Travels with Toby
"Hey Toby, do you want to go on a holiday? Who wants to go on a holiday?"
Toby's ears perked up but his face belied the confusion of a dog with a limited English vocabulary. He knew enough to know that 'do you want to go...' and 'who wants to...' usually result in the best things in life, namely food, walks, and car rides. But he also knew that sometimes these seemingly great things had bad side effects, like the car ride that ends at the kennels or the cheese that is only given after a bath.
Toby didn't know it when we asked him, but 'holiday' was going to get filed under the best things in life. The plan was to rent a cottage near Killarney so Peter could spend a week beefing up his photography portfolio. I'd go with him for the weekend and also take a few days off at the end of the week.
I asked Peter to look for a cottage that allowed dogs so that Toby could have his first holiday. Even though a photography field trip is not a holiday, Toby's a dog, so any day he's outside his usual element is a spectacular adventure. The place Peter found was perfect - an old farm cottage with a cosy stone fireplace. It was up in the hills, at the end of a narrow, pot-holed farm track of a road. (If anyone's looking for a cottage to rent in the Killarney area, send me an email and I'll give you these people's contact information.)
When I let Toby out of the car, he went nuts examining all of the interesting new smells. The stone outbuilding held a surprise, a sweet little farm dog called Rosie. She and Toby didn't quite know what to make of each other and seemed to eventually settled into a sort of doggie detente.
When we could, Toby and I accompanied Peter on his searches for good photo-taking locations. Toby took great joy in hanging his head out the window. He was especially mystified by the jaunting cars and would whip his head back to check out the horses. When we got to a location, Peter would scout it out and Toby and I would dutifully tag along.
Sometimes, Toby hit the jackpot and would get to romp and frolic off-leash. We especially enjoyed Rossbeigh Beach, a fantastic stretch of beach that includes an area of moderately high sand dunes, which give way to waist-high grasslands. Toby and I found a piece of driftwood and played fetch for ages. I'd toss the stick way up into the dunes and Toby would scramble after it.
Then I decided to scramble up after him and chuck the stick into the tall grass. Toby went bounding off after it, excited, but couldn't quite locate it. It took both of us stumbling around in the tall grass to find it.
Other times, Toby had to wait patiently in the car or on the leash for Peter to get his work done. Toby took these downtimes in stride, although his copious sighs and little whinges always let us know what his preference would be.
The best time we had was on our last day when we hiked into the Hag's Glen, near the base of Carrantuohill, Ireland's highest mountain. The hike had just about everything a dog could want - bogland to squish through, rocks to scamper over, sheep to watch, and rivers to cross. You may remember that we used to have trouble with Toby and sheep. I had grave reservations about using the shock collar to train him to stay away from sheep, so Peter took care of it.
The training didn't take very long at all. A few shocks and Toby quickly figured out that as fun as they looked, sheep were not worth it. He's now quite reliable around sheep. He knows exactly where they are. He knows exactly how much he wants to chase them. But he knows exactly how wrong that would be and that Bad Things would happen. I don't know if I'd trust him 100% if he were by himself, or even if it were just me and him, but when Peter is around, Toby knows where his place is regarding sheep.
About the only thing that the hike to Hag's Glen did not have was a supply of sticks. Toby searched for one, but since there are no trees, it was pretty difficult to find a stick. He did find a nice specimen of bog oak, but that was fairly big and well-rooted. When we got to the flat plains just before the two lakes in the glen, Toby found some burned up firewood that he thought would do nicely as fetching sticks. In actuality, well, not so much. The sticks just disintegrated and left black cinders everywhere.
In the evenings, Peter would build a fire and we would relax after a long day of work (for Peter) or scampering around being silly (for Toby and me). Toby enjoyed the warmth of the fire, but was quite suspicious of the sounds it made, especially the periodic crackles and snaps. And he really didn't like when the wood would give way and collapse.
This wasn't just Toby's first holiday. It was also our first outing with a dog. Sure, we'd take Kodiak and Caper to visit my family in Ohio, but that's not quite the same thing as a holiday or photography field trip. Having him around increased the fun of the outing exponentially. You couldn't help but feel happy when you saw the absolute joy he had running unfettered and exploring new smells and sights. I cannot wait until the next time we can take Toby on holiday.