Toby (Tobias)

Can dogs be a preferred substitute for children?

Yes, particularly when the person who makes this decision is a childless forty- something post menopausal woman.

I was ready for a schnauzer during the winter of 2003 and after an extensive research, located a newly opened dog shop in Brooklyn which carried one. The owner was a hyperactive, flamboyant Hispanic male who resembled the lead character from the Almodóvar movie, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown…” He was that spastic! His nervous energy, tinged with negativity, for he complained endlessly, was infectious. My heart raced in his company and frankly I could not wait to get away from him but his financially strapped store on Flatbush Avenue had a schnauzer.

Toby was seven months old at the time, longhaired and energetic. When the owner brought him out from the back of store and placed him on the floor, he proceeded to pee and defecate on the display stands in front. A wild dog unleashed! No, not really. He was following the lead of his nose, not interested in my display of cooing and petting or the other end of the hand doing it-me. He was free at last and intended to make full use of his sensory ecstasy. The owner, with his hyperactivity, cornered Toby and placed him on top of a petting stand. Finally, I was able to pet this salt and pepper bundle of not groomed fur as he looked at me through the eyes of a gentle soul.

I did not leave with Toby.

The decision to have a dog was overwhelming.

A second opinion was in need. Was I making the right decision? Was this mini the right one? Was seven months of age still a puppy? I wanted to return the next day with a person whose opinion would cement the deal.

I returned, with mom, my mom.

Toby, again, brought from the back of the store proceeded to mimic his behaviour of yesterday. Mom, my mom said, “No. That dog is crazy. You’re not seriously thinking of bringing IT home? He’s ugly and fat!

Toby left the shop that day.

To say it was an easy transition would be an understatement. Toby’s hidden personality took time to emerge. He left a place where he was confined to the back of a store and possibly kept in a crate most of the time. When we arrived home and brought him out of the car, he was petrified of the outside and refused to move. The traffic noise and feeling the sidewalk on his paws caused him to freeze in place and shake. The owner of the pet store carried Toby to my car when we left the shop so his anxiety was not apparent until later. This also explained his bathroom use in the store-the poor soul never set foot on the sidewalk.

In time, Toby adjusted to the outside world. He began by walking halfway down the block then progressed to a full block walk and eventually crossing streets and continuing on the other side. His nose became accustomed to the marking scents left by other dogs and garbage pick-up days were most exciting and stimulating!  Our first visit to a doggy park brought out his “inner bully” and he refused to submit to bigger dogs, which led to some serious confrontations. In due time, Toby earned his place as the policy maker within the dog pack for he kept dogs in their proper places.

Toby grew into doggy adulthood, went through neutering after humping the leg of a relative and matured into a loving, playful, curious, ratter and backyard squirrel killer (it was accidental on my part-didn’t see the poor thing scourging on the ground before letting Toby out in the yard.

Obviously, another mini was later added to the household who added to the chaos, anarchy, unity and the continuing joy of living with two schnauzers.

The Best Christmas Present Ever-One year later…

The Best Christmas Present Ever  from last year has evolved into the ‘gift that keeps on giving’.

Although I failed to see it due to my emotional state during last years’ presentation of the gift, a snowball effect of changes was a comin’!

Like a snowball, at the top of a hilltop making its descent towards the bottom. Along the way,  snow gathers to its shape and it transforms into a humongous ball of loosely packed snow. At the bottom, it smashes into the bank and puffs of discombobulated snow suddenly infiltrate the air! That explains the impact of the changes in my life and as each puff anchors itself to the ground so has the change within mi alma (my soul).

This precious gift has changed my personal and emotional outlook towards dealing with toxic people or “emotional vampires” as a Face book friend likes to describe them. The ‘gift that keeps on giving’ is responsible for my refusal to allow toxic people to control my emotions or dictate how I feel about myself.

On Christmas Eve, I attended a midnight mass at the Church celebrating the birth of the messiah. Darkness enveloped the church at the start of the mass as an acolyte walked through the pews lighting parishioners’ hand held candles. When the church was illuminated, the procession towards the altar of acolytes, LEM’s and the Rector began. I carried the baby Jesus (large figurine) held up high, to be placed in the manger when we reached the altar and quietly cited a “Don’t drop the baby…Don’t drop the baby” mantra as I took each step. Prior to the start of the procession the Rector gave me sound advice on walking with baby Jesus, “If you drop the baby, you’re going to hell”. (He was kidding of course, or was he?)

Sunday, Christmas day morning, my nephew who luckily missed the start of last year’s, The Best Christmas Present Ever, came for a visit. We exchanged gifts, ate eggs and nana, my mom’s fry cakes while downing freshly brewed Bustelo. It was a nice gathering and my nephew spending time his nana, my mom was thoughtful.

The rest of Christmas day was spent at the Rectory for brunch that consisted of eggs and biscuits, kielbasa, and other foodstuff as well as Bloody Marys, wine and cheese. The Rector did the cooking while the guests carried food from the kitchen and set the table. After the cooking and setting was completed we sat down to eat in an atmosphere filled with warmth and comfort.

It was pleasant and the conversation included opinions on opera, current events, with jokes and laughter and most importantly freedom of expression on my part. No ridicule or silencing of my words from anyone. Finally, relief and enjoyment with people who accepted me for who I am.

This year opened outlets of socialization and connections I did not see or seek before, because I truly believed holidays are spent with family members. Unfortunately, blood ties do not compel one to adhere to ties that bind. Sometimes family members are not the people to be around especially when emotional pain and abuse are the consequences.

The results of my decision to eliminate toxic family members from my life has transcended into understanding and dealing with toxic people in general. I have learned to accept people for who they are and what they bring to the table in regards to emotional and spiritual support and most importantly I am not disappointed when they fail to meet up to my expectations. If their toxicity is overwhelming, I will not deal with it. I move on.

This Christmas was the year of spirituality and sharing the holidays with those who share my faith. Our shared commonality of faith offered me support and encouragement and I am grateful for having that in my first Christmas alone.