At the age of 14, the Vet advised that it was time to say goodbye to our much loved Dalmatian, Gemma. Her health had deteriorated during her last 6 months and so we understood, but found she left a big hole in our lives. Friends suggested that now we were in our 70’s, perhaps we should try life without a dog and so we tried, from May to October, but we felt there was something missing in our lives. I found Dalmatian Welfare quite by accident on the Web and we wondered if perhaps this was the way for us to aquire a “new friend”. We were visited by Carrie and Maurice Graham-Weall with their lovely Dalmatian Tegan, what a honey she was and what a joy to cuddle a Dally again. In the hope that we had passed our test I continued to search the Welfare page, until I was taken by a dog whose eyes seemed to look right into mine. We have always had a dog in our life, but had always had bitches, but there was something about this dog I couldn’t dismiss.
On a Sunday in October, we found ourselves in a garden centre car park awaiting the arrival of 7 year old Toby. At this point I must commend the band of people who are “Dalmatian Welfare” for they had organised his journey from Bognor Regis to us in Staffordshire in a relay of cars. Our hearts went out to this sad looking lump of a dog, for he isn’t small. Kathy Eardly, who was to hand him over to us, was so gentle and reassuring with him as she introduced us, he just looked so lost. In an effort to help him I sat in the back of the car with him and just cuddled him all the way home. He wasn’t very keen on his food at first, even though we had asked what he was used to and indeed his former owner sent a bag with him. He was overweight anyway, but we didn’t want him to be unhappy, so we tried every which way to tempt him, until at last his eating habits improved.
He settled well at night, although for some reason, he seemed to prefer to squeeze himself into an ancient chair of ours, with wooden arms, rather than the lovely bed he bought with him. True to his write up on the web, he likes people, other dogs and especially children. Our family were surprised and delighted at how he has settled in. We think they were a bit concerned that we might be taking on someone else’s mistake. Toby has come into his own though, at his first Christmas with us, as we had the shocking news that our fit healthy son, aged 48, his job teaching children with special needs, sailing, climbing, canoeing etc, suddenly suffered a stroke on Christmas morning, rendering him speechless and with the loss of the use of his right hand side. This wonderful dog was everybody’s “cuddle cushion”. He was playmate to the children, comforter to us grown ups and seemed to understand our needs.
He has quickly become known in our village. People used to seeing us with a dog, say we look better now with a dog again. He has entered friendly dog shows at the village festival, actually winning a 1st for the waggiest tail (no surprise there!) and a 2nd for obedience! But he so enjoyed all the attention and was ready to go again. We know he used to live with another dog, Chester, and we think Chester may have been the “alpha male” for Toby wouldn’t try and open doors, we had to open them for him. He is learning to do it now though and we are pleased to see that although he is still well behaved, he is showing signs of mischief, and in typical Dalmatian fashion, will sneak food left within his reach. Everyone has learned to get on and eat their mince pies, not leave them within reach of Toby, but he steals so delicately that most people just have to laugh.
So we feel he has settled in well. We worried at first, as he wags his tail furiously in greeting and we thought perhaps it was anxiety, but we are beginning to think it’s just “pleased to see you” as he is so relaxed. His favourite place is the settee. He knows where I sit and when he realises I want to sit down, obligingly moves up to the middle position and there he stays, spreading himself between the two of us. We are grateful to Welfare for finding him for us and congratulate them on the perfect match for us. We do hope that his former owners aren’t too heartbroken and would like them to know that Toby is very much loved here.