When I was 8 years old, an elderly friend of my mother’s, Mrs. Smith, passed away and we agreed to adopt her beloved dog, Toby, a Spaniel of some sort. Not being especially adept at breed identification, I wouldn’t be able to offer much else about his origin. On the other hand, if Toby were behind a screen, like on The Dating Game, I’d be able, judging by his responses (if he could speak), to pick him out of a crowd based on his eccentricities.
Toby was about 13 at the time we got him, and I think that his former owner would have been happy with the fact that a child was there to play with him and that my mother was willing to cater to his preferences. Toby was a fairly gentle dog and I liked him but Mrs. Smith had spoiled him as to his habits regarding cuisine.
Dog food in a can or bag, or any other such container was rejected outright and Toby would pull a prison-like hunger strike and just walk away whether he was famished or not. It would have been so much more authentic if we’d sewn him a little orange jump suit and stenciled some random numbers on it. Then he could have played the part to the max and we could have taken the suit in as needed in relation to the number of days he ignored dog food.
But, no, my mother thinking that since we’d accepted responsibility for Toby we’d also be obliged to keep him alive, so she acquiesced to his demands which were a tad unusual. Apparently he’d been raised on only two food items: candy corn (you know, the little goofy orange things at Halloween) and fried liver.
The liver had to be prepared fresh from the butcher, straight to the dish, so every single night my mother had to whip out the frying pan (he wouldn’t eat it raw) and have that lovely fried liver aroma floating through the kitchen. When I was a kid I sort of liked liver and onions but I think that having it hit me in the face on a daily basis ended any future interest.
So Toby got his liver and then we were supposed to toss him a few candy corns whenever he or we were in the mood. That dog could knock down candy corn like a Jello-shooting college student at a frat party, basically making him a sugar/liver junkie. I don’t know if that contributed to the ‘incident’ since he was a relatively calm dog but we can definitely establish that he was into guarding his ‘interests’.
My dad (father #2) and Toby got along pretty well but one night around 2am, as was not unusual, dad stumbled in from yet another alcohol fest at Club 99, pretty well smashed and reeking of beer and cigarettes. From previous stories you can see that my dad’s demeanor completely changed when besotted and I’m only guessing here that this contributed to Toby’s confusion at just who was coming in the front door.
To compound the problem the house was completely dark and my dad couldn’t find the light switch. To make things worse, Toby had cataracts so I’m assuming that seeing things in the dark wasn’t the first sensory radar he counted on. Anyway, my dad barely slurred the “Hi, Tob…” when Toby lunged like a lion on a gazelle and locked down sideways on my dad’s jaw, piercing both cheeks and drawing blood.
After my mother got the light on and the mistaken identity revealed, I’m assuming that Toby felt some remorse but maybe not. Maybe he was making a statement about my dad’s behavior and, not being able to put it into words, could make his strident point and pretend that it was an accident. “Hell, it was dark…could have been a burglar for all I knew…I didn’t know what I was doing…I was hopped up on candy corn”, he might have said in his faux defense.
Pure conjecture on my part.
Fortunately, we knew that Toby had received his rabies shot so there was no worry of my dad having to go through the painful array of rabies shots that are sometimes administered after a dog bite. Nevertheless, Toby had made his mark and it must have left him in a real sour mood because he started getting snippety with the neighbor kids, even leaving a dental impression on my neighbor friend, Mike.
After a couple of years, Toby retired to the great doggy beyond but, I must say, after he took out the drunken version of my dad I felt a little safer at night knowing that if you didn’t belong in my house, Toby would take care of things.
Note to Toby (wherever you are): if you happen to run into my dad you might want to fashion a little apology but it’s totally your call, ‘awesome defender of the realm’.