Monday, November 9, 2009


I guess you never forget those four legged friends that leave this life . Am I ever going to stop missing him? His name was Tonka. He was our first Boerboel. I confess I was nervous about getting him. I grew up in a home that never allowed any pets in the house. I was excited to have my own dog in my own house, however, when the day came to pick him up I was nervous. What was it like to have a pet of your own? We researched and pondered the perfect breed for us. We knew we wanted a large breed that was great with kids, but also a great guard dog. My husband brought him home and placed him in my arms. I was right to be nervous. It was scary to love a creature so much.

We were newly married. I found myself alone quite a bit as my husband began his quest in becoming a firefighter for his dream station. Tonka sat while I put on my makeup in the morning watching me in the mirror. He followed me from room to room never leaving my side. He would have these moments of energy where he would run and run around our tiny little condo and make us laugh. We couldn't wait to give him a bigger house with a yard to really run in. The husband took him to work with him at the wood shop every day and the two became inseparable. He was our first dog together. He was my friend and my guardian when the husband was away. On our walks if someone shared the same sidewalk he would move in front of me placing himself as a barrier between me and the stranger and sat until they moved on.

Then one day we couldn't go on walks together and there were no more bursts of energy around the condo. He started with falling down a lot and then progressed to barely being able to move. He was the pick of the litter. He gathered crowds around when we took him out because of his size and looks. Suddenly we were helping this 130 pound dog walk. We got the diagnoses that he had Wobbler's disease. We knew it would only get worse and there wasn't a cure, but we couldn't imagine not having that sweet big face every where we went.

One sad afternoon we knew he didn't want to be around anymore. There is something so humbling and awful watching my husband a stereotypical firefighter lifting his best friend into the car for the last time. With tears in our eyes we silently drove him to the vet. I am the emotional one and yet I had the be the strong one. I signed the paperwork and watched as the two came to an understanding of what was necessary.

I thought it was supposed to be peaceful. We knew it was necessary, but it didn't seem right lifting this large dog to the table and having him look at us with such trust and love. We did make the right decision for him, but it wasn't peaceful. My husband, still dressed in his firefighting uniform was eye to eye with him, whispering" you are such a good dog, you are such a good boy, it's OK......." Then the tears really started to fall. This sight was new to me. Never had I loved a pet so much and never had I seen my husband so sad and not ashamed to show it.
"He is gone now, take your time to say goodbye" said the vet.

That was it. No more Tonka. At only 18 months old and larger than life he instantly became just a memory. He left a permanent paw print on our hearts, but he just barely tasted life. We have the bigger house now with the large yard and often I think of him and wonder what it would be like for him to experience this with us. I feel bad comparing Africa to him, but it is hard not to sometimes. All dogs have different personalities and his was pretty awesome. I guess we never forget. If I had to pick just one thing about him that I really do miss is the image of him sitting in the front seat of the car with the husband tall like a human as they drove off to work. It was like they were two men carpooling to work together. He would often look over at Josh and then forward again like they were having a conversation. If he could talk to us now, I think he would say
"I can run now, don't be sad."

What is your favorite memory of your first pet?


  1. Oh what a great post! Mom said her Boston terriers Chip and Ziggy. They pulled huge branches around to play.They were her best friends
    Benny & Lily

  2. How well your love of Tonka shines through in your beautiful post!!! We never forget them, not ever. Our Dad was the same way with Dakota. Mom knew she would not be able to hold it in but she was so surprised to see how the tears fell and the sobs came from Dad when time came to say good bye. It is never easy but we do always have our wonderful memories.

    Hugs, the OP Pack, still missing our sweet Dakota

  3. But he is there...

    I'd expekht sometimes he's the one giving Afrikha ideas!

    PeeEssWoo: Mom says thanks very much for sharing this special story along with doing the right thing for him - albeit a very hard thing...

  4. poor puppy... at least he had as much love as possible in his 18 months of life... glad you were there to give it to him... you've inspired me to blog about our akita that we had to put down a year ago...

  5. Losing my sled dog Yogi at 6 years old to cancer, was so took me years to accept it. He was so perfect. It's hard to lose an old many memories. But when you lose a young dog like Tonka or Yogi, you just feel so ripped off. I think we are all given our special dogs for a reason. God knew Tonka's time on earth would be short and so you guys got him to give a lifetime of love in 18 months.

  6. What a beautiful story. It does remind you how precious time is because we never know how much time we have. And our animals allow us to just show our emotions so easily, even when we have been taught to keep them inside.

  7. We never have enough time on this earth with those we love - whether they have two legs or four.
    Tail wags,

  8. Awe gees chick.. that had me in tears... I think you did so well especially as he was your first dog.. I grew up with them as a child and when my first (candy) died IO was inconsoluble (sp) my dad told me to pick a star in heaven and thats where Candy was watching us from... didnt make sense but didnt have to for a child.....and it helped...

  9. omg, i was not expecting that. So sad and touching.... I've had pets before, but I don't think Ive LOVED a pet as much as Darwin now that she is truly MY pet. I don't know how I would deal with losing her, especially at 18 months! Im glad you have Africa now, and think it's natural to compare the two. And Im sure you dont love Africa any less just because hes not Tonka.

  10. I don't remember our first dog very well, I was very young when she died. Her name was Buffy and she had an enormous bark that could be heard throughout the neighborhood.

  11. sheesh, Kasha, didn't see that one coming! had to discretely leave my desk ( in an open space office) to go wipe tears off my face... Tonka sounds totally awesome! The price of love is pain - but it is worth it, I think.
    Our dog at home at my parents house was my first, Ingo, a male german shepard. We have so many fun and loving memories of him.

  12. Your post in memory of your sweet dear Tonka made me cry. Huskee is the first pet that Mark and I shared.. he is our first 'child' in a way cos he taught us all about bringinig up a 'little one' I am glad he is still with us today, and I love him so much. I always told Mark that Huskee is the 'love of my life' and if he and Huskee fell into the sea, I'd save Huskee first. :P

    Tonka is adorable.. Africa too, but she's got big paws to full!! (looks like she's succeed anyway since she's now got herself a 'lover'!!)

  13. What a moving tribute! The memories will always remain.

  14. love that tribute and Tonka was and is still so loved....thank you for sharing and the pain will lessen and it's good to remember


  15. Such a short time to spend with Tonka. You will never forget him. My Angus was the first dog my husband and I had together and he will always have a special place in our hearts. He was a real warrior, but also a total love and absolutely a momma's dog. So many great memories.

    Mango Momma

  16. What an awesome tribute to your beloved Tonka (yes tears are flowing). He sounded like a wonderful boy and to go so young is just heartbreaking. He knew he was loved you can totally tell. And he is looking out for you waiting to see you again.

    You've heard several of my memories of Patachou. At night he slept on the bed with me, and the other 3 dogs and 1-2 cats lol. Thing is he would lie up close to the top so he could touch me. I normally would fall asleep either either with my hand on him or his paw on me.


  17. Oh my goodness, I am crying. How sad to lose a pet but even harder to lose one so young. He sounds like he was such an amazing boy that had your hearts. Glad you can remember good times with him.

  18. My memory like yours doesn't have a happy ending either. My first dog that was ALL MINE I brought to show and tell in kindergarden. The very next day my teacher stopped over to my house and left with my dog. I guess my mother and her had talked during this show and tell session and decided she could have my dog since my mom had two infants at home and the dog was too much. I never bought another show and tell again ... I kid you not!!! I gave my mom a hard time until the day she died about it!!! I teased her later in life I should of brought her for my SHow in Tell instead of the dog.

  19. River's mom:
    It's been about 20 years since I lost my first beagle, Ghillie, and, no, the pain is never less. I just don't think about her all the time or cry constantly like I did for almost 6 months after losing her. Her name means 'follower of a chieftain'--I had her 9 years (half a beagle's lifespan). She died of lymphoma. She followed me just as Tonka followed you. I took her everywhere and told everyone she was my 'symbiote'. We were never apart until that last day.

    I can see how you loved Tonka. I know the depth of that love. Your post celebrated his life beautifully. I also appreciate a chance to remember my Ghillie. How lucky we are to have had them in our lives!


  20. Your post has us in tears. What a lovely tribute to Tonka and what a lucky boy he was to be so loved, enough for a lifetime. I've so far been fortunate enough to not have to put a pet down but one of my Cocker Spaniels Muffin and my cat Beauty have died natural deaths. The heartache is similar to yours because the love is the same. I thought I could never love another pet the same way but I eventually did. It takes time. Each animal is so special and endearing. They never replace the ones we loved before but we have room enough in our hearts to love again

  21. We just tried to post before but we're not quite sure that it worked...
    You left us all teary over here with this beautiful story of Tonka. May he run wild and free wherever he is now. What a dreadful disease, we know of Great Danes that have it too.
    Africa, please take good care of your family!!

  22. Oh that was so sad. Misery can't think of anything to say because she can't see properly now :(


  23. Thank you for sharing your memories of Tonka with us all. Love knows no boundaries.

  24. Hey Kasha
    What a beautiful tribute to the memory of Tonka! Thank you for sharing helps others who are perhaps in the same boat.
    I have also allowed a few animals to go peacefully. Always remember that it is an act of ultimate love for your animal - never easy, but necessary.
    Take care and lotsaluv
    MAX's mom in SA

  25. BARK! Mommy's eyes are leaking again. My brother Max went to the Rainbow a few months back. She says her heart had heeled, but it is still sensative. Her favorite memory of Max was his happy smile and ALWAYS ALWAYS wagging tail. No matter what, his tail was wagging. I am not so happy. BARK! Sasha the Princess

  26. Thank you for sharing Tonka with us. Get me a a box of tissue now! Mom's face and nose are all red and tears are flowing. If you don't count family pets, I am Dad and Mom's first pet. Thanks for reminding Mom to treasure each day with me, be it good or bad. Love, Dino