On April 16, 2018, a litter of sweet yellow and black Labrador puppies was born near Smyrna, Georgia. Their cute little pudgy, fluffy bodies were crowded safe and snug under their mama Sunny’s belly. The tiniest squeaks ever pierced an otherwise normal day in the south. Daddy Gator was not allowed to meet his babies. Mama made that very clear.
But the little lumps of love tumbled over one another in search of a place to nurse. Blind at this age, the puppies quickly learned to trust Sunny to teach them how to be dogs in the outside world. Three blondes and the rest black, each one was given a different color collar to identify them so their weight and development could be tracked by their breeder. Yes, this particular Monday was a beautiful day in Georgia, with a mound of tiny paws and wiggly bitty bums bringing instant joy into the world.
It was also the day my Toby dog died.
This is the first time I’ve really written about it, because it’s frankly been just too painful to think about for too long. I still ache for him, sometimes calling his name or mistakenly calling our son Toby. I still look to the edge of the bed each morning and night where his dog bed was. The last soul I spoke to at night and the first one I met each morning was his. Now, I am dogless. It’s the first time in 13 years.
Toby had just turned 13 in March, and I proudly noted that we now had a teenager in the house. With Toby’s age, I wondered if it wouldn’t be too long before we had 2 in diapers in the Bays household (smile). I just knew that part of the reason he’d made it to the ripe old age of about 100 in dog years was because he was loved and cared for so much, by so many people. So when he passed just over a month later it took me by surprise.
No, it actually sent me into psychological shock. One I didn’t snap out of for a couple weeks.
About 10 days before this, Toby had been having a hard time walking, limping heavily on one of his back legs. We thought it was arthritis. He was also diabetic, and when we had him checked out by a new vet (our first vet visit in Norman), she was fairly sure his blood sugar was not regulated and was causing his weakness. He’d been whining a bit, which was unusual for him. She had us increase his food, did some blood work, gave him some pain meds in case he was suffering from diabetic neuropathy, and had us do a glucose curve on him later that week.
She was right, his curve was off, but with a boost of insulin and pain meds, it was still going high and low at the appropriate times. We were told to do another curve, and it was on April 16 that I started out the day checking his sugar. Mid-morning it was sky high … in the 500s … which is bad for a dog. 700 is near comatose. 750+ is so high it doesn’t even register on his canine glucometer. I called the vet and was told to keep checking him and bring him in the next morning. It wasn’t an immediate emergency.
But later on that evening, Brent noticed Toby was acting strange. Actually, we’d gone out and upon our return I found him in the baby’s room. It was strange for him not to greet us near the door. I brought him into the living room and let him outside. He plopped down on the rug in front of the TV for a while, and we all hung out. Our son woke from his nap, and had finished his lunch. My husband had me put Toby in our bedroom so he’d be “safe.” Austin had taken to rough housing with Toby too much and we wanted to make sure the dog wasn’t caused any discomfort. So I let Toby into our room and he looked back at me. I told him to go relax and lay in his bed and I’d see him soon.
If I’d had any idea that was going to be his last day, I would have spent the whole thing with him, talking about his life, feeding him steak and ice cream, watching Animal Planet, feeding him cheese, peanut butter and apples (his favorite human foods) and rubbing his belly. It wasn’t meant to be. In fact, he never took another bite of food again.