, grow, benefit and mostly heal. I do hope all involved embraces and integrates Toby’s teachings. Am I angry with the violators? Temporarily. However, in keeping with Toby’s selfless lessons, any transgression only punishes me. We humans struggle with much. Mostly with our learned behaviors that do not serve us. Leave it to our furry friends to help us out. Consequentially, I do desire that Toby’s co-conspirators find peace and resolve. Death calls us all. But, worse than death is not heeding our lessons; not taking responsibility for our actions; and not ascending ourselves.

And last, there are no coincidences. After several months in the making, just one day prior I had finally uploaded Beyond the Rainbow Bridge on YouTube. It is a tribute to Sox who passed six months earlier, and Toby is central to this video along with Lunar, who is the only one now left of this trio. Lunar is adjusting to life without Toby, as am I.

Toby (41)Picture Taken 3 Months Prior
Toby (43) End of Our Trail.
There Are NO Returns.

My river dog now swims free and runs wild under the wing of the wind.
RIP Toby Until Our Paths Meet Again. October 1, 2011 ~ January 15, 2017

What is a Dog’s Life Worth?
Perhaps the question is: What is any animal’s life worth to you?

Written March 15, 2017. All Rights Reserved.