Skip to main content

Toby & Larry: An Unconditional Love Story

Photo by Skyler King on Unsplash

Even now, after all is said and done, after thirteen years together, after he is gone, I find it hard to explain Toby and me.

December 10, 2005. Princeton, New Jersey: The first time ever I saw his face.

There was snow on the ground. The air was frigid and dense with the hope of finding “the one,” and at the same time like a vacuum of held breath. Above the chaos, a leaden sky sagged, gray and heavy with inarticulate hope.

“Is that Toby?” I asked a woman walking by. “It is,” she said. He was as handsome as he was in his pictures online; I leaned down, breathless, and he, unexpectedly, jumped into my arms, landing on my chest. Our hearts collided, seemed to stop for a moment and continued to beat in synchrony; his next exhaled breath matched mine exactly. The next breath, drawn in surprise, also in synch.

We were Toby’s fourth home in less than two years. I spoke to his original owner once, just briefly. He explained that Toby had behavioral problems, which had prompted him to give Toby up for adoption. Their vet he added had “suggested neutering Toby would fix the problem, but I couldn’t do that—I just couldn’t do that to him,” he said. So, he gave him up for adoption. I have held that first owner in contempt from the moment those words fell from his lips.

Toby.

Toby accepted me as I was. My whole life, I’ve struggled with not being enough: I was never smart enough, or butch enough, or good-looking enough. For Toby, I was not only enough—I was everything.  Perhaps that is what makes dogs so special to us; we are always enough and everything.

Once in the park, a stranger admired Toby’s good looks, “Tell me,” he said, “Is he a good dog?”

“He,” I responded, “Is the best dog he knows how to be.”

The stranger thought for a moment, nodded his head, and responded, “I like that. I really like that.”

March 20, 2018. Mathew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital: The last time ever I saw his face.

Another winter day. The sky hung low, white with anger. From the flattened arc of the heavens, snow tumbled down, like dashed hope. Accumulating on the ground in piles and drifts, it lay there like an old mattress, too lumpy and itchy to offer comfort to the weary.

Toby licked my nose, then settled against me.

“He’s gone,” the vet said, moving the stethoscope from his chest.

Gone?

I looked down at Toby cradled in my arms, tight against me, his chest rising and falling in synch with mine. “Gone? But he’s still—”

“I thought that at first, too,” she said,” But, it’s your breathing that makes it look like he is…”

Toby
I nodded. I kissed the top of his head one last time, and gently surrendered him to her.

And now, now, I keep looking around for him, even as I stare at the stack of vet bills on my desk amounting to many thousands of dollars, and realize, I would have generated many thousands more if it would have bought me more time with him.

I seek refuge in the knowledge that I did my best for him, that it was his time to leave, that he was ready. I lean into my trust that he would not have left me if he wasn’t sure I was ready to let him go.

Comments

  1. You not only did what was best for him, you did what was right for your best friend. Love has no boundaries. Toby's love is still there for you. Love to all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kenneth. In a way he is still here; I just miss his physical presence so much. He must know that because I keep seeing him in my dreams.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Ghost Unseen

My life: I have been a model citizen; a good son; employee of the year, year after year after year. I have lived in the shadows, a ghost, unseen. And now, as my life ebbs away, eternity like a black moon rising, I felt his hands on my body, efficient and cool. My chest was tight, and I was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind, not really. I had endured worse, much worse. I wished I could scratch my nose. I wished I could move. “Does he not have any family—anyone we should call?” someone else was in the room with us, then. “No,” he said, his hands working. “I suspect he was gay,” he added, speaking of me as if I was already dead. “And you know,” he continued, his hands working, working, “He was of that generation that kept in the shadows.” I recognized his voice now; he was my day nurse. He was a fey young thing, gentle and outrageous, but much loved by patients and staff alike who treated him not as a curiosity to be pointed at and whispered about, perhaps even laughed at, nor as some exotic…

The Corporatorium: I Am Prometheus (Episode One)

I am Prometheus. Prometheus. Say it slowly, roll the letters around in your mouth. Prometheus. It is not my real name but it is name most fitting for me. Prometheus, the creator of mankind and its greatest benefactor, chained to a rock, his liver eaten daily by an eagle, in eternal damnation for stealing fire and gifting it to mankind. Yes, there are definite similarities between us.
I am Prometheus, and this is my story. Except it’s not my story. I wish it was, but I am not unique or special. This is the story of untold millions of hapless chaps and chicklets caught up in the grinding gears of the corporate machine.
This is a faux memoir told episodically. You will be inclined, at times, to laugh at us, and cry for us. Do not hold back either impulse. That is the point of sharing this story—to remind us that life is nothing but a series of small comedies and tragedies. What is important is what we take away from each occurrence, what we learn from each calamity and joy.
What will be…

The Corporatorium: A Platinum Gay (Season 2, Episode 4)

Ask them?” I whispered fiercely.
“No! You ask.” Elvis practically whistled out of the side of his mouth.
“But you brought it up—”
“You agreed.”
The vet, who was the sort of woman who’d drunk Brandy Alexanders in her youth, and then later in life, divorced and resettled, had adopted a pair of Lhasa Apso pups and named them Brandy and Alexander, cleared her throat. Now, she asked, “Is there something else?”
Our dog, who just gotten a series of vaccinations trembled on the stainless steel table, her big brown eyes pleading for escape. She’d only been with us two weeks and didn’t fully trust us it seemed. At this moment, I can’t say I trusted us either.
“Um…yes…can you look at her um…her privates?”
“You mean her vulva?” The vet tech, young, blonde, perky with bright compassion, asked briskly. If not for her love of animals, she’d have been a stewardess: bubbly, unflappable, unmoored.
“Yes!”
She rolled our dog onto her back and we all peered at her, squirming.
“What are we looking for?” The two wom…