Tag Archives: Toby the Puppy

Happy Trails, Part 168: Oh, such splendor

GOLDEN, British Columbia — This photograph proves something I’ve known more or less by instinct over many years.

You do not need sunshine to reveal Mother Nature’s splendor when it is laid out before you.

We arrived in Golden, British Columbia. We parked our fifth wheel at an RV park. We unhooked the RV from the pickup. We grabbed a bit of dinner. We returned and my wife took Toby the Puppy for a short walk.

She returned to the RV and said, “You have to see this.” So, we did.

We walked about 200 yards to a bench and we cast our eyes on the Rocky Mountain range just east of us. Alberta sits on the other side of that splendorous view. We’ll be there soon.

This is part of the grandeur my wife and I expected to find once we hit the road in our RV. We’ve seen plenty of it already in the United States of America. From coast to coast we’ve soaked in all that Mother Nature has to offer. I won’t belabor the point by listing all those magnificent sights we’ve seen; I surely will miss a few. You get the point.

Our trip across much of Canada has been equally jaw-dropping, as the sight of those majestic mountains will attest.

We’re not entirely certain what the road ahead will reveal to us. Hey, there is no need on Earth to predict such a thing.

Whatever it is, I am positive it will give us unimagined thrills.

The open road awaits.

Puppy Tales, Part 77: Vocabulary is expanding

GOLDEN, British Columbia — It’s braggin’ time again for this parent of Toby the Puppy.

When we travel in our pickup with our RV in tow, Toby usually curls up on the console between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat. He awakes long enough to catch a glance outside and then repositions himself for another lengthy nap. He is the best traveler among the three of us … for certain!

Toby has shown a propensity for perking up, though, when he hears two words as we approach our destination for the day. They involve the GPS system we have in the truck.

The female-sounding voice in the GPS will advice us that we have reached our “destination.” Or, one of us — either my wife or I — will declare out loud when we have seen the “target” appear on the GPS screen that guides to wherever we are headed.

So, when Toby the Puppy hears either of those words, he perks up immediately. He is wide awake. He stands and cranes his neck to ensure that we are where we are supposed to be.

What do I glean from this behavior? It’s obvious to me. It means that Toby the Puppy’s vocabulary is expanding beyond “walk,” “bed,” “treat” and a few other phrases we utter around the house.

We pulled into our RV campsite at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The GPS did its job in informing us that we had reached our destination. With that bit of news, Toby the Puppy was all over it.

Our journey continues.

Puppy Tales, Part 76: Doggie door update

Listen up. I am making an announcement.

Toby the Puppy has mastered the doggie door his mother and I purchased just for him.

Is that a big deal? You bet it is!

It’s not that I ever doubted Toby’s ability to learn how to work the door. I knew he would. I was just not prepared initially for his mastery of the device to take as long as it did.

But you know already that I believe — with all due love and respect to our grandpuppy Madden — that Toby the Puppy is the smartest pooch on Earth. Toby is so smart, he responds to people’s names. For instance, when we mention our granddaughter Emma is coming over, Toby the Puppy goes nuts. He stands at the living room window waiting for her. When we drive to her house, he knows the moment we make the turn prior to turning directly onto her street that he’s close. He starts wagging his tail and rushes out of the car when we park it.

OK, so we’ve cleared this latest hurdle. He knows how to use the doggie door without requiring us to stand nearby. He goes in and out … all by himself.

I am a happy fellow.

Puppy Tales, Part 75: Commemorating a new family member

I want to commemorate a big moment in the life of our family. The anniversary of that moment hasn’t yet arrived, but it is approaching rapidly.

It was five years ago when your great-niece — who came to Amarillo, Texas, to visit us for a few weeks — went for a walk and brought home the newest member of our family. His name was Toby; we knew that because that’s what his former “family” called him. We kept the name.

This earlier blog post will explain a bit how we knew about our puppy’s name:

Puppy tales, Part 3

He was five months old at the time. We fell in love with him immediately. And he did with us.

My wife and I have long been cat lovers. We have been parents to a number of kitties. We had two of them when Toby the Puppy entered our life. They were getting a little long in the tooth. They didn’t much care for this “intruder.” They learned to tolerate his presence among us.

Then they died.

We’ve had Toby the Puppy all to ourselves.

What a joy he has been.

This is no exaggeration to tell you that every single day of his life with his has brought laughter. We have laughed, giggled, chortled and guffawed with him each day we’ve been together with him.

We aren’t experienced dog parents. We had a couple of pooches over many years. We had a mutt in Oregon for a time; that didn’t work out. Years later, another mutt showed up in our garage in Beaumont, Texas; it was hotter ‘n hell that day and he needed a place to cool off. We gave it to him and kept him for a time … until he ran off, never to seen by us again.

Then came Toby.

We have taken him with us on many trips in our RV. He’s been out west, back east, up north and down south with his mother and me. We’ve taken him to all three coasts: Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf. He is a road warrior to the max. Toby has visited several national parks, communed with bison, elk and bear.

We’ve moved him from house to house to house a good bit, too. His adaptability is legendary. He doesn’t mind being anywhere on Earth … as long as his Mommy and Daddy are nearby.

So, I want to commemorate this upcoming event simply by thanking our great-niece for finding him that day and bringing him home. Toby the Puppy is where he needs to be.

Puppy Tales, Part 74: Nearly mastering the doggie door

Look at that face. It is the face of a puppy that has dug in his claws and played his parents like a fiddle. But I’m announcing today that Toby the Puppy is this close to mastering the doggie door we purchased just for him.

How close is this close?

We purchased the back door to our patio with a portal fit for a 12-pound Chihuahua mix pooch. That would be Toby. We bought it figuring that since he is so smart that it would be a snap for him to learn how to use it.

Just put his nose against the clear plastic swinging door, give him a nudge and he’ll be in and out on his own in no time.

Silly us.

Toby decided to tease us. He resisted initially any effort to persuade him to walk through the door on his own. Over time, his resistance lessened. Each day and week produced more progress. But we still had to push him through the door when he had to go outside to, um, take care of business.

Then he began to turn the corner. I reckon he has grown tired of playing us. Maybe he’s bored with the game. Perhaps he is concocting another stunt he can pull on us.

He is now walking through the door unassisted.

Am I prepared at this moment to declare total and unconditional victory? Not … just … yet.

You see, Toby the Puppy still requires us to stand next to him while he exits and then enters the house. Hey, it’s better than it was in the beginning. I stand by my declaration of Toby’s smarts.

We’re taking it a step at a time.

Puppy Tales, Part 73: Passing a huge test

LAKE BOB SANDLIN, Texas — Toby the Puppy had one of his biggest days ever, even while showing us his jumpy side.

One of our concerns about Toby over the five years he has been a member of our family has been whether he could fight the urge to chase after critters he deems to be potential playmates. I’m talking about squirrels, birds, rabbits and perhaps even fellow pooches. Thus, we had generally kept him leashed up when we gathered for outdoor activities.

We came to Lake Bob Sandlin to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and family members. We were gathered alongside Lake Bob Sandlin in East Texas. We faced the question: What do we do with Puppy? Keep him leashed or do we let him run loose? We were advised that the other puppies there would provide plenty of company for Toby to enjoy. Let him run loose, our family members advised. He’ll be just fine.

OK. So we did.

They were correct!

He ran himself all over the place. Our concern about his running away was overstated, although we have watched him in the past take off running at a full sprint at whatever critter catches his eye.

No sweat this time.

Then came the fireworks show at the end of the evening.

Not so good.  The noise frightened Toby terribly. He wasn’t the, um, “lone wolf,” though. The other pooches playing alongside the lake didn’t fare too well, either, when the rockets began blasting over the lake.

But … we learned something new about Toby the Puppy. He plays well with others. Good job, pup.

The next project? Getting him to use the doggie door …

Puppy Tales, Part 72: Running afoul with a neighbor

Well, this is a “life experience” I didn’t anticipate commenting on in this blog. But I will anyway.

My wife and I routinely take Toby the Puppy on walks through our neighborhood. We have the routine down pat. We put his harness on him and grab a small plastic “poopy bag” — or maybe two. We use the bag to, um, pick up after Toby in the event he needs to relieve himself.

We did all of that this evening. We strolled west along our street, then south along a short street, then headed east on a street parallel to our own.

Toby then had to go. So … he did. I stooped over with the bag and picked up his “calling card.”

That’s when the sh** kinda/sorta hit the fan — if you will please pardon the pun.

The gentleman who owns the house that sits on the yard told us that we were standing on “private property.” My first reaction was that I thought he was making some sort of joke. He wasn’t. He was angry that Toby pooped on his lawn.

I told the fellow that I picked it up. His yard was clean. The fellow’s anger wasn’t assuaged. He said “that doesn’t matter. You need to teach him not to do that.”

Huh? At that point, we walked away. We deposited the soiled poopy bag in the trash receptacle down the street.

I am unaware of any training techniques one can use to “teach” a dog not to do what comes naturally to a pooch. I’ve always figured that the best option is to be ready to pick up after a dog — which we do without fail.

I think I’ll add this little caveat to the fellow who got angry with Toby the Puppy: Our un-neighborly neighbor spoke in what sounded to my ear like an East Coast accent, quite possibly from, say, the New York area.

Hey, I’m not casting aspersions on those who hail from that part of the country. I’m just sayin’ … man.

Puppy Tales, Part 71: He’s playing us like a fiddle

Toby the Puppy doesn’t have what I would call a “cunning” face.

But I am believing now with every fiber of my being that he is playing his mother and me like a country fiddle.

You know by now that I consider Toby to be the smartest canine God ever created. For example, he is learning how spell certain words that we used to spell out because the sound of the word would fill him with expectations. He knows the sound of names, such as Emma our granddaughter; we mention her name and he gets amazingly excited. Just the other day, my wife and I were talking to each other about when Emma would arrive. Toby heard her name and ran to the front door, tail wagging … waiting for her arrival, which occurred a few moments later.

I also am believing that he can read lips and for all I know he can lock and unlock doors to our house and our vehicles.

We installed a puppy door in the rear of the house. Toby hasn’t yet walked through it on his own. I do believe, though, that he knows how to do it, but that he is refusing to do so because he enjoys watching us get up and nudge him through the doggie door.

Therein lies the playing factor.

We’ve sent him outside and kept him there. We have sat in the house and waited for him to finally push his way back through the door. He doesn’t budge. He sits at the door. Nose fogging up the plastic doggie entrance. He waits us out. The puppy has patience.

I am not angry with him. Perhaps I’m a bit frustrated at this moment because I wish he would just suck it up and walk through the doggie door like I know he can do it.

But he’s having a bit too much fun making us jump up at his every implied command.

I won’t give up on him, although I likely will have to prepare myself for a lengthy battle of wills.

N.Y. bans de-clawing of cats . . . really?

As a longtime cat parent and lover of felines, I must object vociferously to a new law that might go into the books in New York.

The law would ban the de-clawing of cats. Yes. That is correct. In New York, you could face a fine of as much as $1,000 if you remove your kitty’s claws because you fear the cat would destroy your furniture or, worse, scratch your children or grandchildren.

New York would be the first state to ban this procedure.

I’ll stipulate that my wife and I are not parents to cats at the moment. We have a pooch, Toby the Puppy, about whom you’ve read plenty on this blog. However, we’ve long loved cats and have welcomed many of them into our home over many years.

Our most recent pair of cats, Socks and Mittens, were siblings who lived with us for more than 12 years. They were the first two kitties we had de-clawed. Why? They were climbing up our curtains. I admit we had resisted de-clawing previous cats because, well, we had this fear that it would do them harm. Socks and Mittens, though, pushed us past our limit. We had it done.

OK, did the procedure — which involved just their front paws — inhibit them in any way? Hah! Hardly!

They were able to climb trees. They were able to climb our six-foot cedar fence in our backyard. They were able to defend themselves against marauding cats and even the occasional pooch that ventured onto our property. They hunted squirrels and birds. They were excellent mouse catchers as well.

Every veterinarian I’ve ever talked to about this has said the same thing: De-clawing cats doesn’t do them harm. They are able to adjust to life without front claws. They are able to fight using their rear claws. They dig in with their rear paws to climb trees, jump fences and scamper about the way cats are born to do.

I understand that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to “review the bill” before deciding whether to sign it. I hope Gov. Cuomo vetoes it.

Puppy Tales, Part 70: Learning curve gets a bit steep

You know already how smart Toby the Puppy is, so I won’t belabor that point.

However, our brainy pooch is presenting a bit of a challenge for us.

You see, we just purchased a couple of doors for our home in Princeton, Texas. The front of the house now has a storm door; the rear of our new digs has a combination glass-and-screen door — with a pet entrance!

It’s the pet entrance that is presenting our challenge.

Toby hasn’t yet grasped the concept of how it works. All he has to do is push on it with his nose, or nudge it with one of his front feet for him to walk through it.

He hasn’t gotten it. At least not yet.

It’s been less than a week since we had the doors installed. The way I figured it, though, he was going to get it quickly. As in immediately! Oops, silly me. Toby is making some progress, but he hasn’t yet figured out how this pet door works.

His first attempt was fraught with flinching and resistance. He isn’t resisting it now. He barely blinks as we push him through the pet door. The puppy, though, just isn’t ready to take the initiative.

I consider it to be a sort of canine leap of faith.

I am far from discouraged over Toby the Puppy’s ability to get it.

He will. As I have noted many times already, I consider him to be one of the smartest pooches in history.