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Beach Trip: In Memory of Toby

By Kevin Wing
Host/Executive Producer, Catch a Wave

Toby(Editors Note: This regular column about Americas best beaches and beach communities is written exclusively for AArisings by Kevin Wing, a two-time Emmy Award-winning San Francisco Bay Area-based television and travel journalist who hosts and executive-produces Catch a Wave. , a new travelogue podcast. Kevin also works at KRON-TV Channel 4 in San Francisco and performs voiceover work in the Bay Area. He also writes another AArisings column, Suite Surrender, which showcases Americas best hotel and resort destinations.)

In Memory of Toby
My Best Friend and the Best Beach Dog in the World
September 3, 1994 September 5, 2007

Early this month, I lost my best friend. His name was Toby, and he was the best dog ever. Although Im very fortunate and grateful to have a close circle of friends in my life all of whom I consider my best friends I was truly blessed when I adopted this very special golden retriever as an 8-week-old puppy almost 13 years ago. He was truly my very best friend.

I know time will ease the pain of losing Toby, but Ill never stop missing him. I still have that sense of emptiness, a hollow feeling that Ive had since the early morning hours of Sept. 5th, when my always-faithful companion took his last breath. Ill always love Toby and Ill never forget him. He brought me a lot of happiness and laughter through the years. Dogs have that gift about them, that unconditional love. Toby certainly had it and then some. Family and friends, and, of course, myself everyone loved him.

For a golden retriever or any dog, for that matter Toby was quite the four-legged traveler. During his 13 years and two days of life, he had visited many places. He was a frequent traveler during vacations. Most were just weekend trips, while others were for a few days or more. Toby had once seen coyote and deer running about in Yosemite National Park. He romped in the waters of Lake Tahoe one summer weekend long ago. Hed been to Santa Barbara and walked along the palm trees that line the beach. He basked in the sun on the beach in the shadow of the Hotel del Coronado across from San Diego.

Toby was a very special dog who loved to travel. He loved going for car rides. And, with some of those rides in the car, I would take him to the beach. How he loved the beach and the fun of dog-paddling in the Pacific Ocean.

One of my favorite beaches is Carmel Beach, so, its no coincidence that it was one of Tobys favorites, too. As you may recall, I wrote about Carmel Beach and its special attributes once before for this column. But, this month, I want to share with you my experience of taking Toby there.

He loved Carmel Beach. Id taken him there so many times that he would seem to get very excited once we started driving down Ocean Avenue in Carmel on the way to the main beach. The great thing about Carmels main beach, at the foot of Ocean Avenue, is the fact that our canine friends are free to roam off-leash. Its a dog-friendly beach. Even so, its also one of the cleanest beaches around.

Once wed arrive, Toby would jump out of my SUV. He was one dog who couldnt wait to bound down the sandy dunes of Carmel Beach to the ocean below. Naturally, other dogs were out and about with their owners, walking along the sand or playing in the water. Today, I recall fondly how fast Toby would run down those dunes to the beach below. When he was younger and free from the aches and pains of being an older dog, it would always make me laugh to watch Toby run to the beach at top speed. Like a bowling ball smashing into pins, Toby would find the nearest pack of tail-wagging, four-legged friends and run right into them, interrupting whatever they were doing. It was always hilarious. Like he loved people, Toby loved other dogs. He loved to play. It was always a fun sight to watch him dart all over the sand at Carmel Beach.

Once hed have his fun with the other dogs, Toby would catch up to me and walk by my side. Wed usually walk north from the big dunes at the foot of Ocean Avenue. Wed find a spot where the water wasnt too choppy or dangerous. He was always ready to jump in the water. With his bright orange water toy in my hand, Id throw it several yards out into the ocean. Almost every time, Toby would locate the toy and bring it back to me so I could throw it out again for him. Sometimes, though, it seemed to me that Toby would pretend that he couldnt see the bright orange toy in the water, even if it was floating right in front of him. Did he have a ploy? My guess was that Toby would want to stay in the water a little longer, like a kid who didnt want to get out of the swimming pool because play time was over.

I loved walking along the beach with Toby. I enjoyed watching him sniff the sea air and chase seagulls. I always smiled when he greeted people walking along the sand. Hed walk right up to them, look up, give them a little sniff and be on his way after they would praise him and give him a pat on the head. Most of all, I loved the two of us walking side by side in the sand. How he enjoyed going to the beach.

After Toby had enough of retrieving his orange water toy from the ocean, wed walk back to the big dunes and find a nice spot to sit down. Ill always remember Toby loving to dig in the sand. Hed dig himself a hole big enough to lay in! Toby was always a smart boy in my mind. If he was hot from running along the beach, hed dig and dig through the sandy dune, enough to find the cool layer of sand below to plop himself onto it.

By the end of the afternoon of most of our beach travels, Toby would be exhausted. Id go through the usual ritual of toweling him off before hoisting him back into my car. Like a kid tired and tuckered out from a day at the beach, Toby would sleep during our road trips back home.

Whether he was going to the beach, to the park or was out in town running an errand with me, Toby loved riding in the car very much. Hed always been a good car traveler from the very beginning, since that Friday afternoon from a November long ago when I brought him home for the first time.

This past August, Toby became ill. Upon taking him to his veterinarian, I was told he likely would only have another month to live. The news was devastating. Toby spent that night at the veterinary hospital. But, by the next day, he was well enough that I took him home.

For the next 10 days, Toby grew stronger. He was his usual playful self, and he had his appetite back. His energy back, too, he was also very eager to go to the park for his regular walks and romps in the grass. Things seemed to be going very well, and Id hoped that Toby would prove his doctors wrong. I guess I was hoping for a miracle, that he would live to see at least one more summer.

On the morning of Sept. 5th, two days after Tobys 13th birthday, I awoke to the sound of his irregular breathing. Unable to stand on his own, I carried Toby to my car and rushed him immediately to his veterinarian. While driving with my left hand, I held his paw with my right hand. I wanted Toby to know that I was there for him, as hed always been there for me. Unfortunately, we didnt make it in time. In his final moments, I felt the touch of either Tobys mouth or his wet nose on my right hand. I then heard his final breath, before his paw went limp in my right hand. His touching my hand was Tobys way of saying goodbye. It was his last car ride. It was the saddest day of my life.

Ill miss Toby forever. He was that special to me. If you have a pet or love animals, I know youll understand what I mean. My little guy gave so much throughout his life. He was loyal, faithful and friendly, and more. He was lovable and a ham all rolled into one, from carrying TV remote controls in his mouth and begging for his favorite treats to walking up to me and putting his head on my lap as if to just say hi, Toby was a wonderful golden retriever. To me, he was a wonderful companion. I learned a lot from the unconditional love he shared with everyone, and me. Theres a part of me that went with him when he took that last breath. Ill always love Toby, and Ill never forget him. I was very blessed to have him in my life. My only wish is that I made him as happy as he made me. Toby was the best friend this guy could ever hope for.

Kevin and Toby

To learn more about the Catch a Wave television show and Kevin Wing, go to www.catchawavetv.com. You can email Kevin and the Catch a Wave crew at catchawavetvshow@aol.com.

Beach Trip
In Memory of Toby

Copyright 2007
All Rights Reserved
Kevin Wing / Toby Dog Productions
Issue 13 / September 2007

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Photo used by permission courtesy of Kevin Wing. Photo copyright by Kevin Wing.