Toby is Ten!

Happy birthday to Toby, who turned 10 today!

Four weeks old

Toby at Four weeks old

He is now officially a Shiba elder, and he celebrated his status by doing what he likes best:  nothing much at all.

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Often I take the birthday dog for a ride to get a burger at a drive-through, but today I had a puppy class, and was in town already with Zora, so Toby had to forgo his birthday ride.  That’s ok:  Toby is rather….um….portly, as it is, and I didn’t think I needed to add to his quest to be World’s Largest Shiba.    He did, however, have a bully stick, and got lots of attention.   In some ways, Toby has kept his puppyish figure, and his interests have remained much the same too:

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Toby then….

though these days, he takes up a lot more space:

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Toby at 9.5 years old

Oh, Toby did have a slim period, but that has long since passed:

Toby and Bel in better days

Toby and Bel in better days

(Bel was a puppy in that photo, and Toby was around two years old).

Mostly, Toby seems to be returning to his youth in some ways.   As a puppy, while he didn’t exactly enjoy other dogs, he seemed to be able to tolerate being around them:

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Toby and Gideon were puppies together.

But his middle years were difficult.  His friendship with Gideon went sour and Toby seemed to lose every fight he started:

Toby's Neckerchief

Toby’s war wounds

Toby's Neckerchief

Yeah, I lost, but I got this cool neckerchief…

Of course, the fight(s) with Bel were the worst, and in 2008, we nearly lost him.   The damage she did was so great, Toby’s liver began to fail.  But thanks to the best vets ever, and to Toby’s fighting spirit, my heart dog pulled through.

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After 6 weeks at the vet, I brought my boy home

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Wounded by still smiling!

Toby has seen a lot.  Of course, he has scars, both physically and emotionally.   Toby was very scared and reactive with other dogs ever since then–and who can blame him?  Every interaction he’d had with other dogs seemed to go very badly indeed, and in the years afterwards, Bel tried to attack him every chance she could.  Finally, it was too difficult trying to keep them separated in the house–Bel was masterful at getting through doors and knocking down dog gates.  Toby got his own room,  the sun room, which had also been his recovery room.

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Toby in his room

I don’t think he minded.  He had his own chair, and privacy, and big windows, and he seemed to feel safe in his room.   He came into the rest of the house when the other dogs were outside and he slept in the living room at night, but he would happily run back to his room in the morning.   I did worry that he was lonely, as he had no dog friends, but since he’d had such bad luck with other dogs, I think he was more comfortable on his own.

There were some hard times there before Bel died.  There are always mistakes when you have to manage dogs that don’t get along, and we had some too.  Once Toby slipped outside when the others were already out, and I suddenly heard a very aggressive barking.  I ran outside and what I saw was horrible:  Toby was running towards the house, with three others dogs (Oskar, Bel and Leo) in pursuit.  But Toby isn’t fast, and Oskar knocked him down and bit him, and Toby was on his side, screaming, and Bel attacked.  I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to pull two dogs (Oskar and Bel) off Toby and shove them into the car which was the closest place for me to put them (thank god I’d left the doors unlocked!)

Toby had run, crying, back to his room and was on his chair when I got there, and Leo, sweet Leo, was rolling on his back in front of Toby, as if to say, “look, I’m harmless!” Thankfully, Toby was ok, and there was only one minor puncture wound to treat.  But I still feel guilty about that:  it was my fault, as I hadn’t locked the door to Toby’s room, and during the night the wind blew it open, so it was slightly ajar and he was able to go out.   Seeing him on the ground, with the other dogs attacking him still makes me teary:  my old fat boy, wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but they went after him the moment they saw him.

Something did good out of this though:  after seeing Leo make appeasing gestures, I wondered if perhaps Leo and Toby could become friends.  So very slowly, over the course of year, we began to test it out.  I took them for walks together.  We let them sleep in the same room, with Leo in the crate.  Leo is the perfect dog for rehabilitating a reactive dog:  he reads other dogs well, and he is nonthreatening.   A lot of those early walks involved the two dogs not looking at each other all, or sniffing near each other, but with no eye contact.  Polite dog behavior.  Then we let Toby loose in the yard with Leo on the leash, and then the two of them loose in the yard together, where they continued to politely ignore one another.  They weren’t friends yet, but they were getting along, something which I thought was amazing progress.

And then Bel died, and the dynamics in the house changed dramatically.  The relief in the house was palpable:  Toby knew his tormenter was not there.   He started to relax.   And he and Leo became friends for real.

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We’re friends, but I still get all the toys.

It was a pretty amazing change for an old dog.  They are easy together, and lately, I’ve been thrilled to see Toby even greets Leo with a polite sniff and tail wag.  They’re even comfortable enough together to chill out on the sofa together:

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And perhaps the bigger miracle is this:  Toby even tolerates puppy Zora!  They’ve been loose in the yard together several times now, and while Toby will give a warning growl to get Zora to keep her distance–no puppy play for Toby!–he also doesn’t seem to be threatened by her.   I’m hoping this will continue as she gets older, too.  It would nice for Toby to have a big protector too, like Leo has with Oskar.

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Polite greetings with puppy Zora in the background

So my old boy has learned some new tricks, and I think he’s happier having some friends, or at least knowing that most of the dogs he lives with will not hurt him (he still can’t get along with Oskar, but two out of three isn’t bad!)

Toby may be 10, but he’s a Shiba, so I hope he has many more years left–Shibas are relatively long lived dogs.  He’s not as healthy as he could be, as he is hypothyroid and probably is in the early stages of Cushings disease.  He has always had mild luxating patella, but his age and weight are starting to take a toll, and that leg is getting a bit worse.  And while Toby has long wanted to be the World’s Largest Shiba, I would very much like him to lose some weight, though the various diets we’ve tried haven’t taken much off.  He’s getting hard of hearing–sometimes I can call and call, and when I go in front of him and he sees me, he’s clearly startled:  he didn’t hear me.

But I love my old fat boy like crazy, and am so thankful to have had these past 10 years with him, ten years in which we both had to fight hard and struggle against enormous odds.  We’re both a bit scarred, a bit less trusting than we were ten years ago, and a bit more tired, but also wiser, and we’ve learned to value true friends and simple pleasures.

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So here’s to Toby, who is 10, my first Shiba, and my favorite fat boy in all his splendor, and with all his nicknames:    Toby Toby, Toby Soprano, Pope Toby the Only, Fatboy Slim, Toblerone, Devil Dog, Bobo.  May we have many more years together, and you’ll always be my best boy.

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Toby as Best Man

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jen
    Oct 21, 2014 @ 20:01:01

    I’m terrible and haven’t visited you here in a very long time, but thought of y’all today and thought I’d drop by. Happy (very belated!) birthday to Toby. I was thrilled to read about him and Leo getting along! And also him and Zora. That’s really great.

    I hope everybody’s well!

    Reply

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