Goodbye, Toby – my love, my angel … my best friend

After almost thirteen years, my husband and I had to make a decision that no pet owner wants to make. At 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 5, 2016, my playmate, my shadow, my best friend crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

And with him went a piece of my heart and soul for him to hold onto and protect until we meet again.

He came to us on the heels of another passing.  My sweet Dalmatian, Baby, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on February 12, 2003 from a ruptured spleen. No one could have seen it coming. One minute she was here. The next, gone. She died in my husband’s arms outside the emergency vet clinic while we waited for a vet tech and a gurney to bring her inside. I wept like I hadn’t wept since my father died, and while we had other animals in the house, my soul ached with her passing.

Two months later, on April 23 (I remember the date because it was the first day of my new job), my husband surprised me with the gift of a sweet pup, an Australian Shepherd who seemed to perk up at the name Toby.

Kevin and Toby, April 27, 2003
Kevin and Toby, April 27, 2003

me and Toby April 27 2003

At the time, this little fur ball could fit through the cat doors, but this soon changed. He grew into this beautiful boy who stuck to me like glue.

Toby - cuddle time with mom Feb 3 2006

He talked to me with his eyes …

Toby talking to mommy - Jan 3 2004

Toby 100505

And could get almost anything he wanted.  I couldn’t help it. He had me wrapped around every toe. Around his heart.

Toby & Charlie 002

He loved car rides and went everywhere we went. Family was his thing. He hated to be left alone.

Toby and Charlie - St. Augustine Feb 3 2007
St. Augustine – Feb 3, 2007

toby on his way to PawFest 2014 - 4-5-14

toby at beach
Clearwater Beach

He especially loved his “brother”, Charlie, a lot

Toby & Charlie 005and taught his “sister”, Jahlee, a few things about playtime and how to sleep in the big, comfy bed with mommy and daddy

Jahlee playing with Toby 1-1-2005a      jahlee and toby in bed 10-16-13

Toby was one of a kind, and he stuck to me like glue. He was my confidant, my jester, my teacher, my soul mate, my cuddler, my angel, and a tremendous part of my heart and soul.  He lived a good life. A spoiled life. And was happy as long as he could be near (or on top of) his family.

Toby sleeping on daddy - Jan 30 2009  Toby sleeping on the coucha

He died of respiratory problems related to his congestive heart failure and class 4 heart murmur. The vet believed he also had fluid building in his lungs making it difficult for him to breathe, even with oxygen and additional medications.  As I saw him lying in the oxygen ‘cage’, I could tell my best friend was suffering. It broke my heart to see him take such a quick downward spiral, I loved him too much to see him in pain. I had to say goodbye.

I wept and held him as the tech inserted the catheter. The vet gave us a few minutes to say our farewells, and I held him in my arms as he slipped from this life and crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t have felt more pain if someone had ripped my heart from my chest. God, how I loved love this sweet boy. I will never forget him. Ever. And while his passing is still new and raw, the wound still open, I know he’s in a much better place running around with his Charlie again. And knowing Charlie, I’m sure he was waiting by the gate and immediately introduced Toby to my beagle, Sammy, and my dalmatian, Baby, and they are romping and playing together where they never grow old and they suffer no more pain.

At the time of this post, it has been five days, almost six, since Toby left my side. To say I am still grieving would be an understatement. He took a part of me with him when he left that day, as have all of my pets. Someday, we will all be together again, and they will return those pieces to me they have been safe-keeping, and my soul will once again be whole. Until then, I will always remember their precious gifts of life and friendship.  It’s the least my mortal soul can do.

toby - regal
Toby – February 17, 2003 – January 5, 2016


And they call it puppy love – a Dalmatian love story

My husband came home from work one day and told me that a friend had a Dalmatian he could no longer take care of. My husband asked me if I knew anyone who was interested. Was he serious? I laughed. “Duh,” I said. “Do I look like chopped liver?”

I don’t know what I was thinking. After all, I was in my forties and had just started pre-menopause. My husband and I worked full-time jobs. We had four kids spanning elementary, middle and high school, two dogs, three cats, a cockatiel, a miniature blue rabbit, two ferrets, a hamster, a four-foot iguana, a small decorative fish pond, a 150-gallon saltwater tank and a fifty-gallon freshwater tank with Oscars. We were stretched thin with all the vet visits, the kitty boxes, the dog walks, homework, cooking and laundry. The last thing we needed was another mouth to feed. But my husband and I agreed to think about it over the spur-of-the-moment weekend vacation at Disney World with the kids.

During the hour and a half drive to Orlando, we saw signs from God and the universe. There were billboards featuring Dalmatians. We followed behind a car with a Dalmatian in the back seat. We saw Dalmatian bumper stickers, but the kicker came when we tried to check into the All-Star Music Resort and found out they had no more rooms available; however, they did have rooms available at the All-Star Movies Resort in the 101 Dalmatians section.

Talk about destiny.

My husband and I knew then what our answer was, and on our way home, we swung by the house of my husband’s friend and adopted Baby into our home.

From day one, she was the best dog I ever had. She was full of life, energetic, full of expression and personality. She followed me around like a shadow and she loved to cuddle. She was a beautiful dog, one brown eye, one blue, and she was covered in spots. Baby wasn’t “show” quality, but she was perfect for our family.

For two years, she led a spoiled-rotten life. Before we adopted her, she lived outside, chasing squirrels, barking, not getting much attention. With us, she curled up at our feet, slept in our bed, enjoyed the dog park, played in the surf at the beach, and lived a blissful, happy life inside in the cool air-conditioning, out of the hot Florida sun.

Then, one day, I got a call from my husband while I was at work. Something was wrong with Baby—something terribly wrong. I was perplexed. She’d just been to the vet, and he gave her a clean bill of health. By the time I got home, she was lying in the hallway, unable to lift her head or move. Her tongue hung out of her mouth. My husband and I lifted her into the van and drove her to the emergency vet, a five-minute ride from our house. I ran inside to get a tech, but by the time I returned to the van with a gurney, Baby crossed the Rainbow Bridge while being held in my husband’s loving arms.

At the time, I hadn’t experienced so much hurt since my father passed away two weeks before my twelfth birthday. It felt as if my heart had been yanked from my chest and no matter what I did, the tears kept coming. We managed to go back home without her, my sweet Baby, but then we had to face the next hurdle. We had to tell the kids. There was nothing that could prepare us for the loss of a family member. We sat around, hugging each other and sobbing. Our Baby was gone, and an incredible emptiness settled inside our home.

I went to work the next day, my eyes swollen and red, and I still couldn’t stop the tears. My friends were supportive, but there were others in the office who didn’t understand. “She’s crying over a dog?” I heard someone say.

No. Baby was more than a dog. She was my sweetheart, a soul mate in her own right. She gave me and my family unconditional love. The vet said she died from a ruptured spleen, but it didn’t matter. All I could think was that I’d never see her face, kiss her cold nose, hear her bark, or watch her run and romp in the waves. Who was going to curl up at my feet when I read, or lay her head in my lap when I was sad?

She was so young. Only six. My age, in dog years. My own mortality sank in.

It’s been twelve years since Baby passed away. Since then, most of our other pets have passed on, too. I am not looking forward to my dogs or cats dying, but they are getting older, like me, and I know it’s inevitable. And while it makes me sad to think of losing these precious creatures in my life, it soothes my soul to know that Baby will be there, waiting for them on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, ready to romp and play. And when my time comes, I know she’ll be there waiting for me, too, alongside my mom, my dad and all my other critters. I couldn’t ask for a better welcoming committee.

Baby - February 2001

Wet Nose

As a pet lover, I had to share the following story.  It may or may not be true, I haven’t checked, but the story is so well written and touching I have to share.  A friend of mine shared it on her Facebook page.  It’s linked back to another Facebook page called Wet Nose, “a pawtique focused on the health & well being of your 4-legged kids.”

The story below appears here on Facebook.  Many of you, however, don’t have a Facebook account, so I’m sharing it with you on my blog.  Have a tissue box handy.


This is a great story…worth reading.

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly. I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,” whatever that meant. They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes and a sealed letter from his previous owner.

See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.  Maybe we were too much alike.

I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that. “Okay, Reggie,” I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”
____________ _________ _________ _________

To Whomever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it. He knew something was different.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn’t done it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after them, so be careful. Don’t do it by any roads.

Next, commands. Reggie knows the obvious ones —“sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.”

He knows hand signals, too: He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He’s up on his shots. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car. I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. It’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn’t bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you…His name’s not Reggie. He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn’t bear to give them his real name. But if someone is reading this … well it means that his new owner should know his real name. His real name is “Tank.” Because, that is what I drive.

I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. You see, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with .. and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter … in the “event” … to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my CO is a dog-guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he’d do it personally. And if you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.

Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family. And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family, too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he
loved me.

If I have to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming to the US I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory
____________ _________ _________ _______

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure, I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months. “Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.” Tank reached up and licked my cheek.

“So whatdaya say we play some ball?” His ears perked again.

“Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.


Wetnose website: 

Preparing for a hurricane

June 1 through November 30 is Hurricane Season, and for those of us along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico, those six months are crazy.  The storms are unpredictable at times.  They wobble, some stay true to forecast tracks. Others have minds of their own.

At the moment, Florida and the those living on the Gulf of Mexico are staring down Tropical Storm, Isaac, which some forecasters are saying has the potential of turning into a Category 2 or 3 hurricane before it makes landfall somewhere in the northern Gulf.  I’m not sure about that, but I’ve seen hurricanes do some really weird stuff and I don’t trust them.  If anyone lived on the west coast of Florida in 2005, we all know about the unpredictability of Hurricane Charley.  Tampa (my neck of the woods) was supposed to get that storm.  Instead, it made a sharp right hand turn, elevated to a Cat 4 in the snap of a finger, and slammed into the Captiva/Sanibel/Ft. Myers area, giving no one time to leave.

I don’t know what level of storm Isaac will be when it passes near the Tampa Bay area, but I do know we will be on the east side of the storm, which is the bad side.  The NHC (National Hurricane Center) has given my area sustained tropical force wind probabilities.  That, combined with the rain bands feeding on the east side can cause flooding, beach erosion, uprooted trees and possible tornadic activity.  That’s why I think it’s important that people in the area from Alabama to Florida start preparing for the possibility of being without power, water, etc. once Isaac decides to do his thing.  If you are planning on riding out the tropical storm/maybe hurricane, the following lists are items you MUST have in your possession before the storm hits.  It’s always best to be prepared than not.  As Floridians are also coming into the most active part of hurricane season, the supplies will not go to waste if you don’t use them this time around.

Remember, if you lose power and water, you are going to be miserable, hot and in a very bad mood.  Take inventory of what you already have on your shelves, and then shop.  If you live anywhere from Ft. Myers north, today is the day to get your food and other supplies.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 gallons BOTTLED water per person for at least 3 days, preferably 5
  • 1 gallon bottled water per pet per day
  • enough prescription medication to get you through 10 DAYS if you take any
  • bread
  • canned meat
  • canned chili
  • beenie weenies
  • canned soups that don’t require water
  • mustard/ketchup (no mayo unless you have some way to keep it cold or if you have handy packs from fast food restaurants)
  • canned vegetables and fruit
  • dry cereal
  • peanut butter and jelly
  • crackers and snacks
  • instant coffee or tea
  • instant creamer
  • sugar, salt, pepper
  • juice
  • fresh fruit
  • butter or margarine
  • pet food for your pets
  • bleach
  • diapers
  • baby food
  • antiseptic hand soap
  • paper towels, napkins and utensils
  • paper plates
  • plastic trash bags
  • toilet paper
  • Ziploc baggies
  • DUCK tape
  • wooden matches
  • manual can opener
  • lanterns/flashlights/non-burning candles (don’t want a fire)
  • bug spray
  • battery operated/hand crank radio
  • batteries for radios, lanterns, etc.
  • propane/charcoal/wood for grills
  • charcoal fluid for the charcoal
  • cash
  • coolers for ice and food from fridge
  • fill up bathtub with water for flushing the toilet
  • first aid kit
  • generator and gas to fill it
  • Camping equipment/stoves/etc.
  • board games, playing cards
  • real books
  • ice
  • fill up cars with gas/check oil/tire pressure, etc.

As always, stay tuned to your local forecasts and follow instructions issued by your local authorities. If you’re told to evacuate, go. It’s better to take the precaution than endanger your and your family’s lives.

I would also like to make one more heart-felt request.  If you find yourself in a bad, bad storm, whether it is a tropical storm, hurricane, whatever…do not leave your four-legged friends behind to fend for themselves.  They rely on you to take care of them.  You made that promise when you took them into your home. You would no more abandon your child to fend for itself, so don’t do it to your pets.  If you say they’re just animals, imagine yourself as a helpless child in the midst of a disaster, and your family abandoned you.  It breaks my heart thinking about it.  If you have to go to a shelter and can’t take your pets, please find a friend who will take them for you until you can come back for them.  Prepare.  Have a plan in place in case the worse happens.  Just please, don’t leave them alone.

So I guess that’s it for now.  The weather is sunny here in the Clearwater/Tampa area but it’s getting quite breezy.  I will update our status on my Facebook page.  Unfortunately, we have no money to go anywhere, so whatever Isaac does, we’ll be riding out the storm, whatever comes this way.  Everyone, keep those of us on the Gulf coast in your prayers that Isaac fizzles and becomes a fish storm.  That would be perfect.

O is for Oliver

Up until 1991, I always believed I was a ‘dog’ person.  Cats were too aloof.  Dogs played.  They were happy to see me.  They were funny and fun.  Cats just laid around all day and did nothing…until I met my first cat, Spooky.  He had a bump on his head from flinging himself into his reflection in the mirrored blinds we had on our slider door.  As a kitten, his motor was so loud I couldn’t believe it was coming from his tiny body.  He was an awesome cat and it broke our hearts when he passed away in 2008 at the age of 17.

Other kitties followed.  In 1994 we ended up with Tigger while at the pound looking for a dog.  She was a princess in every sense of the word and a tiny thing. You could usually find her in the same spot every day – sleeping on my modem.  She passed away last year at the age of 17.

Then came Casper.  I found him as a kitten 1n 1997, barely 3 weeks old, abandoned, thrown in a median on a very busy road.  The vet didn’t think he was going to make it, but make it he did.  He’s a love kitty.  He lives to be held and cuddled.  He’s not doing well right now and I expect he’ll cross the Rainbow Bridge soon.  He’s 15.

And then there’s Oliver.  We call him Ollie for short, and this cat is nothing but piss and vinegar.  He was named after Disney’s “Oliver and Co.” and he is my precocious wild child.  I mean, this cat climbs my door frames and hangs there.  Sometimes he gets zooming through the house with his tail all poofed up like a bottle brush.  He plays fetch with wads of paper and he’ll wake us up in the middle of the night with toys he finds (twist ties, play mice).  He lays on his back with his belly exposed all the time and when we had the cat tree in our room, he’d jump from the very top onto the bed while we were sleeping and then strut off like he’d accomplished some amazing feat.  He plays with my Aussie, Toby, and is a cuddle bug through and through.  He likes drinking water out of the faucet and sleeping in the bathroom sink.  I call him my sink dweller.  And every morning when I get up, he comes up on  my ‘desk’ and lays right next to the keyboard and printer, right in the middle of all my mess, and keeps me company.

I love my Ollie cat.  He makes me laugh and he’s always there for me when I’m sad.  My Ollie…he truly is a family cat and my kindred feline spirit.  Yes, this orange creature has wormed his way into my heart, and this ‘dog’ girl’s life will never be the same.