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July 9, 2014

Introducing Toby

Only a week after the Assistance Dog day, we collected Toby, our labrador puppy. He isn't a trainee assistance dog, nor has he been rescued: I tried visiting the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and went home heart-broken. I wanted to rescue them all, but realise it just isn't practical.

So on the summer solstice, we went for Toby, our dog for life, then aged 9 weeks. It's taken a while to blog about him simply because his arrival in Duddingston has created so much puppy mayhem both inside and out. Fortunately it has coincided with a period of brilliant weather, so house-training is going really well.

But I hadn't realised how long the 3 weeks of confinement (from first jab to a week after second jab) would seem with a lively puppy who can't be taken out for walks. People say it's just like having a new baby: well in some ways it's harder, because babies stay where you put them, at least at first, whereas puppies gallop about under your feet, get caught in doorways and would escape from the garden if it weren't for my emergency fencing project. Also babies don't have needle-sharp teeth and claws!

Anyway, the grandchildren were delighted at his arrival, especially Amy:

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I'm not sure that the garden will benefit from his attentions. Dogs' colour vision works differently from ours (they have two kinds of cones to our three), but Toby still targets colourful flowers.

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He loves to pretend he's stalking something and probably once we can take him outside the garden he will remind us of our former dog Bramble, whose field skills were formidable.

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He seems to flit between two states - fast asleep and wreaking havoc - with nothing much between. This makes it very difficult to photograph him (and means that any serious work is confined to his sleeps). But I've caught him at rest, unawares, a couple of times:

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Can you see his blond eyelashes?

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July 26, 2014

Toby: the first five weeks

Toby is 14 weeks old today. In the five weeks he's been here, he has put on over 5 kg of bone and muscle, captured many hearts (including ours) and wreaked havoc in our garden, house and lives. He's given us a lot of laughs and cuddles, and although he isn't good for productivity, he is great at improving my overall work/life balance.

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He is curiously reluctant to go for walks, despite the admiration he receives whenever we take him out. People stop on the street to admire him, some even stop their cars to greet him. Many ask if he is an Andrex puppy. How clever of Andrex to cash in on the cute factor and labrador popularity. What those ads don't show you is the needle-sharp puppy teeth. He chews on everything, indiscriminately: shoes or feet, sticks or furniture, garments or flesh, toys or flowers, ice cubes, metal, broken glass and worse.

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Yesterday I took him to the beach at Portobello. He was cautious of the sea, but delighted with the sand and above all with meeting so many other dogs and people. One family kindly gave him a ball, fully knowing that his teeth would puncture it.

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He's a feisty dog, full of energy and fun, and is clearly going to be a dog of character. Just occasionally, I catch him at rest, looking thoughtful:

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August 24, 2014

Toby at four months

Toby has been here for nine weeks. He has spent half of his life with us, and his memories of his mum and his seven litter-mates must be fading. Meantime his impact on our lives has been immense. He is better known in Duddingston village than we are. Workmen from Scottish Water greet him by name and kind neighbours take him for walks and to their houses. This morning he and I were walking in Holyrood Park and a whole coachload of tourists made a fuss of him. The bold Toby, who likes buses, tried to board the coach to be with his fans.

His impact on house and garden has been negative, to say the least: furniture and plants have been chewed, our belongings have been scattered and hidden and Toby stuff is everywhere. This morning, for the first time, his reach extended to the keyboard of my iMac and one casual swipe of his huge front paw invoked features I had never seen before. Nothing that dangles, such as a towel or teacloth, can be kept at a convenient height. We can't keep books in normal-height bookshelves, which Toby has taken over for his toy library:

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Despite our efforts to socialise him, he lacks respect for older dogs and clambers on and pesters them. Here is a very forbearing golden retriever called Ruby, putting up with more than he should have to:

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The TV ads never show you what puppies really do to Andrex, but Toby can trash a whole packet in seconds. Then he moves on to kitchen paper:

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However, just occasionally he will chew something harmless, like a stick, and in this relaxed pose you can see just how much he has grown, still gaining over 1 kg each week. And although there have been many moments of frustration, since he took over my life I have worked less, got out more (short, chaotic walks), spoken to more people (with and without dogs) and laughed more.

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October 19, 2014

Freefall off the Forth Rail Bridge: for Canine Partners

This morning I stepped off a girder on the Forth Bridge and descended 165 feet on a rope. It doesn't sound like much, but it felt a big deal. The reason was fund-raising for Canine Partners, whom I first mentioned in June. Anyway, thanks to wonderful support from my friends and family I seem well placed to raise my £600 target for them: thanks so much to everybody who has contributed.

The scariest part was waiting to get started: registration, kitting out, getting into position. Hanging around patiently has never been my strong point, to put it mildly. Anyway here are the CP fund-raisers, assembled just before we jumped, looking more cheerful than we felt:

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Then there was the long, slow walkout on a walkway high above the bridge. The weather was windy, showery and blustery, and the walkway rather too transparent: we were advised not to look down. (Just after we jumped, abseiling was suspended because of the high winds, so in retrospect we were incredibly lucky to go when we did, or there would have been more hanging around.) The event was brilliantly organised, and the instructions, although minimal, were just-in-time: i.e. just before we stepped over the safety rail they told us what to do.

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Once over the parapet and teetering on a girder, the thunderous roar of a train overhead seemed a mere detail. It was a pleasant surprise to find that I could control my descent speed, and that, despite trembling knees, I did manage to stand up unassisted after alighting on the beach below. And I was so pleased to be rejoining Keir and Toby, and also Sandy, Anna and their three children who had very gamely braved horrible weather to watch.

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May 26, 2016

Delighted damp dog

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This is two-year-old Toby, the epitome of joy. Here is the extreme, exuberant delight of a damp dog who has just been swimming in the Clyde. His afternoon pack walk included a couple of Newfies, his pals Penny and Luka, and half a dozen other dogs. His swim took him out of his depths for the first time ever, and he is very pleased with himself.

Blithely carefree and happy-go-lucky to a fault, he makes us laugh and gets us out of doors to walk and talk. What more can you want of a dog?

Profound thanks to Cowal Canine Services, who not only provided the dog care and the photo, but also thus allowed me to go sailing on the Holy Loch with my friends on a sunny afternoon.

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