When pundits accustomed to dispensing wise words and memorable musings run temporarily out of gas, they often resort to writing about their best friends—their beloved dogs.
I am no exception. I cannot help myself. Please excuse use of a favorite default. I need an August break, and so do you.
Toby, our King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, turned ten on July 30. Our gift was commonplace: our continued love and pampering. He seemed content.
I hope I can write about him again in December to celebrate our two years of joy with a small dog with a big personality. Whenever we look at him, or take him for one of his four daily walks, we smile.
People stop to pet him. Many think he’s a female because he is pretty. His coat of fur is smooth and soft. He enjoys the attention, but not too much.
Endearing words spoken in the course of being touched are unheard. He is deaf. It does not matter to us. His daily ministrations are unaffected. To delve into a cliche, he feels the love. I could be engaging in anthropomorphism, as owners often do in assigning human traits to animals.
We are concerned about Toby’s health. He has a heart murmur. He has a neurological condition (Chiari malformation) that produces constant itching. He seems to have increasing walking difficulties.
I prefer to be in denial; his absence would be devastating.
We are committed to preserving his quality of life. While we cannot overlook his medical challenges, we selfishly treasure our time with him, and the absolute pleasure he brings us.
My thoughts mirror those of most other dog owners. I cannot speak for cat owners, a role that offers no appeal to me (but I know and admire adoring cat fanciers). We are better people for caring for, and about dogs. We have no compunction to experience and show our unconditional love in comparison with the typically complicated relationships with other human beings.
Like his owners, Toby faces a limited life span. We feel sad about his ailments, addressed with medications and periodic visits to the veterinarian. He is a good sport. He barks very little. He exhibits no moodiness. His calm demeanor is beguiling.
When around our daughters’ large dogs, Toby is mellow and oblivious. He seeks no camaraderie with the Chocolate and Yellow labs. We have begun to avoid his being near the aggressive Yellow Labrador, conscious as we are of his heart disease and aversity to excitement.
If readers perceive that we treat Toby as our only child, they would be right. He has captured our hearts and emotions. Senior citizens compensate for a childless space filled with quiet.
A friend recently called Toby an ideal apartment pet. I suppose that is an apt description. Were we still living in our former Easton home, however, he would still be a huge presence. After all, he rarely leaves my wife’s side and gives me enough attention as I need. I am not jealous.
In recent weeks, I have written about an Annapolis hate crime and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr’s off-the-charts conspiracy theories. “Heavy” subjects, to be sure.
Dogs represent a less complex subject.
As I complete this musing, I feel joyful about a dog bearing a lofty breed pedigree and down-to-earth disposition.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.