Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Birthday to The Tonka Unit!

Yeah, I know, I'm one of those goofy dog people. At least I'm not excessive about it. I don't make him eat wear the hat. And really, he's pretty cool with whatever celebration (or lack of it) there is. He's pretty low-maintenance that way.
Doesn't seem like six years since he barreled into the world with all four paws going 7500 rpm. He was the second of his litter born, and I'm pretty sure he was a little bitter about being beaten to the world... especially by a girl! He was also one of the smaller pups of the litter -- only two of his sisters were smaller as puppies. He's still not a huge dog, tipping the scales at 82 pounds but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in heart.

If you've ever whelped a litter of puppies, you'll know what I mean when I say you can almost literally watch them grow. At birth, Tonka was about the size of a hamster -- and not an especially large hamster at that. By the time he was 2 days old, he was approaching the size of a small guinea pig. You can't really tell it from the photos because there's nothing in the second one to use for scale, but in the first photo of the whole litter, he's the little one out there by himself on the left. By the age of 2 days, they couldn't lay side by side like that in a single row.
When the pups were one day shy of a month old, there was a nasty ice storm that brought down limbs and even entire trees. And when trees start falling, power starts going out. Lucky for us we had a wood burning fireplace, a gas water heater, a Coleman stove and lots of D-cell batteries. We closed off the den as much as possible and stayed huddled together for much of the next two days until the power was restored. I was beginning to get a little anxious, but everybody seemed to be warm enough. Anyway, I used the opportunity to take new "portraits" of everyone posing cutely in the woodbox.

By the time they hit 12 weeks, the personalities of all the puppies had surfaced and it was clear that Tonka was the Rotten Little Kid of the bunch. He took a special delight in terrorizing his bigger brother Louie, and ran the rest of the litter ragged. But when he wasn't 11/10 wide open, boy did he sleep well!

By the age of 6 months, he was the last of the litter I had left. The rest had been sent to adoptive or foster homes, but nobody wanted to take the Rotten Little Kid. Which suited him fine because he'd already decided he wasn't going anywhere. I had him evaluated by the US Customs Service for training as a detection dog thinking that would be the perfect job for a dog with his temperament. I would've been right too. Of the five dogs the Customs Officer tested, Tonka was the only one who showed the right stuff for the work. The only problem was he was too young for the school. Too young?? They wouldn't take him until he was at least a year old. I guess because they can't send them into the field until they're at least that age maybe. Or maybe they feel that a younger dog lacks the focus for the training or the work. Whatever the reason, I should have seen the writing on the wall then. Because after raising him from birth to one year, there's no way I could give him up.

I made a show of trying to place him through the rescue, but any time I took him to an adoption event if I tried to hand him off to another handler even for a few minutes he would flip.out. And I don't mean flip out as in whine and bark and piddle on the floor. I mean flip.out. as in yank people off their feet and turn over tables. Yeah. Everybody wanted to adopt my guy. Right.

But now that he's older and settled down, I'm glad nobody else wanted him. I can't say it was easy getting through the first 18 months of his life, but at the end of the day he's the best friend I have in this world.

He's stubborn, sometimes rowdy, always protective. And he doesn't turn over tables any more, but he has been known to occasionally spy a rabbit and forget himself. For the most part though, he seldom strays far from my side, inside or out, on leash or off, earning him the title "VD" (Velcro Dog). And I know no matter what, I'm gonna have at least one friend in my corner with no questions asked.

So what's goofy about celebrating the birthday of a friend that good? I mean really. And if it is goofy? So what. I've never had a friend on two legs this close or this loyal, and I don't imagine I ever will. Because as somebody once put it, "The average dog is a better person than the average person."

So Happy Birthday Knucklehead. And I hope we have many many more together.Stumble Upon Toolbar


Anonymous said...

What a handsome pup! He sounds like a wonderful friend indeed.

DNLee said...

Happy Birthday Tonka! Your guy sounds Awesome. My family keeps dogs - and we're fond of big ones, too - Rotties. Tonka reminds me a little of my Spike - best dog ever. He was a bit like a Mack truck. He fathered a few litters so I know what it's like to whelp and feed and wean a litter of cute, fat belly, busy bodies - so adorable. We found great homes for all of our pups. My mother only let people have pups if they were responsible and made it clear the puppies were OURS, if any thing bad happened she retained the right to reclaim them at ANY time.

great post. thanks for sharing.

Monochrome Friday said...

Cute doggie, you must be a proud owner!

I wonder if you might wanna join our Monochrome Friday meme, this Friday's theme is about Windows/Door.

Catherine said...

Great story about a growing friendship.
It's him who chose you , rignt?

Leendaluu said...

Great post..I'm here from Daryl's place. We have an eight month old yellow lab that is another rotten kid...tried to up end the kitchen table last night...

Carmi said...

I couldn't stop smiling throughout this entire entry. You are so right about a dog's friendship. I'll take my four-legged little man over any so-called human friend, any day.

Despite the fact that I'm an eternal optimist, and always give folks the benefit of the doubt, people never fail to fall short, often maliciously, anytime. Dogs, on the other hand, are always there for a play and a cuddle whenever you need 'em. Coming home to our neurotic pup is a highlight of our day. Every day.

Happy birthday, Tonka! Looks like you both lucked out big time!

My Two Blessings said...

He is beautiful! Or should I say very handsome. Happy Birthday to your Tonka.

Robin of mytwoblessings

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Tonka! I Love Black Labbies! Cosmo celebrated his 3rd Birthday recently, too.

As for WW ....

I have two this week:

As always, I love visitors to my main blog but I couldn’t be wordless today!

Daryl said...

Oh he is so wonderful ... and handsome ... and smart, you can see that in his eyes ..


Kimmie said...

Happy Birthday Tonka!

He looks as happy as ever. I know the *special* relationship the two of you have. I admire the loyalty you have towards him as he has for you. You have been blessed my dear friend. :-)

Give him a *hug* from me.

Kimmie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quixotical said...

He is a truly handsome fellow! Happy Birthday!! And there's nothing goofy about celebrating the birthday of someone so close to you, it doesn't matter how many legs they walk on. :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

so why does a goofy dog post leave me in tears? Probably the love I heard behind the "happy birthday knucklehead...". He is gorgeous!!! I hope he had a great day.

B. Roan said...

Now that is a beautiful boy! My Willie is a black lab mix rescued from the SPCA. He came down with Parvo two days after I brought him home. The vet wanted to put him to sleep, but I couldn't look into that cute puppy face and let him go without a fight. Needless to say, he made it. Velcro Dog...good description. I always say Willie is attached to my left leg. You celebrate away. Happy Birthday Tonka!

Adi said...

Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!
Happy Birthdy Tonka!

Jim taught me that song, he doesn't sing much since they made him leave the church choir (bad ear the director said). So,
Happy Birthdy Tonka!

Ishtar said...

What a cutie he was!! Cutest puppy look at twelve weeks! :-D