We’re here today to remember the life of Toby, who has been taken from us at the age of 18. Toby was a great friend to us all, always cheerful, ready to greet strangers and friends alike, and with a simple, positive and outgoing approach to life.
Much of Toby’s time was taken up with simple, but to him, deeply important, matters. One of these was his compassion and concern for others, particularly for young children and for people weaker or more vulnerable than himself. Toby felt he was born to make others happy,
The other main concern of Toby’s life was food. Those of you who knew him well will recall that. If he was not concerning himself with the affairs of other people, ensuring that they were happy and content, he was looking forwards to his next meal, or indeed, towards any snacks that he might be able to find in the meantime.
For a Labrador to live 18 years is good going. Toby lived a good and long lifetime, and I’d like to remind you now of one or two highlights of that life well lived.
Perhaps most well-remembered is the custard story. On one of the many occasions that Toby got lost, he found his way to the custard factory. For Toby to get lost whilst out for a walk was not unusual, so we were not unduly concerned – he would show up at dinner time. The mere sound of the drawer being opened to get out a can opener would bring him bounding from the other side of the house.
We received a call from the custard factory. Toby was brought home sometime later in the back of a car, laid out on the back seat. On that occasion, there had been some kind of fault with a custard making machine, and gallons and gallons of custard had to be poured away down the drain. It was perhaps unfortunate that Toby found one of these drains and decided to start lapping up the custard. And he kept on lapping up the custard. By the time he was discovered, he was so full he could no longer walk. He did not eat for some time after that.
Then there was the occasion of the dead sheep. A local farmer warned us that there was a dead sheep on his land, and that it would be removed shortly. Not shortly enough, unfortunately for Toby, who saw it and quite naturally and understandably decided that raw mutton was just what he needed. He ate a fair amount of dead sheep before he was dragged off. We arrived back home and by this time Toby was clearly not feeling quite himself. There was something wrong – perhaps something he ate? And then, right at the top of the stairs, he decided to throw up. It’s funny now, years later, but it was no joke at the time. It was like a waterfall of sick, flowing down the stairs, and it stank to high heaven. Poor old Toby was very ill for a few days. But he recovered, dog of iron constitution that he was.
On another occasion my husband was going to work and was already dressed in a suit. But Toby needed his walk, and my husband took the dog out without changing into old clothes. Toby ran into the local pond and was splashing about – as you do, when you’re a Labrador. My husband’s insistence that Toby “Get out now!” fell on deaf ears. He continued to splash and play in the mud and the reeds. And then he caught a frog. Thought he’d eat it. This is pure Toby. As Toby’s jaws closed over the frog, the poor creature, still living, was desperately thrashing its legs. At this point my husband, a simple soul, could take no more, and ruined a good suit by leaping into the pond to drag our errant hound out by the scruff of the neck.
Yet for all his carnivorous instincts, Toby was deeply loving. On at least one occasion when we as parents had told off one or other of our daughters and sent them off to their rooms in disgrace, Toby disappeared shortly afterwards. We discovered him hours later, curled up next to our sleeping daughter, comforting, always comforting the sad or tearful.
Ladies and gentlemen, raise your water bowls and dog biscuits – for I propose a toast: To Toby the dog.