NEW HOPE, Minn.-- While many Minnesotans marked January 1st, 2011 by drifting in and out of the landslide of faceless bowl games, gorging on snacks and sweating off last night's festivities, the Thiede posse was celebrating another notable milestone.
Tobee is our Wirehaired Fox Terrier, an amazing dog with an unusual personality, and an even-more offbeat story. She is turning 6 with the start of this new year, a number that seems old when compared side-by-side with her puppyish personality. Six... a number that suggests she is entering the dog-days of middle age.
Tobee came to us just after her first birthday, delivered by a chance meeting at the annual Land-O-Lakes dog show. I was working a story there and stopped to pet a handsome Cairn Terrier (I love 'all' dogs, but am a sucker for all kinds of terriers). I struck up a conversation with the dog's owner, a very nice woman from Northern Minnesota named Joan who told me that she and her daughter also raise and show Wirehairs. I told her that our family owned one (our buddy Reba, who passed on last spring), and that I had once owned a Welsh as well.
When I saw her later that day, Joan told me she had a favor to ask; there was a little dog in her kennel that had a bend in her tail from it being caught in a door as a puppy, a small flaw that left her unfit to show. Joan asked if I'd be interested in adopting the dog, whose name was Tobee; she later emailed me a picture and I fell in love instantly.
A week or so later I met Joan's daughter halfway between the Twin Cities and Duluth, where else but... Tobys cafe in Hinckley. She was smart, athletic, funny... everything you'd want in a dog and more. Tobee slipped into our routine quickly, although challenges to her fellow hound Reba's spot at the head of the pack occasionally ended with teeth.
I often tell the girls in my house that Tobee is the only one who 'truly' likes me unconditionally. When I leave she follows me to the door, and I'm told she then lays at the top of the stairs, moping, until she hears my truck pulling in the driveway. She sleeps on a pillow at my feet while I work on the computer, as I'm doing now. When she goes on the road with me, Tobee lays across my lap with her head on the armrest, leaving just enough room to turn the steering wheel. She always looks like she's smiling, even when she's just sitting there.
An old colleague of mine put it best when he reflected, simply, "Dogs just make life better."
But a dog's life... as any pet owner will tell you... is far too short. The unfair life equation that says every year a dog lives is the equivalent of 7 human years makes their time on earth pass far too quickly. Changes are painfully evident as each year passes; Tobee sleeps more now than she did as a youngster, she gets stiff after a session of diving off the dock chasing a tennis ball, and the fur on her face is beginning to turn from tan into a rusty color, one that Reba was sporting in her later years.
Her latest birthday has me fighting off the urge to think in fast forward, considering what life will be like without my buddy. After all, she's only 6... but it seems like my kids were babies just yesterday, and now they're 12 and 13.
Lucky life doesn't come with a 'pause' button; I'd surely be one of those guys who would wear it out.
Especially on my dog's birthday.