Toni Dog Pasternak
February 14, 1988 - October 18, 2000
Toni was a pound puppy from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. (As a pound puppy, Toni highly recommended that all humans read The Adoption Option by Eliza Rubenstein and Shari Kalina, an excellent guide to choosing and raising a shelter dog.) She was initially adopted by our neighbors, the Pruschowskys. We met the Pruschowskys because Toni kept escaping and visiting us; we kept taking her back. One day they asked us if we'd be interested in having her move in with us. ("She's too much for the children." Hmm. We think it was the opposite.) We'd been thinking that Levi might like more company, so we agreed to a one week trial. Toni stayed for almost 12 years. Levi and Toni became great friends. Toni was, of course, the best girl-dog in the whole world.
Toni enjoyed playing with Levi. Dave had never seen dogs playing together, so when Levi and Toni would start wrestling in the living room, Dave got nervous. Soon, he was used to it. We knew that they played when we weren't home, because we'd come home to find the kitchen table (and the oval braided rug upon which it was situated) by the bathroom door instead of in the middle of the room. Toni was a bit of a toy-monger. When Levi would pick up a Nylabone, Toni would go take it. Levi, being the gentle, laid-back guy that he was, never retaliated. We tried giving each of them their own Nylabone, but Toni didn't want any old toy; she wanted the toy that the other dog had.
Toni loved humans, too. Though she liked everyone (except one nasty neighbor whom she and Levi totally ignored), Toni chose certain special friends throughout her life. The first time my father visited us after Toni's arrival, Toni sat at his side and stared at him for hours. It was unusual, because she didn't bark or bat at him; she just stared. With others, she would bark, nose, or bat with her paws for proper attention. Her first neighbor-friend was Walker Larimer, our next door neighbor. Walker kept an immaculate yard, so he was often out working in it. Toni would go to the fence and bark until he came to pat her. She had him very well trained. After Walker moved to Ohio, Toni focused on our new neighbor on the other side, Inge. If Inge wasn't at home, Toni would stare at her door as if to will her there. Interestingly, when Inge moved away, Toni knew it; she never stared at Inge's door again.
Toni had a special way of greeting everyone who came into the house. She walked right up to people until her nose ran into them, then she bounced back and sat down. The only problem with her approach was that her height made her nose land in a less than ideal place on most people. And if you managed to get past her coming in the door, she'd come at you from behind. Occasionally, someone wearing a long skirt or coat would get past her completely. Thankfully, our friends found it amusing and realized that they'd not been properly greeted until Toni goosed them.
Toni was an extremely observant girl. She noticed if anything, anywhere, was different or out of place, and she shared the information with anyone within the sound of her bark. Barbara Larimer hung some laundry out to dry in her backyard once, and Toni told us about it. After we replaced the air conditioning unit, Toni did a classic double-take and then told us about it. Two of our neighbors took out bushes near the sidewalk without asking her permission, so Toni told them about it. When Toni first joined us, people thought she was a bit of an airhead. Later, we realized that she was very smart AND she was running the household. She never missed a thing.
One morning in 1998, Toni began limping. We took her to visit her vet, Dr. Terri Levinstein, and xrays revealed severe hip dysplasia and arthritis. She was started on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for pain, but I recalled hearing that hip dysplasia and arthritis respond well to acupuncture. Luckily, we knew just where to go!
For seven years, Toni's regular vet had been Jordan Kocen, DVM. When we met Dr. Kocen, he was beginning to explore alternative and complementary treatments. Toni responded well to Chinese herbs prescribed for skin problems she had in her younger days. In 1995, Dr. Kocen moved from a general care setting to a strictly holistic practice in a veterinary referral center. Toni started acupuncture treatments and responded extremely well. We were able to significantly reduce the medication she required while maintaining her comfort and mobility. Toni continued regular acupuncture treatments for 2-1/2 years. We're convinced that acupuncture contributed significantly to her comfort and mobility for the rest of her life. To learn more about alternative and complimentary veterinary medicine, visit AltVetMed. Toni also received wonderful care and attention from Terri Levinstein, DVM, and the other vets and staff at Dale City Animal Hospital.
Dave and I were devastated by Levi's death in July 1999, and Toni missed him, too. She had a health crisis a week after his death but pulled through. She was more like her old self two weeks later, but suddenly wanted to make friends with every dog who came near the house. She even made friends with the cat across the street! We hesitated to add another dog to the family, though. We were concerned about her fragility and thought she might not want a younger dog around all the time.
One day, I was crusising the 'net and found the website for Lab Rescue of LRCP, Inc. The non-profit organization, run completely by volunteers, finds new homes for Labs in need. Dave and I decided to try fostering. Toni didn't seem to object. She ignored Lucy, our first foster dog. Lucy was with us twelve days before going to her new home. Within a day, we were asked if we could pick up a new foster dog named Sam. The poor guy had been in a boarding kennel for three weeks after spending three weeks in a shelter; he'd been jailed for a month and a half! We brought Sam home and took Toni outside to introduce him. Her tail started wagging like mad and she pulled at the leash to go greet him. Toni and Sam engaged in the usual sniff-fest, and each seemed delighted to meet the other. When we headed for the door, Sam let Toni enter first. Sam seemed to know he needed to be careful not to jostle Toni. He waited until she went up or down the stairs before he took his turn, and he never crowded her at the door. Within a few days, we knew Sam was staying. With Sam around, Toni became more active and seemed happier than she had since Levi's death.
Toni and Sam became friends, though they didn't play. Toni hadn't played with another dog in awhile due to her arthritis and hip dysplasia, and Sam seemed clueless about playing with dogs anyway. Once or twice, though, Toni would trot across the living room and take a swipe at Sam with her huge right front paw. She'd cock her head and look at him, but he'd just look confused.
Toni died October 18, 2000 after a very brief (less than twelve hours) illness of unknown origin. We miss her terribly, but we're grateful that we had almost 12 years with her and that she seemed happy and comfortable until the end.
Toni's Favorite Websites
Levi's Page - A tribute to Toni's big brother
Last updated 07 March 2004
E-mail Bobbi at NurseBobbi AT cox DOT net.
© copyright 2000-2004 Bobbi Pasternak