Toby Dickson


After living divorced and dogless (even catless-UGHHH that was hard!) for a couple of years in an apartment in Burlingame, I finally moved into our home with Lonnie in Roseville on July 31.

On August 1, we had Casey.  He was named in honor of Casey Jones the infamous locomotive engineer of Illinois Central RR fame who died in 1900 while supposedly “bravely” trying to stop his passenger train and ran into a freight train. The truth is a bit less dramatic and he was going too fast for the curve…but who am I to judge…I wasn’t there.

I have a habit of naming my pets for railroad related items or themes.  Our cats are/were named Spike and Chessie (the mascot of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad) our other dog is Thomas…you guessed it for Thomas the Tank…you get the idea. So, with Lonnie’s occupation as a locomotive engineer and manager of engineers…I thought Casey Jones a perfect fit.

I told Lonnie I was going to get him…I don’t think he believed me until he drove in that night when a bright nine week old golden fluff ball greeted him a the door.  It was the first time I heard “baby talk” from him…it was so funny and cute.  Casey was a good dog and I loved him, he was my company when Lonnie was gone for so many days and nights and weeks on end for work. We walked, played at the dog park and were great buddies.  I took him on work trips too.  We went on day trips and once I took him for a week across Northern Nevada to look at railroad crossings in the most remote areas.   He kept Lonnie company too when I was on work trips and served as a great excuse to come home from work…”LeeAnn is traveling; got to feed the dog.”

Casey died a few months after his third birthday of lymphoma.  An unexpected development, one I was not ready to handle. He was not eating one week and dead the next. A friend asked me “When did you stop crying for Casey?”   “The day I brought Toby home.” I replied.

Toby was named for a dog the fictional detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes counted on as a trusted partner and fellow detective in the novel A Sign of Four.  Holmes is quoted as saying he would “rather have Toby’s help than that of the whole detective force in London”  I am a bit of a Holmes buff, so thought we would leave the railroad names alone for a while and try something new.

I rescued him from an old lady who’s recently deceased husband’s pension was supplemented by selling puppies. Asshole.  OK…just needed to say that.  Toby was the last one in the last litter.  She was glad to see my $500 and to see Toby’s tail out the door.  I was happy to hand over the cash and grab the robust little guy.  Casey, in his last days, had grown so dramatically weak and thin…I needed a fat puppy.

However, the chubby tummy didn’t last long.  The old bitch had fed him a bunch of cheap canned dog food before I got there.  He promptly deposited the still undigested contents on to the seat of the Duck.  OMG.

We stopped, mopped up and headed home. Although he just barfed…I could tell he was happy being released from that smelly garage, in the fresh air, and light of that canned crap.

Toby plopped into the house and was met by a couple of grumpy middle age cats. “Oh shit! Another dog!” I heard Spike say as he sashayed down the hall-tail up in the air. Oh well. Too bad. So sad! But I was ecstatic.

He was a great puppy when he wasn’t eating drip systems, digging out plants and generally causing havoc.  We walked, Dog Parked and generally hung out. Like Casey, he was an excellent partner, companion and travel partner.  He mellowed nicely with age and grew to be an great old man.  However, with his age came what has become normal maladies for Goldens. His hips and joints hurt and he developed a really big fatty tumor on his left shoulder.  Our vet told us if we had it removed…it would just grow back and it would cost thousands of dollars.  I told him “No one is getting fat sucked out except me!”

So we did as he advised gave him pain pills and lived with the growth. We nicknamed him Quasimodo and sometimes Lumpy Bump.  As his lumpy hump grew heavier and broadened, his pain worsened.  He would give you a good show at the door or for his dinner, but soon he could no longer just lay down…under the weight, he would collapse.

After just thirteen years Toby peacefully passed away in my lap on a Sunday morning.  My friend later told me that October 5th is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the Canticle for the Animals. We didn’t know that and it makes me feel better.

The vet came to the house and she was so comforting to Lonnie, me and Toby. He greeted her with a smile and a wag then quickly hit the floor.  I snuggled up under his head (he was 110pounds of pure love and I couldn’t hold him all) and held his head. He must of known what was about to happen…he never moved again.

I spoke quietly to him, stroked his head, scratched his ears and told him everything was going to be OK and he would be out of pain in a few minutes. Lonnie and our dear friend Jeremy were witnesses. He peacefully slipped away and the stress and pain of his body relaxed.

I was OK for a while, then we just needed to get out of the house for a drive. I was good the next day…since I had to work to distract me. However, Tuesday while driving home alone from San Jose I heard a song for the first time. I was so sad and crying so hard, I thought I was going to have to pull over. The tune was Gene Cotton’s 1970’s Before My Heart Finds Out.

The lyrics are so close to how I felt last Sunday morning and keep feeling.

Leave me now… before my heart finds out

Well, before you walk out of my life

Would you be especially quiet?

And don’t you let my heart know that you’re leaving.

My brain knew and knows what was best for Toby, a quiet, peaceful and dignified death. My heart doesn’t want to know, it doesn’t want to know he is gone.

Rest in Peace my beautiful guy. I will see you over the Rainbow Bridge.