– the standard poodle with attitude.
There are those who say that you can’t be all things to all men. Well, they should have been introduced to my dog. He would sum up a person in 30 seconds, and then turn into the kind of dog that person not only wanted, but also needed.
To my mother Bet, Toss was the gentle dog who would never think of doing anything tear-away; he was my son’s partner in crime participating in all sorts of tear-away activities, my daughter’s main amour, my sister’s assistant in all things, especially cooking, my husband’s chief brown nosing companion and confidant, and as for me – he was my shadow.
It didn’t matter what kind of sport Australia was playing on the other side of the world at whatever outrageous hour of the morning, he would be there at my side. From Rugby to cricket to tiddlywinks, as I shouted joyously; abused refs, and complained about the lack of strategic game play, he would participate, sometimes a little too loudly. Over the last 14 years we have seen live to air all rugby and cricket world cups, ashes, Olympics, etc. We saw all seven of Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins – ALL LIVE. With the seventh victory I explained that this was history. He understood.
The family acquired Toss in Easter week of 1997, and, we lost him this Easter week, 14 years later.
I don’t want to rewrite history by trying to claim Toss was some sort of canine paragon of virtue. He wasn’t. However, his naughtiness found its form in the most delightfully eccentric ways.
Bet came home one afternoon to find him on the kitchen bench. We don’t know how he got there; nor how long he was perched there, but he couldn’t get down. To while away the hours he had consumed a barely used jar of Vaseline. We don’t know how he removed the lid without doing any damage to the jar. He did. For years he had the best lubricated gastro-intestinal tract of any pooch.
At one memorable party the entire contents on a cheese platter disappeared. An announcement that cheese and coffee was being served in the formal dining room resulted in one of our guests coming to inform me that there was no cheese. The dog was a perfect picture of outraged innocence. The small remaining crumb of the skin of the missing entire double Brie attached to his chin was the damning indictment to his perfidy. Costello blue, aged cheddar, and Stilton had also disappeared. At another party he had finished the two remaining slices of Ruth’s famous New York baked cheesecake. This had saved me from the usual dispute among guests as to who was going to have the last pieces. (You think I jest? Not I.)
One year, as a Christmas present, Bet had given me the very large edition of the Macquarie dictionary, weighing in at 22 tonnes. I came home to find that Toss had consumed all of the As and a large section of the Bs. I explained in terms most colourful that this was not the way to increase his vocabulary. He was contrite and didn’t continue into the Cs.
My favourite act of naughtiness was when Toss had the shits with anyone of us. He would steal all the scatter cushions and pillows from all rooms, and build a fortress of solitude in the formal dining room. He would be found later sound asleep in solitude
We had a dinner for him on his last night. My son who was working Sun evening had come to say good-bye in the morning, and we had breakfast at our local restaurant. Darcy ordered a double helping of sausages – just for the dog. My daughter and her partner, Alexis, were coming over for dinner, and I had decided to barbeque sausages – Toss loved sausages, especially pork sausages. He had developed the knack of stealing sausages from a barbeque without burning his nose.
Friends from Brisbane also came to dinner bringing dessert. We had an uproarious night, full of remember whens, what ever happened to …, slanderous gossip, and lots of laughter. Thank God for Pam and her family! She is somehow always around when there is a crisis in ours. Pam’s outrageous humour, as well as her unique view of the world and its inhabitants, has saved us too many times to count over the past 35 years or more.
His last day was spent sitting in the sun while helping me do the crossword, although my heart wasn’t in it. Sophie suggested we go to Petersham Park, our old stamping ground, on the way to the vet. What a brilliant idea! Despite the two-year absence he immediately recognized where we were and tried to bolt, which, of course, he could no longer do. So his last hour was spent happily pottering around a place he felt he owned; catching up with an old Labrador mate, who also looked like he was on his last legs, and greeting our ex-neighbour like a long lost brother.
He died quickly, happily and peacefully – as it should be for one so special.