Tag Archives: Toby the Puppy

Happy Trails, Part 158: Finding a new way to live

Now that I no longer have to worry about daily deadlines, or filling space on a blank newspaper page, or deciding which issues to comment on, I find myself pondering more personal matters.

One of them involves the way I live.

Oh, my wife and I have carved out a good life in retirement. We love our new home in Princeton, Texas; we laugh daily at Toby the Puppy; we enjoy spending more time with our granddaughter; we enjoy hauling our fifth wheel around the country.

The way I live, though, requires some tweaking. I got a lesson on it this morning. I visited the gym where I work out most morning and received a serious wakeup call from a personal trainer who conducted a full body scan on me and told me how I can shed the weight that has piled onto this old man’s body.

Yes, I’ve heard it all before. I have known for decades what I need to do. I need to exercise more, eat less and concentrate on maintaining that regimen for the rest of my life on Earth.

There. He told me — yet again! — what I know already.

This time it was a bit different. I saw the outline of my body as drawn by the scan. I saw the “tale of the tape,” so to speak. My gut is too big. My body fat ratio is out of whack. I saw the minimum calorie count I need to consume daily and, oh yes, I saw the maximum count I should not exceed.

So, with that I have decided to try a new way of living.

I have been blessed with relatively good health over many years. I don’t take a bucket load of pills each day. As I told the trainer this morning, however, I have discovered that it is “much easier to fall into bad habits than it is to acquire good ones.”

It’s not an old-age thing. It’s been part of my existence since, well, the beginning.

I’m going to turn the page beginning today. Time is no one’s friend, especially those of us who have much less of it ahead of us than behind us.

It’s time, therefore, to make the most of what’s left.

Puppy Tales, Part 69: Yes, he could learn this task

NEW ORLEANS — I hereby am going to restate what you already know: Toby the Puppy is the smartest pooch I’ve ever seen.

However, he hasn’t learned every task there is to learn. Just today my wife and witnessed a pooch about Toby’s size doing something I’ve never seen. I do believe, though, that Toby can be taught to do what this little doggie was doing.

We were walking along the Mississippi River front when we noticed a young man playing a guitar and singing for onlookers. He was crooning a nice version of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” The young man was entertaining a gaggle of listeners across the street from the Jax Brewery. He finished the song and then his little four-legged companion began fetching money from the clapping audience members and bringing it to her daddy.

The young man gave his pooch a treat when she returned with the loot. He would put the money aside. Then he would dispatch the doggie to get more of it from those who were holding out the tips in their hands.

But get this. The fellow didn’t put all of is stash of cash away. The puppy would grab the money off the pile next to the street crooner and then deliver it to him in anticipation of getting another treat.

The young man told his little puppy to “Go out there and get the money from all those nice people . . . like that lady over there!” His puppy complied dutifully.

I am convinced beyond a doubt that Toby — who just turned 5 — could learn to do that. Our puppy is far from being too old to learn a new task.

Puppy Tales, Part 68: The time does fly

Toby the Puppy became an instant part of our family nearly five years ago. I have two versions of the story explaining how he joined us: There’s the epic version and the 30-second elevator-ride version.

Here’s the latter story: Our great niece found him shivering next to a Dumpster in Amarillo; she brought him home, asked what we should do with him and then, well, after a few days we decided he was ours to keep.

Today is Toby’s fifth birthday. How do we know his precise age? That, too, is a bit of a story.

Upon welcoming Toby into our family, we took him to the veterinarian’s office. She looked him over, then peered into his mouth. We asked her, “How old is he?” She didn’t bat a lash when she said, “He’s 5 months old.” How did the doctor know? His teeth, she said; they’re a giveaway.

She was lead-pipe-cinch certain of his age.

So, that was in early September 2014. We backed it up five months. Presto! That puts his date of birth on or around April Fool’s Day.

That has been the day we have celebrated as Toby’s birthday ever since. I won’t bore you with the epic version of how his arrival into our family unfolded. Suffice to say that given all that transpired with our great-niece as we sought to figure out Toby’s future, the very idea that he would have been born in April Fool’s Day is utterly poetic . . . and just!

We fell madly in love with this pooch right away. He has made us laugh every single day since he joined us.

We look forward to much more laughter.

Puppy Tales, Part 67: His reactions speak volumes

The more time Toby the Puppy spends with us the more able we are to read his body language. We know what certain reactions mean when we say certain things.

Our puppy has developed a new response that we interpret to mean: “Yep. I’m all in!”

What does he do?

Well, when we ask him whether he wants to go for a walk, or ride in the car or truck, or whether he wants to see Emma or our grandpuppy Madden aka “Mad Dog,” he jumps around and then fetches whatever toy he most recently is playing with.

The reaction often includes at least a couple of complete spins.

Then he grabs the toy — one of his many plastic balls or perhaps one of the squeakers scattered around the house — and brings it to us. He might drop it, or . . . he might just hold on. His tail wags, his ears perk up, he looks for all the world as if he’s bought in fully to what we have mentioned.

I see this as a certain growth in Toby’s development. He need not “speak” to us, bark or yelp or do whatever it is dogs do to vocalize. All he needs to do is grab a toy. That tells my wife and me all we need to know what’s on his mind or in his heart. He wants to accompany us wherever we intend to go.

This puppy continues to make us laugh.

Every. Single. Day.

Hard to let go of those Panhandle issues

My wife and I are settled nicely now in Collin County, Texas. We are purchasing a new home and our beloved puppy, Toby, is running himself ragged in his new back yard.

But the blog keeps gravitating back to the community we left after living there for 23 years.

Amarillo, Texas, is the place we called “home” for the longest stretch of our married life together. Indeed, we spent roughly half of our life there. I had a great job, and my wife also found solid gainful employment during our years there.

It is hard for me to give up on commenting on issues that still matter to me. Downtown Amarillo’s rebirth still has my attention. So does the incessant street and highway construction. The same can be said of the local political leadership comprising individuals I got to know quite well during my time as a journalist.

With that, I guess I will declare that High Plains Blogger will continue to comment on Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

I feel I developed sufficient familiarity with the issues that are driving Amarillo to enable me to keep abreast of what is happening there even as we pursue our retired life together in Princeton. We surely intend to continue focusing our attention on our granddaughter, who — after all — is the reason we uprooted ourselves from our Amarillo home and relocated to the Metroplex.

Nor will I fail to take note of the places we intend to visit as we continue our travels throughout North America. It’s a huge world out there and I want to share what we find along our journey.

Still, I keep hearing the call to comment on a community I got to know pretty well. So, I will answer that call when it moves me.

It’s impossible to say “farewell.”

Puppy Tales, Part 66: Canine confusion? Hardly!

The events of the past week have convinced me of the following: Toby is hands down, without question the most well-adjusted puppy that God ever created.


We’ve made the move from Fairview, Texas to Princeton, Texas.

We had a bit of confusion and consternation earlier in the day over whether the movers actually would be able to deliver on their promise to get us relocated from one dwelling to the other one.

How did Toby react to it? No sweat, Mom and Dad. It’ll happen. Trust me on this.

He occasionally has reacted to our emotional ups and downs. When we lost our two kitties a while back — Socks and Mittens — our puppy stepped up to give us an extra measure of the kind of love only he can deliver.

So, we got through the chaos of the day. We are settled (more or less) into our new home in Princeton. We have a lot of boxes yet to empty and we have some decisions to make on how we intend to arrange our furniture.

Toby the Puppy climbed into bed tonight as he usually does. He curled up under his blanket. He is, at this moment, sound asleep. He doesn’t have a care in the world.

You see, his world revolves around two human beings: My wife and me . . . in that order.

As my wife has reminded me over the years since he joined our family: He loves you, too; he just loves me more.

And so it goes. Toby the Puppy is the model of being well-adjusted. If only I could take a page from his emotional makeup.

Puppy Tales, Part 65: A sibling . . . maybe?

Psst. Don’t let this get out just yet, but there might be a surprise awaiting Toby the Puppy in a few months.

When he joined our family more than four years ago, he entered a household with two cats: Socks and Mittens. Neither of his new siblings thought much of him when he took up residence in our home. They viewed him initially as an uninvited guest.

Socks grew to tolerate the new family member; Mittens, not so much. We lost them both eventually. They had grown older and had lived great lives with us. Then we just had Toby. He took over right away. It was love at first sight; us with him and vice versa.

Well, Toby’s mother and I are talking openly now about adopting another furry family member. It’s going to occur in a few months. We have a couple of trips to take in our fifth wheel RV. We’re heading soon to New Orleans by way of the Hill Country and the Golden Triangle. Later this year, probably in late summer, we’re hoping to take a “bucket list” journey across Canada; we would venture northwest toward Vancouver and head east along Highway 1 toward the Maritime Provinces. There might be a short trip or two between those two adventures.

After that epic journey way up north, though, we just might surprise Toby the Puppy.

We’ve long been cat parents. We raised many kitties over our many years together. Toby joined us in September 2014 in a strange fashion. However, we love him so very much. We tell him so every day. He knows what we are saying when we tell him we love him.

How might he react to a feline addition to our family? I am as confident as I can be that he will adapt beautifully. Toby is as well-adjusted, well-behaved and settled a canine as I can imagine.

So, with that, we intend to keep it a secret from Toby the Puppy until the moment we decide to expand our family.

Mum’s the word.

Happy Trails, Part 137: The final stop . . . found!

I have been waiting for the right moment to reveal this bit of news for readers of this blog. That moment arrived today, around 1 p.m.

That was when my wife and I — in the presence of our daughter-in-law, son and granddaughter — tendered an offer on a new home that we intend to purchase.

Why is that a big deal? Here’s why.

We had intended to retire forever and ever in an apartment in Fairview, Texas, sandwiched between Allen and McKinney just north of Dallas. Then we discovered almost immediately that apartment living wasn’t in the cards. The location of the place is perfect; it is near plenty of shopping and entertainment opportunities; it is close to our granddaughter; it’s a comfortable pad that my wife has turned into a nice home for us.

We just don’t want to stay here for “the duration.”

So we began looking around for a house to purchase. We came up empty, until just this week!

We ventured Friday to Princeton, Texas, about 10 miles from our dwelling in Fairview. We found a new development. We talked to the builder’s on-site managers. We looked at some houses and we settled on one of them.

We got in touch with our daughter-in-law, who happens to be a Realtor. We sat with her, our son and little Emma to talk about crafting an offer. Our daughter-in-law/Realtor — Stephanie — came up with a figure and today she presented it to the builder on our behalf. She and the builder’s rep went back and forth for a bit.

Then we settled on a figure. Signed a whole stack of documents. The deal got done!

So, our retirement journey is taking one final turn, one more lap.

Then we’ll be done. We have found our “forever home.” It’s a modest abode, but it’s just about perfect for my wife and me, along with Toby the Puppy. It is a brand-new dwelling. We intend to be its residents for as long as is humanly possible.

This wasn’t part of our original plan. However, having made this decision, we are extremely happy with the path our retirement life has taken.

Oh, our fifth-wheel RV, the one we take on the road? It’s still there, waiting for its next journey. That’s coming up, too.

Yep, life is quite good.

Puppy Tales, Part 64: Still laughing daily

Toby the Puppy joined our family in early September 2014. He quite literally just showed up. It was love at first sight — for him and for us.

I am happy to report something that you might already suspect. It is that after more than four years of life with this 12-pound ball of energy, my wife and I are still laughing every single day as our puppy continues to entertain us.

It doesn’t take much to make us giggle.

We watch him walk ahead of us, his rear end swiveling with each quick-step he takes; we laugh. We ask him a question in complete sentences; he cocks his head as if to understand every word we’ve just uttered and then he looks at each of us for a response. We ask him if he wants to go for a ride in the car or take a walk; he grabs his favorite ball from wherever he placed it last and wants to take it with him.

Every walk we take with Toby is as if he’s never done it before. He whirls in circles waiting for his leash.

We leave him at home for, oh, 10 minutes. We return and he acts as if we’ve gone for 10 days. He jumps into our arms, licking our faces.

Toby the Puppy is a font of laughter.

I am quite certain that we have giggled or guffawed every day since the moment we laid eyes on him while he sat on our back patio. He looked at us as if to say, “Is this my new home?”

Gladly, it was.

Puppy Tales, Part 63: Answering the meal bell

Toby the Puppy’s ever-expanding vocabulary now includes a feature I want to share with you. It’s his understanding of when his mother and I are getting ready to sit down for a meal.

He hears the call and responds with all due appropriateness.

We have a drill at home. When my wife and I are eating a meal, the puppy lies in a bed we have in the corner of our dining room. He waits patiently for us to finish our meal. Then, depending on what we have just eaten, we allow him to lick our plates. OK, listen up: It’s not as grotesque as some might imagine; we do wash our plates carefully after each meal.

Toby spends a good portion of the day curled up somewhere in our residence. He could be in his kennel, where he likes to sleep during the day; he might be on the couch next to one of us. He might be in our study, snuggled on top of a comforter. He could be sound asleep, “dead to the world,” as the saying goes.

But then when one of us is preparing a meal, we usually say to the other — often in a voice loud enough to be heard in another room — that our meal is ready. “It’s ready!” we might say. Or “Come and get it!” Or maybe “Breakfast is served!”

Toby hears those words, he awakens immediately and then rushes to his bed in the corner of the dining room, curls up, lies down and waits for the “treat” that awaits when we are finished with our meal.

I am convinced that Toby the Puppy would respond appropriately even if we rang a dinner bell.