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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Toga; Two weeks After

It's been nearly 2 weeks since Toga's passing, and it's still hard to talk about him, or look at a picture of him and not want to pet him or imagine he's still laying on my front porch.  Everywhere I look, there are his things, his pictures.  Even in my classroom, I wrote a story about him, and my class of kindergarteners had to revise my writing to make it better.  It is on my wall, as a reference as to how to revise.  His stuffed animals are tucked into corners of our Victorian house. His big cozy bed is now Guppy's.  His photographs are all over the place.  Pictures of him in Europe, pictures of him with our newborn children, pictures of him with all four of us.

Guppy seems to be alright, but is confused at meal times.  We always fed Toga first, and Guppy patiently waited for his meals.  Now when it's time to eat, he hasn't been eating.  I don't know if it's because he's still waiting for Toga to eat first, or what... But I think Guppy even misses him.

Guppy has been our lifesaver.  All four of us have turned to Guppy for comfort.  But Guppy will never be Toga.  There can only be one Toga.  Toga, the dog who wasn't really a dog.  The dog who was so human-like with his emotions, so human-like with his intelligence.  And then there's Guppy;  the dog who chases his balls, can't learn a new trick after 3 weeks, barks at everything he hears outside, and is just a dog- yes, Guppy is your average, run of the mill dog.

Toga's vet has yet to call us about picking up his ashes.  We talk about putting them in the front yard garden, or in the backyard.  I think that will be a hard day, since it's almost like putting closure on a dog we loved, and who loved us back more.

I have never gone through a death of a pet.  Toga is my first pet.  I don't know if deaths of your pets get any easier after experience...maybe they don't.  I tell myself that it's harder for me, since I have  never grieved for my pet.  My best friend.  My buddy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Toga's Obituary

Saratoga Silver Starr Walz, AKA  Toga, was born on March 30, 2000 in a small town outside Portland, Oregon.  His mother, Oreo, and his dad, Butch were there to welcome him into this world.  When Toga was about a month old, Tim and Stacey Walz visited  his breeder's house, and had to make a decision to bring one of two males from Oreo's remaining litter.  One playful puppy kept licking  Stacey and jumping into her hands, and another shy puppy, after being held, would quiver to the corner, his little butt the only thing Tim and Stacey could see.  But this shy pup was a beautiful puppy.   He had perfect  Boston Terrier markings.  Tim told Stacey he wanted the shy puppy because of his perfect markings, and Stacey kept playing with the outgoing puppy, not convinced that picking a beautiful puppy was the only reason to get that shy little guy.  But then the breeder told Stacey and Tim that the shy guy was the runt of the litter and he was often teased by his brothers and sisters.  It was then, that Stacey decided to get this beautiful shy runt of a Boston Terrier.  They proudly told the breeder that his name would be Toga for short.  Because he came from champion show dog lines, they could register him, so they gave him the name Saratoga Silver Starr. Saratoga, after Stacey's hometown, and Silver Starr, after a mountain in Washington State that they camped at.

Tim brought home Toga on Stacey's last day of teaching for that year.  Stacey had the whole summer with Toga.  That summer, she trained him.  Even though Toga was her very first pet, Toga was easy to train.  He quickly  learned how to sit, stay, give five, and later would learn to dance, play dead and stay still with a treat on his nose.  Many strangers would often ask Stacey where Toga was trained, and that was always one of Stacey's biggest praises.  Stacey put all of her love into this dog;  she had suffered an emotional and painful miscarriage just weeks before Toga's birth, so Toga was slowly healing Stacey and Tim.

He was a very gentle, sweet dog, who absolutely loved Stacey and Tim.  Stacey and Tim took Toga everywhere those early years.  They found hotels that would allow dogs, and their favorite place to vacation was Cannon Beach, Oregon, where dogs were allowed to run off of their leashes.  For three years in a row,  Toga was entered in the Cannon Beach Dog Show and won the following:  So Ugly, It's Cute,  The Doggy Dash, Best Smile and Best Trick.  He also won a dog show in downtown Vancouver,  Washington, where he proudly did all of his tricks, and won first prize.

He enjoyed hikes around LaCamas Lake, the Columbia River and the park-like setting in his first home in Vancouver, Washington.  Everyone knew him in the neighborhood.  When Stacey returned to teaching in the fall at Mill Plain Elementary,  it would be her first year teaching kindergarten.  She would often compare her students to Toga, because both her students and Toga had to learn everything and had to be trained.  Having Toga made Stacey an even more patient and caring teacher.  Her classes for the next 13 years (this Kindergarten class from 2000-2001 is now graduating from high school this year) would learn all Toga's funny stories.  Stacey would often write about Toga during her Writer's Workshop.  When Stacey taught at Illahee Elementary, she brought Toga to the Welcome back BBQ and Tim even brought him to her classroom as a class treat.  Stacey will always remember Toga running into the classroom, and jumping into her lap, as she was sitting in her teacher chair in front of her students.

His favorite activities included laying in the sun, taking walks and hikes, camping, and playing with his stuffed animals.  He would take his animals and suck on them as he napped or as he was relaxing.  His first stuffed animal that he did this to was a bird, so from then on, all his stuffed animals were called "Birdies."  They were like his pacifiers.  All of his life, he enjoyed all of his Birdies, including his turtle that went from country to country when he  moved to Germany.

In 2002, Toga's life changed.  Riley was born, and he was no longer the only child.  And later in 2004, Maggie was born.  Even though Toga was never mean to his  "brother" and "sister," he was very indifferent to them.  He would tolerate them, but he much preferred the company of Stacey and Tim.  When Riley or Maggie had to be fed a bottle, Toga would often sit on Stacey's lap, to maybe say, "Don't forget about me, you know."

Toga's early friends were Bitsy, Tim's parent's dog, and Sparky, the neighbor dog.  He was sociable with other dogs, and loved to play with these two dogs.  In his later years, he often preferred the company of adults than other dogs.  At family gatherings at Stacey's parent's house, he would often sit with the people, while the other dogs in the family ran all around.

In 2004, Stacey and Tim moved back to Stacey's hometown.  At first, living in a furnished apartment in downtown Saratoga, and then later, buying a house in the village of Ballston Spa.  Toga, with all of these moves, quickly learned that "home" was where his family was.

Family vacations, and bringing Toga, were always planned.  The family would plan trips to Lake Champlain,  Rainbow Lake and Cape Cod, and Toga came along.  Camping with Toga was easy too.  Toga would always stay close to the fire and tents and to Stacey and Tim.

In 2010, Toga became an international dog.  Tim took a job in Germany, and Toga came along, because he was a member of the family.  Tim's company paid for Toga to fly, paid for all the additional charges like the pet health certificate.  Toga flew in the cabin, and had a special doggy bag.  He did a great job flying on that long day of traveling.

While in Germany, Toga enjoyed the freedoms that dogs have there.  Dogs were allowed on public transportation, in malls, in stores, and most importantly, restaurants!  He was even served sausages in the restaurants, along with a water bowl.  Whenever the family could allow it, Toga would travel with them.  His vacations included traveling all over Germany, including castles.  Driving through the Alps and traveling through Innsbruck, Austria.  He traveled all over North Italy, including Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre.  He was on a gondola in Venice, traveled all over Tuscany, and hiked the famous paths along the Mediterranean Sea in Cinque Terre.  He took trains that traveled around Germany.  He even took a long train trip to Vienna, Austria.  His favorite was a RV trip that the family took in their last month living in Europe.  They traveled to Amsterdam and throughout Holland.  He took boat rides in Amsterdam's canals.  He ran on the Belgium coast and traveled through Luxembourg.  His favorite trip was probably the trip to the Baltic Sea, in which the family spent 4 days in a coastal town, that included a dog friendly beach.  Toga was so happy.

Coming back to Ballston Spa was a difficult transition for all members of the  Walz family, including Toga.  Toga wasn't allowed to be with the family in stores and in restaurants, so he was finding that he was left alone quite often.  In April 2011, after a night of rapid breathing and panting, Stacey took Toga to the vet to learn that  Toga had congestive heart failure, and his lungs were filled with fluid.  He was put on special heart medication and Toga's vet, Dr. Sarah, told Stacey that Toga would most likely only live for a couple of months.  Stacey was devastated;  she couldn't imagine her life without Toga.  Each day after that, seemed like a gift.  Then in July, Toga was diagnosed with diabetes and a liver condition.  Now Toga had to be given insulin twice a day, and be given a liver medication each day.  Now, on 3  medications, Toga was slowly declining.  Dr. Sarah, once again, warned Stacey that Toga's days might be winding down.  In August, the family decided to rescue a French Bulldog named Guppy.  Guppy and Toga were friendly toward one another, but still, Toga preferred the company of Stacey and Tim.  Guppy was finding that he loved playing with the children, and he respected Toga, and maybe even knew Toga wasn't always feeling so great, and took his time with Toga.  The family celebrated Christmas, and considered it a gift to have Toga celebrating with them, as usual.  Past Walz Christmas cards graced their walls, and all of their cards included Toga in them.  And this year's Christmas photo included the new Guppy.

Toga had his good days and his bad days, and Stacey was often confused about Toga's quality of life, since he was still walking and seemed happy.  In March, Toga lost his hearing.  The family noticed that he wasn't responding to them coming home, or wasn't coming when called.  And shortly after losing his hearing, he seemed to be going through some doggy dementia.  Toga has lost a lot of weight.  He celebrated his 13th birthday on April 30, but shortly after, the family knew that their time with Toga was down to days.  On May 10 on a vet visit to confirm their dreaded realization, they decided it was time to put Toga down.  On the rainy day of May 11th,  Stacey and Tim said goodbye to sweet Toga, as he breathed his last breath before entering doggy heaven.  He went so peacefully.

Toga's survivors include his family:  Stacey, Tim, Riley, Maggie and Guppy.  His grandparents:  Lorraine and Jim, Joyce and David.  His special friends:  Cindy, Marijo, Kelly, the Grahams, the LaGoys- who all doggy sat  Toga.

For those who knew him, loved him.  Many people that Toga met decided to have Boston Terriers as their pets.  Even the family's substitute mail carrier got a Boston Terrier because he loved Toga so much.  And a couple that would walk nightly by the house got a Boston because they loved Toga.

The family would like to thank Mandak Vet, and Dr. Sarah and Dr. Teddy and all of their staff,  who have helped the family for the last year during Toga's diseases.  They have seen Stacey cry the most, and Stacey always felt Toga was getting the best care.

But most importantly, the family wishes to thank Toga.  Toga,  you have taught us so much.  To smell the roses.  How to care for something-  you made us better parents, because we got to "parent" you first.  You taught us patience, and how easy it was for us to care for something else.  Toga, your love in that first year really helped me to heal after my  miscarriage.  And moving to Germany with you, you were the reason I took walks in my neighborhood.  You got me out of the house on those days when I was feeling bored.  You brought us so much happiness with your goofy ways, and I know you loved me as much as I loved you.  Your love for me was unconditional.  Everyone knows you loved me the most, and you loved your mommy.  I needed you as much as you needed me.  And I know on May 11, when you went to Doggy Heaven, you needed me to say goodbye to you.

Rest in Peace sweet sweet Toga.  We love you, and you will remain in our hearts forever.  You can have the crazies again in heaven, sweetie.