Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Memory of Toby

I realize I've been absent here - I'm not even sure who may be checking in on this any more.  But, because Toby was such an ever present fixture on this blog, this post felt necessary.  And this post may mainly be for me to sort out my thoughts and help me to cope.

On Thursday, December 13th, we lost our beloved Toby.  He was four and a half years old.

He had been acting lethargic and losing weight for a few weeks.  It seemed to get worse, and I was pretty worried so we brought him to the vet for some blood work.  That was Monday, December 10th. 

A CBC - Complete Blood Count test at the vet immediately revealed that he was extremely anemic.  His red blood cell percentage was 13%.  A healthy dog is between 40% and 60% and 9% is considered deadly without a transfusion.  He also only had 5000 platelets when a healthy dog should have half of a million.  The cause of the anemia was still to be determined, but coupled with the weight loss (down to 87 pounds from 104 in about 2 months) and his breed, cancer was suspected.  We had to leave him at the vet that night, because he was so sick.

The next day at noon, we received the diagnosis.  Cancer.  Malignant Histiocytosis.  Most likely in his spleen and bone marrow.  The vet estimated he had about two weeks left.  He did not suspect Toby was in any pain yet, but that pain would come soon because he was so progressed in the disease.

Toby would have never wanted anyone to be in pain or sad.  He lived his life to make us happy.  And to eat treats of course.  Toby knew the command for "kisses" and would lick you if you gave the command.  There was also another way Toby would give kisses.  All you had to do was whimper, almost like a sad dog.  He would look concerned and then trot over and lick your face if he heard you whimper.  He never wanted us to feel pain, and so we wanted to treat him with the same respect.  It was actually an easy decision to let him rest before any pain set in. 

I was thankful Toby was able to come home for a couple of days so we could spoil him first.  When Andy first came through the door to deliver the news, I thought he had passed at the vet on Monday night.  We were able to bring him home and I never left him once over those three days.  We were told the signs of pain to watch for, and thankfully those didn't appear.

We treated him to all of the foods he was never allowed before, and he loved it.  Pizza, ice cream, donuts, loads of cheese, bread, sandwiches, cookies, wet dog food, etc.  We gave him constant belly rubs, rump scratches and stroked the world's softest doggie ears.  We let him lay in the cold outdoors, one of his favorite things to do.  He still wanted to guard the house and us even though he was weak.  He loved to sit on your lap and sit at your feet, and those habits remained.  The minute I would sit on the ground to be with him, he would come put his rump right in my lap.

We weren't allowed to cry around him, so as not to cause him concern.  Somehow we were able to do this, only allowing our tears to flow when he was outdoors or in another room.  We believe he knew he was weak and possibly saddened that he couldn't do the things he normally would.  He loved to jump on the front porch without using the steps, but now he had to slowly walk the two steps up and sometimes needed our help to do so.  He couldn't jump on the loveseat like he used to, so we'd help lift him up there.  So while we think he knew he didn't feel well, we don't think he was in pain and don't think he knew we were in pain for him. 

I am also thankful that our vet was able to come to our home.  Our vet owns Berners as well and understands what a special breed they are and personality they have.  They are loyal to a fault.  They are persistently cheerful.  They live to please their owners and are so eager to do right.  They are goofy and playful, almost like a puppy for life.  They are gentle and loving.  We tried to pinpoint what made Toby so special, but it's difficult.  Andy had many dogs growing up and we have our Gordie who we also love, but we both agreed there was always a different connection with Toby.  While many dogs still carry an independent, wild dog spirit, Toby had none of that.  He had no desire to roam, no desire to be dominant, no hunter's instinct, no jealousy, no desire to do anything but be with the people he loved - and eat food.  He was fully connected with his humans, and we to him.

So Thursday evening, Toby lay peacefully at our home.  Our vet came and performed the procedure while I fed him cheese, cradled his head in my arms and scratched his ears while Andy lay at his face and stroked his soft eyebrows.  He quickly and quietly went to sleep forever.

It hurts.  We miss him greatly.  We struggle with the fact that his life was too short.  While the cancer is common in Berners, it is usually not seen until about 8 years of age.  We struggle with the fact that he was so good, so gentle and so loving.  It seems such an unfair fate for a dog who had done nothing but love every person and every animal he met.  But we know life isn't fair and we know this is a part of life.  And we know we will get through this and life will go on.

We are greatly saddened our baby missed meeting his or her loving big brudder by less than 3 months.  Toby was wonderful with children and we know they would have been best friends.

We are thankful we had him in our lives while we did.  He brought smiles to the faces of everyone he met - even strangers on the street.  His happiness was contagious.  I believe that besides Andy, Toby brought me the most happiness of anything over the past four and half years - mainly because I saw him almost every day.  I know for a fact that he made me smile every day - even the days Andy and I were away we would talk about him and laugh and smile thinking about his goofy quirks.  If I was having a bad day at work, Andy would e-mail me Toby photos and they would always cheer me up.  I would come home from a bad day or if I was feeling sad, and I would snuggle with my big, sweet bear and feel better.  He would push the top of his head into my chest as I knelt in front of him and hugged him, and then I would put my head in his fluffy, white chest and hug him while he proudly smiled above.  I miss these hugs.

I hope to do another post with some of our favorite memories and photos of Toby.  We are currently putting together a children's book about him to share with our little one as well.

So while he has gone, his memory and spirit will remain in our lives.  While those memories bring some pain now, I know eventually they will cheer me and we will again love sharing the stories of our silly, sweet, lovable Toby.


Maribeth said...

I can't help think that Baby D will have the most loveable, furriest, softest guardian angel ever! When he or she takes a rough tumble off the couch or monkey bars and walks away unscathed and others who are near you are completely in awe how that happened, you can quietly whisper under your breath “Thanks Toby, for catching the kiddo.”

Toby was an amazing dog. Even though I have never met him (other than seeing him fly by me as your FIL put him in your car that one time), I feel like he brought joy into my life. I loved the stories you have shared over the years.

Heather said...

Oh, Julie. I'm so sorry. I'm sitting here at my desk just letting the tears fall for you. Toby was indeed a special and incredible dog and I know you will miss him greatly. I, too, loved hearing all the funny Toby stories. Many hugs to you as you mourn this great loss.

Keri said...

This is a beautiful tribute to Toby, Juli. I never met him, but it's clear that he was a very, very special dog.

He brought joy not only to you and your family, but to those who never met him. I always loved hearing Toby stories and seeing his smiling face in your photos.

Juli D said...

Thank you for the kind comments ladies - I'm glad that Toby was able to make people he never even met smile. :-)

Christina said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful dog with us. He will not be forgotten :-)

Suze said...

I saw a Berner over the weekend, and thought of your Toby, just like I always do whenever I see one. The connection you had with Toby came through in all of your posts and stories, thank you for letting us all experience a bit of Toby's magic.