Weather Forecast


Tales from the Bark Side: Tenacious Toby

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where another breath taking morning has been delivered upon the wings of whimsy, dancing in the dark before peeking out from behind an eternal horizon.

It is the height of summer, and the dog days are now with us. Just what are the dog days? They are thought to be from early July to late August, from most historians but for our purposes here in the upper plains, they come about late July to mid-August. A quote from Wikipedia declares:

"Popularly believed to be an evil time 'when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies'" -- Brady's Clavis Calendarium

Doesn't sound like a real fun time of year, does it? This week, I have a tale of my own to tell; which may or may not subscribe to the wickedness of the summer madness which ancients claimed to be spurred on by the Dog Star "Sirius." Here's a tale about "Tenacious Toby" the German Shepherd wrecking crew of one.

Many of you may not know my background as it pertains to my avocation; training, breeding, and raising pure bred German Shepherds. I spent two tours in Viet Nam in the K-9 Corps (Sentry/Scout Dog handler) and have taught obedience at the college level. I've worked with and for veterinarians in the past and suffice it to say, I have respectable credentials when it comes to domesticated animals; dogs in particular. You can throw all that stuff out the window on this occasion; evidently Toby didn't get the memo about my expertise. Humility can be found in the most unusual places.

This past Aug. 4, Toby was a year old. He is the grandson of Lara Mee and our champion, Laredo. He has some good genes working on his behalf. Since he was a pup (still is at 95 lbs.) he has been the apple of my lovely wife's eye. He played her like his sister, "Princess Cora" played me; they both bonded with us at a very early age and they are both great specimens of their breed. He loves people and is a perpetual ball of energy. He seems to smile a lot. You will see why in a minute.

I really don't remember when he developed this habit of wrecking his water pail, but it was after he was relegated to an outside kennel.

First, he tipped over the five gallon pail (water weighs 8 lbs. per gallon) and proceeded to swat at it like a batter in the on deck circle does in a baseball game. Maybe he was practicing for better things to come. I took two hasps and secured (loose interpretation here) the handle of the pail to the chain link fence. He tore the handle away from the pail and tipped it over with little effort at all. He was not to be daunted so I plotted against him.

Next I took cable ties (those plastic strips where one end slides through a slit at the other end and locks) and secured the handle of the next pail to the chain link fence again. He chewed through it like it was warm oatmeal. I was beginning to obsess with the not so little pup's kennel games. I began to think he was plotting against me (well, maybe not but it sure sounds like it could have happened). Several months went by, and on a daily basis he found new ways to tip over the water. I even put him in Laredo's old kennel, where the plastic pail was wedged tightly between the side of the building and the ramp which led into the kennel itself. This took him three days to figure out how to lift 40 lbs straight up from where it was wedged ever so tightly (once again a loose interpretation).

I changed kennels once again, drilled holes through the top of the pail and ran a chain through the top of it and secured it on the outside side of the kennel where he could not reach it. He still managed to tip it over and spill the water out. He must have been thinking, "Gee this is so much fun, I wonder what master has for me next?" By this time, the resident expert in canine obedience was getting close to his wit's end. Toby managed to do this out of viewing range of both my self and the lovely wife.

Finally, I had a brainstorm. I know, that sounds pretty scary. I built a box in which the pail could reside and screwed down two pieces of ¾ inch plywood across the top where only his head would fit. The opening would not allow the pail to pass through. Wrong! That was yesterday. The thoroughly chewed through pail laid in tatters on the floor of his latest kennel. Today, I look out the window and I detect a trace of a smile passing across Toby's massive jaw. What will tomorrow bring? Only God and Toby knows.

When it comes to "Logic vs. Instinct," Toby wins paws down in the logic category. I have yet to figure out a way to triumph over a year old puppy that just loves to play with his water pail. When Cindy and I named him "Rosswood's Tenacious Toby" for the AKC registration, we had no clue as how accurate that name was going to be.

If you want to share a tale, and I will publish it here in this forum. Just e-mail me at or write to me at Keith Alan Ross, Richville MN 56576 or phone me at 218-495-2195. Don't let the dogs days get you.

Until next time...