I had been planning on writing a post about another weighty issue tonight, but it’ll have to wait. I’m going to write a short post about Tolo.

She probably should’ve been Tola. When our 13 1/2 year-old canine friend was a puppy, my older son, to whom she nominally belongs, decided she was so floppy that she should be called Silly. Since she is a Portuguese Water Dog, he looked up the word for silly in Portuguese. Tolo, we later learned, is the masculine form of the word – but it stuck, and she never minded. By inclination she’s not really a Water Dog, either, for that matter: she much prefers terra firma to anything swimmable.

Toly, as we call her informally, is a sweet and oh-so-proper lady – almost a little too feminine, ever friendly and eager to please. She asks politely to go out when she needs to, and is suitably embarrassed when caught stealing food from the counter. Given her generally playful and submissive behavior, we kid about her being our fierce guard dog; but on the rare occasions when she senses actual danger, her pitch drops like a stone and she transforms herself into a massive and scary Tolo, at least in voice.

She has been with us for a long time now, and the sympathy we feel for each other is fully mutual. She knows what to expect of us, and we of her. She trusts us completely – except about the car. She has never accustomed herself to car travel – associating it with the vet, occasional stays at the kennel and the unknown generally – and trembles pitifully when invited to go for a ride.

Toly has been losing a lot of weight recently, so we’ve been giving her lots of extra tasty food. She’s down about 14 lbs from her former sleek and healthy 65ish, and quite frail. The vet can’t figure out the cause of her weight loss, but it isn’t good.

And she’s acting like an old clock that has slowed as it winds down. Her energy level is low, only rarely does she scamper like she used to, and now she sometimes misjudges and trips on stairs. We offer to carry her up when she trips, but, ever-determined if a little embarrassed, she prefers to just pick herself up and try again.

Today, because after the weekend the house had abruptly emptied of her favorite human companions, Tolo had a very quiet day.  When I got home to a house that was empty except for her, she was especially insistent that I pat her and give her hugs. So to heck with writing the next thematically consistent post; it can wait. I’m going to play with my dog.


Farewell old Friend (originally posted 11/6/13)

Favorite memories of Tolo:

Watching her play with our children when she was a puppy. She was as happy and eager as youth itself, and astonishingly lithe. She effortlessly slung her hind quarters this way and that as she tried to follow one of our young sons up the stairs, inviting his observation that she could move like a slinky.

Walking with her deep in the woods on snowy winter days. She stayed close, fearful of being alone in such eerie and unfamiliar circumstances.

And seeing her unexpectedly leap into my wife’s arms while we were setting off in kayaks. It was a miracle that they stayed upright and dry. Toly then settled down, draping all of her 68 pounds tenderly over the Boss’s lap and legs while we paddled. She didn’t like the water, but had total confidence that her adoptive mother would not let the skittish little boat capsize. She was quite pleased with our adventure and her chance to snuggle.

I know that my tears for Toly are also for myself – for the children who have moved out and the fourteen years of our lives that have come and gone since she arrived. But I will actively miss Tolo – she was loving, protective, eager to please – and fun.

I will miss the joyful greetings she gave me when I came home in the evenings. I will miss her insistent companionship. And walking in the woods will not be the same.






M.H. Johnston

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