Tag Archives: Toby the Puppy

Puppy Tales, Part 79: What would he do if he caught one?

LAKE LIVINGSTON STATE PARK, Texas — We came to a place that is swarming with squirrels. They seem to be everywhere.

Their presence among us begs the question: What would Toby the Puppy do if he actually managed to catch one of them?

As you likely can figure out, Toby has gone nuts straining to get at the little bushy-tailed critters that scamper through our RV campsite. He sees ’em and wants to get at ’em. They scoot up a tree and Toby tries like the dickens to dig in enough to start climbing after the squirrels. Well, no luck there.

I keep telling Toby the Puppy that God didn’t put him on this Earth with the ability to climb trees. He dismisses that bit of truth-telling. He seeks to get up the trees anyhow.

I keep wondering what in the world he would if he ever were to catch one of them. How would he hold? Could he hold it? Would he be, um, aggressive and seek to harm it?

I ask these questions because he is so remarkably gentle. All he wants is to lick people’s hands when they reach out to him. He does get a little jumpy when too many children approach him. We were forced to advise some little girls camped not far from us about that; they were at Lake Livingston as part of a Girl Scout/Brownie outing. Toby wanted to visit with them — but only one at a time.

Back to my point …

I hope I never will find out what he does if he catches a squirrel. I don’t anticipate that ever happening.

He does get mighty excited, though, to see these potential “friends.” We just need to remember to keep him on the short leash.

Puppy Tales, Part 78: Now he’s reading my mind … sheesh!

It’s getting weird around our house.

I have boasted about Toby the Puppy’s increasing vocabulary. He knows many words and response appropriately when he hears them. I have bragged about how he learned to use the doggie door leading out to our back yard.

Now there’s this …

I was going to ask my wife, in Toby the Puppy’s presence, whether we “should take … “ him for a stroll in the neighborhood.

When I said the words “should take,” Toby jumped straight up, ran to grab one of his toys, began wagging his tail vigorously and acted very much like he does when he hears the word “walk.”

Do you get my drift? He now is reading my mind. He is anticipating — correctly, I need to add — what I am about to say.

This pooch is continuing to amaze me. Yes, he makes us laugh every single day. He is continuing as well to astound me with his growing command of the English language.

Happy Trails, Part 170: Wonderful trek comes to an end

I am happy to report that my wife, Toby the Puppy and I are safely ensconced in our Collin County home. We pulled today into Princeton, Texas, at 5 p.m.

We unloaded our pickup and our RV. We locked the vehicles up in front of the house and we’re going to relax for the evening.

Now for a couple of particulars about our multi-state, multi-province trek through the western half of North America.

For starters, we logged precisely 6,037 miles on our pickup and, by association, on our fifth wheel. We traveled through seven states on our way to the U.S.-Canada border. Then we visited four provinces on our journey from west to east in that monstrous nation to our north. On the return to the U.S. of A., we crossed through six more states, not counting Texas — from where this journey began a little more than a month ago.

This is precisely the kind of trek we envisioned taking when we retired from our respective working lives just a few years ago. I quit working full time in newspapers in August 2012, but didn’t actually begin retirement until I turned 66 in 2015. My wife quit her accounting job a few months after I left my job at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Our retirement journey has taken us already to a lot of places, to both coasts, to the Great Lakes, through much of Texas and New Mexico.

This one, though, was something quite special to my wife and me.

We visited with family in the Pacific Northwest, then we trekked off to British Columbia.

Our journey began with a frightening near-collision just outside of Wichita Falls, Texas. We caught our breath and kept on going. Our journey through the western U.S. and into Canada was largely event-free.

Until this morning! We awoke in Tulsa, Okla., our final stop before we got home, and discovered a flat tire on our fifth wheel. Oh, what to do? Fix it ourselves? Call the roadside assistance program to which we belong? Or do we look for a local person to solve the problem? We lucked out. The RV park where we spent two nights has a handyman on staff who changes RV tires. We paid the gentleman a small fee for his effort and we were on our way to the house.

We saw much of Mother Nature’s splendor throughout our journey. We witnessed the big sky of the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. We drove through marvelous farming and ranching country. We peered at the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains.

It’s time to take a break. We’ll catch our breath. We’ll visit with our granddaughter and her parents and get caught up with what is going on with her.

The next trip awaits. I don’t know when or where it will take us.

That’s all right. It’s the beauty of retired life. We have the whole wide world at our disposal.

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.