Dogs come and dogs go.
Lou, our beloved, slightly deranged 14-year-old dachshund, will leave us soon. His health is poor; his quality of life declining with each passing day.
But this story is about mostly Toby, my aunt’s 4-year-old maltase mix. That’s 28 in dog years, for those of you contemplating the math. 28 to Lou’s 98. Quite the disparity; quite the gap to mind.
Louis and Toby lived together, as brothers, for three glorious days (or maybe the relationship was closer to great old uncle and weird little nephew). My aunt gave Toby to us because she was recovering from an illness and believed she couldn’t handle the all the work a dog entails. Dogs are, admittedly, a lot of work.
We picked Toby up from her house with Lou in tow to make sure they’d get along.
No fights. Lou remained largely indifferent to Toby, much to Toby’s disappointment.
That night, the texts and emails began.
Hello Cindy! How is Toby? Can you send me pictures? I am sure he will be happy with you because you are young and can take him to the park and for walks and things.
Hello Cindy! Did he cry in the car on the way to your house? I hope he ate all his food.
Hello Cindy! Did Toby sleep well last night?
Hello! You took the dogs out walking together! Did Toby have a good time?
Hello! Did Toby eat his food this morning? How much did he eat?
Hi! Is Toby still OK? How are his eyes?
Hello, Hello, Hello!
On and on it went. I was inundated. I have never been quite so inundated before, in my life, ever.
Finally, a phone call on the third day: “Auntie, do you want Toby back?”
She came the following afternoon, a stressful trip as I had inadvertently gave her my old house number instead of my new one and she had to stop at more than a few gas stations and ask to use their phones because she doesn’t have cell phone and didn’t have any change in her pocket but then she couldn’t reach me because my cell was acting up and didn’t receive any of her phone calls until, finally and all at once, it did.
But that is another story.
And although Toby seemed to have settled rather nicely into his new life at our place, he was as overjoyed to see my aunt as she was to have him back in her life. Lou, as ever, remained totally unaffected.
End of story.
A month later my mom told me that Toby had taken ill. Addison’s disease. He needed emergency surgery and will be on various medications for the rest of his life in order to manage this otherwise debilitating condition.
“Your poor auntie,” said my mom. “But lucky you. You see?” It was, to her, all a matter of simple fact and she let it die right then and right there.
Not so for me.
You see? See what? What did that mean, you see?
That you shouldn’t give something away unless you are sure you don’t want it back? That fate, it seems, can intervene and undermine even the best of intentions? That Mom Knows Best?
Whatever happened, it’s not the dog’s fault. The dogs are blameless. As far as I know, Toby is doing well (better, at least, then poor Lou), but the medications are expensive and my aunt is not sure how much longer she will be able to afford them.
Still, it’s not his fault. After everything, he is totally without blame, completely without fault and actually there was never a need to exonerate him, ever, was there?
He didn’t do anything.