Vol. 3, Issue 20, September 13, 2005
Fizzy Tea Hits the Spot
US Press News

Requiem for Old Toby

Ezekiel F. Watley, Esq.

It is customary, when discussing those who have recently Passed On, to refrain from speaking Ill of them. Still, it must be made perfectly Clear at the outset that Toby was in virtually No way an Exemplary dog. Gifted with a ravenous appetite, a complete lack of Ethics, and a degree of Slothfulness that defies the laws of Nature (not to mention Physics), he was very nearly a canine Equivalent to my dissolute Nephew. All of which makes it exceedingly Perplexing that his absence should be felt so Keenly.

My bachelor home has seen the quiet tread of Many a hound in decades past, for I am of that school of thought which finds a home Incomplete without a stalwart canine Companion. Hence when Toby came to join me over a decade ago, I was no Novice in the art of schooling recalcitrant animals of his ilk. But this preposterously charming dog defied All expectations in his steadfast and quiet refusal to do Aught that was expected of him. His calm gaze radiated neither Defiance nor Amusement as he lay stubbornly on the Hearth-rug day after day, weathering Storms of invective with placid detached Interest. One might find his attitude refreshingly Philosophical if one thought he had two Brain cells to rub together.

But Toby was no slow-coach: on the contrary, his unruffled exterior served to Camouflage most effectively a talent for Speed, Stealth, and Thievery. The cold game-pie left on the Sideboard by the House-keeper for my supper, returning Late from the office, might as well have been fed Directly to him. Cabinet doors were no obstacle, locked Boxes a mere inconvenience. I watched him (from a Duck-blind installed in my Study) once do the Trick, gliding silently to the table, his forepaws floating up with almost Supernatural ease to the table; the prize most gently Plucked from the plate, disturbing nary a Napkin or Fork; the stealthy retreat to a Corner behind a plush chair, there to enjoy his spoils in peace. Who would voluntarily take such a beast under his Roof?

I did, for some reason. Perhaps it was because he was an exceedingly Handsome fellow, never failing to attract admiring Compliments whenever guests came to Tea; perhaps it was because of his remarkably Gentle nature. Perhaps it was because his solid presence fit in so Well with the slow, timeless rhythm of my Study and my Life.

His passing should not be Unexpected. The relatively Brief length of thread allotted to these faithful Companions by the Fates is a well-known fact of life, and I have seen many sunsets in my day. But I find an unexpected poignance in his absence, find myself unconsciously Scanning the rugs to see where he has chosen to sleep the day away. Though I had not realized it until now, his choice of Location often dictated Mine as I sat to read the evening news-papers. No surprise, then, that I find myself Unmoored.

It is not for Nothing that blind Homer used a faithful Dog to describe the true impact of the return of Odysseus after his lengthy absence. The stalwart persistence of wife Penelope, the desperate hope of son Telemachus; these trappings of the heroic tale fall flat next to the poignant joy of Argus the dog, who spends his last effort to greet his beloved master before expiring. This brief scene adds more Humanity to the final chapter of Homer's epic than all the lamentations, embraces and declamations that Precede and Follow. Quiet, faithful Argus, who speaks not a Word, is the emotional Lynchpin of the king's return.

There is a Purity in the bond between dog and man which other ties Lack; the barriers we erect amongst Ourselves, our friends and Family, do not apply. A dog simply Belongs to the family. Old Toby, inveterate thief and Scoundrel, belonged to my family. He was an Exceedingly annoying beast, he did as Little as possible, he was utterly Unapologetic in his sloth and greed. By every law of Logic and Nature, I ought to consider myself well Rid of him.

But I do not. I tread instead with heavy Heart to the secret cache where I keep the 50 year old Macallan Millennium, and pour a tumbler in Silence. The crackling of the logs in the fireplace, the steady ticking of the clock, the clinking of the glass and Bottle form a quiet Requiem, the soft tune of home and hearth. Here's to you, Toby. Farewell, old friend.

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