Today is the third anniversary of my beloved Toni’s death. She was about to turn 14 and I loved her so much it is hard to describe. I just wanted to make a quick post about her and show you some of my favourite photos taken in West Cork about 10 or 12 years ago.
She was a Merle Collie Whippet cross. That’s why she had such an interesting and unique appearance. She had pale blue sections in her eyes (that’s part of the Merle look. You may have seen Merles, they tend to have pale blue eyes and dappled coats and more often than not, they are Collies but can also be other breeds). Toni came from the Dublin SPCA and I got her as a birthday present to myself 17 years ago when their rescue centre was still located at the old Rathfarnam Riding School off Stocking Lane. Back then it was just a few stables and they had room for maybe 10 dogs and some cats.
I went there looking for an adult dog rather than a puppy but to my amazement every single dog was already reserved. I was delighted and inspired rather than disappointed because as I walked from pen to pen looking at one sad, toothless, scruffy animal after another I realised that people had come here, seen these animals and wanted them regardless of their looks, their age, their mange or their lack of “papers”.
So I made to leave and a woman came out before I got to the gate. She asked me had I not seen any dogs that I liked. I said yes, I’d seen plenty I liked but they were all taken. Not so she said, there is one dog who is hiding somewhere that has only just joined the dogs in the pens. A pup. She she brought Toni out. She was the strangest creature I’d seen. So unusual and so small, pale blue eyes blinking up at me. I hadn’t really anticipated getting a puppy (they’re such work!) but she was looking for a home and I was looking for a dog and so I said yes, I’ll take her.
Toni’s story was that she had been dropped into the DSPCA when she was only a few days old. Her mother was nowhere to be seen, the rest of her litter was dead and the staff didn’t think she would make it because she was so young and fragile. So they gave her to a cat that had just had kittens. And this mother cat took her on as though she was her own. So for the first 10 weeks of her life she believed she was a kitten. And because she hadn’t had any experience of puppies as a youngster she never enjoyed the company of other dogs as she grew older. Frankly, she didn’t want dogs anywhere near her. The exception was Pluto, my parent’s dog seen in the background in the photo below.
Adopting Toni in the summer of 2002 was one of the best decisions of my life. Not just because giving an animal a loving home is always, from my perspective, a good decision, but because we loved each other so much. She was my best friend. She was smart and loyal. Having a relationship with an animal is a beautiful world to occupy – a wonderful world inside a much tougher world.
We had each other for nearly 14 years. So, here is to you my beautiful Toni, you were one of a kind and I loved you!