Tag Archives: Toby the Puppy

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.

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.”