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The Loss of a Friend

My best non-human friend died yesterday. In his youth, Toto was 10lbs of little black energy. He was our magic dog. One of the cutest dogs to ever live. He looked like Gizmo the gremlin had married Yoda and produced offspring. What breeds were in Toto’s genetics became a party game at our house for years. The closest we could get was Papillion/Poodle cross. Not your usual stray in Albuquerque, but his ears were so large that he looked like he could hang glide on a windy day. His groomers would always say that if they knew what he was, they could sell 100 of him everyday.

We had just moved into our new house in Albuquerque about 3 months before he showed up. Having promised our 3 year old daughter a dog after the move, we were dragging out feet about dog hunting. She was holding out for a black lab. Great dogs, but not what we wanted for our first dip into dog ownership.

Very early one morning my husband heard a noise in our back yard. Being a bit groggy, he said “I think there’s a big black rat in the backyard!” Later as he left for work (I was still asleep. He goes to work really early.), he said “There’s the cutest little black dog in the yard. If you see him, you’re going to want to keep him.” It was love at first site. He was a matted, shaggy, dirty mess. We looked for his owners for about 1 day. We were all in love by then, even our daughter. She took one look at him and said, “I want this dog. He’s better.” There was a bit of a skirmish over the name. Leslie wanted to call him Rachel. I wanted James as a tribute to James Herriott. My husband suggested Toto as a compromise. Not much of one since I’m from Kansas, and “The Wizard of Oz” is my favorite book.

We’ve added and lost other dogs and a few cats over the years, but Toto endured. We would have had him 19 years this April. He was living with us in our home longer than our daughter did. She can barely remember a time before Toto. I know that he wasn’t exactly cut down in his prime, but the loss is devastating. We’re not exactly out of pets either as we still have 2 other dogs and 3 cats at home, but Toto was one of a kind.

I called my daughter yesterday morning and left a message on her cell phone. She knew it was important as I rarely call her during the day. She checked the message in French class and burst into tears. Her French teacher and the girl who sits next to her in class both asked at once if she was canceling class and work to be at home with us. Not necessary, but I bless both of those people for their sensitivity.

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