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Travels With Toby: Boys Just Wanna Have Fun!

Toby Needs His Time in the Sun

We’re going to leave Maggie at home for this walk. I hope you don’t mind, but my boy Toby is chomping at his bit, so we’re just going to take him today. You know where you can find us. Just look for the end of the pavement and the beginning of the wonder. We’ll be there waiting for you.

Waiting not so patiently

Waiting not so patiently

A Fifteen-Month Old Boy

Toby is unbridled exploration. He is seventy-pounds of muscular, mischievous curiosity. He is a joy!

It’s hard to be in a bad mood around Toby. What’s the song – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – well Toby is all boy and he wants to have nonstop fun during the day. There are claw marks on the dresser where the dog toys are kept, a forever sign of Toby wanting to play like there’s no tomorrow. There are broken whatevers strewn around the yard, whatnots which did not survive his shaking and rattling and chewing and tossing.

A walk with Toby is not so much a casual stroll as it is the canine equivalent of a pinball machine, bouncing off flippers, lights and bells flashing and ringing, points accumulated, and glee achieved. He is exhausting and exhilarating, maddening and hilarious, and I love him every bit as much as I love my casual girl, Maggie.

A Reminder for Us All

Remember back, long ago, the carefree way we all approached life, the absolute refusal to be careful when we were young, the absolute conviction that we would live forever?

Of course, we got hurt! I came home one day with blood streaming down my arm, muscle and bone showing. I had climbed up on an old abandoned car in the woods, the roof caved in on me, and I raked my inner arm over the rusted metal. Scared the hell out of my mother. My dad just wrapped a towel around it, drove me to the E.R., and told me to be more careful next time.

Be more careful – not “don’t do it,” or “what the hell were you thinking?” Just be more careful, Billy, because you’re a boy and boys do shit that’s hard to explain to any sane person, end of story, thanks for dropping by and listening.

I have a son. He’s thirty-four now, but I still remember the phone call from his friend, “come and pick up Tyler, we think he broke his wrist,” and sure as hell he had, during a – wait for it – during a pillow fight!

Boys just being boys!

And that’s Toby, all boy that dog, my neck sore now for a solid week because Toby exploded into the brush chasing a rabbit, my arm attached to the other end of his leash, yanking me in ways my body doesn’t like to be yanked, thank you very much, it’s all physics and kinetic energy, some formula I once knew, now gone from my memory, but it would perfectly describe Toby during his more energetic times.


Hell of a Ballplayer

Toby is great at catching balls. Toss them up over his head and nine-out-of-ten will end up nestled in his mouth. Throw it against a wall and he’ll snatch it on the first bounce. His timing and coordination are impressive. Hell, I played with guys in school that couldn’t field as well as Toby, and that ain’t no joke. Our nighttime ritual involves me tossing balls down the hall, Toby chasing after them, bringing them back to me, over and over again, while Bev and Maggie watch on, Bev applauding, Maggie bored with the antics of her younger brother, just one big contented family. And if I don’t feel like playing, Toby will literally toss the ball into the air and catch it with a “who needs a human” attitude, and it’s infectious and of course I join in eventually, as he knows I will.

I didn’t have a sibling to grow up with, not in any practical sense. My sister was eleven years older than me, married and gone by eighteen, so I live vicariously by watching Toby and Maggie, just as I did back in the day when I would visit friends who had large families. I envied them then. It seemed like one big fun-packed trip through life, having a sibling, and I felt cheated, you know? And watching Maggie and Toby play, in the evenings, reminds me again how much I felt I missed when I was younger, and I sigh, toss an apple up in the air, and watch Toby go vertical and the sweet juice explodes as his jaws close on it.

He is seriously good at catching!

Further on We March

We pass the home with the lovely Japanese willows, on to Mission Creek Reserve, native plants surround us, the sun filtered through the canopy, cooler here, quieter here, as though nature has declared this place to be safe from noise and heat, several joggers stave off advancing age, smile at us, Toby wags his tail, watches them pass, looks at me for confirmation, affirmation, and always love, slivers of sunshine tickling his coat, my boy showing no signs of tiring, and I envy him his tireless spirit.

Toby really is the sweetest dog I’ve been around. We should have named him Lover Boy because he is unfiltered love. He wants affection. He loves to be hugged. He will rest his head on my knee and look at me while I watch television, or lay across my foot while I read. Physical touch is important to him, that connection, you know, that only touch can give us. My dad was like that, a hard man but a toucher, a man with a temper but also a need to hug others. My mother, not as complicated, she was Love personified, always touching, rarely angry.

Toby, no anger, no temper, no mean aggression – only love – and that ain’t a bad way to go through life, you know?

Look at how good he's being

Look at how good he's being

An Aussie

Walking a bit further along we come across a bald-headed man walking his dog, five-eight, stocky, a winning smile. I say good morning, he replies, and his accent gives him away immediately, an Australian-transplant among us, Pete his name, been in the U.S. now for ten years, hard to tell from that distinct dialect.

“So what do you think of the U.S.?” I ask Pete, and he rubs his chin a second or two, bends down and pats Toby on the head.

“When you get down to it, Bill, I don’t see much difference between the Americans and Aussies. They’re all people, you know, all with families and concerns and triumphs. There are some trouble-makers, there’s some kind folks, and some as mean as a cattle dog during a drought. Fiercely independent, many of them, some free-loaders, most not trusting the government. No, I don’t see much difference. We humans just aren’t that different, no matter where we hang our hat.”

I wish Pete well and move on, Toby looking back, wagging his tail, then distracted with an overhead squirrel. I think on that encounter a bit. Not much difference, Pete said, and I guess his perspective carries some weight. I’ve never traveled abroad, so I don’t have much background to work with, but it’s as I’ve always suspected, according to Pete. You can take the ideologies and religions and political theories, and you can toss them into a pot, add broth, some spices, maybe a secret ingredient or two, but when the cooking is done and the meal is being set, it’s still just going to be a melting pot of humanity we all have tasted our entire lives. Like Toby and Maggie, I guess, Northwest Farm Terriers but still just dogs, you know?

And that thought makes me smile wide!

The End of Today’s Wonders

We take a right onto Fir Street N.E. and walk the half-block to our home, the berries growing nicely in the front yard, the newly-painted front porch sparkling white and welcoming. Toby quickens his pace because home means Maggie and treats and toys and, above all, home-cooked love.

It’s a good life, no matter the current circumstances, and I’m reminded of that fact every time I step off of the cement and walk where the wonders begin.

Thanks so much for joining us today. We would love to have you do so again sometime real soon. And Maggie, of course, sends her love, and promises to join us next time.


H.O.W. (Humanity One World)

“Helping humans to spread their wings and fly.”

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