Theres a phrase by an unknown author that goes like this:
People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
I found Toby on a City Shelter spay/neuter truck while I was volunteering at a Mutt show at Madison Square Garden in 2001. The truck was there with a dozen or so shelter animals on display for adoption. Dr. Jenny Ripka (later to be our first Toby Project surgeon) was on the truck at the time, upon which I went to say hello to her. Sitting in one of the cages was Toby, 20lbs and 3 months of age. He seemed like another innocent and cute puppy, except that attached to his cage were caution signs labeling him aggressive and unadoptable. When I offered him attention, he thumped his tail and when I opened his cage, he was as affectionate as can be. I attempted to take him home on the spot (not intending on keeping him), but was denied, being told he was a liability. They confessed bewilderment as to his presence on the truck since he was not to be offered for adoption and slated to be killed the next day. I was advised not to pursue it any further, so of course, I went to the Animal Care and Control shelter the following morning, just as they opened and pleaded my case to the administrator. I was referred to their trainer/behaviorist and armed with my veterinary license, pled his case. Thirty minutes later he was with me on East 110th street.
On our way home, he told his whole story. He pulled me to every stroller carrying a child, vigorously wagging his tail. He checked every one of them with tireless optimism looking for the child that was good to him and that he loved. He was equally affectionate with the mother behind. Conversely he was fearful of every man with a hat and beard; even cowered and urinated when one tried to touch him. I had no intention of keeping him, as my other dog Katie was very anxious with other dogs. That night, Katie allowed him to share her bed and together they slept. The following day, I learned he loved to fetch and smile. So rolled the ball toward the point of no return and within a few days, he was under my skin. The rest is history....
When you think about all the millions of dogs, millions of people and millions of places to be in this country, the chances of one dog finding one person have to be likened to that of lightening striking any one of us. In this instance however, when that one person MUST be a veterinarian, that a mutt show happened to fall on that one day, that the two volunteers (myself and Dr. jenny Ripka) happened to know each other and that someone "accidentally" puts that one dog on a truck for adoption when he was scheduled for death the following day, those odds become more like lightening striking the same person a dozen times. It reminds me that many things in life are just meant to be!
What Toby has meant to me and what is in my heart is best expressed in a quote (replacing the fox with a dog) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Author of The Little Prince: "When I first knew him, he was a dog, like a hundred thousand other dogs, but I made him my friend and that made him unique in all the world"
Happy 11th Toby!! As I write this, still fearful of hats and beards, he lays beside me on a plush cushion bed, outside on a dock overlooking the lake in which he loves to swim. Toby, thank you for the gift of the perspective you've given me! Because of you, one day, there will be a time when no dog is killed because there isn't a home or that he/she is misunderstood!