Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tosh (May 8, 2002 - September 18, 2010)

Big dogs need big sticks

On Saturday September 18th, the greatest dog in the history of dogs laid down to rest and closed his eyes for the last time. The last few weeks had been tough, and he was ready to put this world behind him. Somewhere in doggy heaven a big, clumsy, goofball of a dog is chasing skunks or snoring, ridiculously loudly, on God's front porch.

Baby Tosh with his two brothers

We first saw Tosh when he was 5 weeks old. He was a discount dog as his future owner was deployed to Afghanistan and could no longer take him. His mother was a 125 lbs, solid black Newfoundland, and his father was the same black and white Landseer variety as Tosh. A winner of countless show competitions, Tosh's father was quite the stud dog, even fathering numerous puppies years after his death--including Tosh.

The breeder had brought the puppies outside for us to see, and locked the big dogs inside to give us a little quite time with the puppies. Tosh's uncle didn't like the idea of being separated from all the excitement outside, and as a sign of things to come he proceeded to lower his head and barrel right thru the screen door and made a bee-line for George. George was a bit freaked out by the big dog bearing down on her, but after a couple licks to the face and some playful bowing, she was quite enamored with the big guy.

The breeder also explained to us that she intentionally breeds smaller, more active Newfoundlands and all of her dogs were about 10-15% below the average newfie size. We thought this was great, as it was temperament and not size that attracted us to the breed, and really we thought the current big dogs she had were certainly big enough. We signed on the dotted line and she told us to come back in 3 weeks when Tosh would be ready to come home with us.

3 weeks later and Tosh had already doubled in size. At 27 lbs he was already a respectable sized dog, and by 6 months he was probably the biggest dog I had ever had. Despite the smaller size of his closest relatives, and the breeder's assertion that she breeds for smaller size, Tosh would end up being quite a bit bigger than than the average Newfoundland--35 inches at the shoulders and an average of 165 lbs.

Yes that is a full sized picnic table behind him

Tosh never quite understood how big he was. He preferred (to usually disastrous results) to play with the little dogs, his favorite spot on the couch was the smallest spot in between two people already sitting there, and he never let things like small openings prevent him from trying to get thru. Once while tied up outside a restaurant, he drug a solid stone picnic table about 8 feet while trying to get closer so some people that were making "Oooohhh he's so cute" sounds but were too scared of his size to get close to him. I couldn't push the table back to its original position.

One of Tosh's favorite playmates was literally 1/10th his size

As part of the puppy training classes we took him to, we were supposed to be able to lead our dogs off-leash thru a simple obstacle course. The course was pretty similar to the ones you see the pro agility dogs run--a small hoop to jump thru, some staggered cones to run the slalom, and an ramp leading to a short elevated platform. Tosh was never a fan of jumping, and generally preferred to keep atleast 2 feet on solid ground, so he simply ran into the hoop knocking it over, and being by far the tallest dog in the class, he slalomed thru the cones by simply walking over them and straddled the ramp and platform to the end of the course. The instructor passed him out of amusement.

One of the rare times Tosh got all 4 feet off the ground

Despite his struggles early on with obedience training, Tosh eventually became the best behaved dog anyone could want. He never chewed on anything, dug any holes, chased cars or any animals (other than skunks, unfortunately), and he only barked on command. Yes he frequently broke stuff, slobbered on stuff, and once while sick and trying to settle his stomach he ate nearly every plant on our newly landscaped patio, but those were not behavioral problems, just big clumsy dog problems.

Tosh makes a good blanket

Tosh spent the last 2 years of his life in doggy paradise. Grilled steaks for dinner, frequent treats from the neighbors, and new dogs in the neighborhood to play with. But as with all of us, age, and size, was starting to catch up with him. About a year ago he tore his ACL and spent a couple months hobbling around in great fear of any steps more than a couple inches high. He eventually recovered reasonably well from this, but age was taking its toll on other parts of his body. After weeks of listlessness and lack of appetite he dropped 20 lbs and was clearly having a tough time. Frequent whimpering and blood in his stool and saliva only made the picture more clear. Cancer and age had, unfortunately, claimed another victim and the world lost its greatest dog.

Tosh doing what he does best

Rest in peace big guy. There will never be another like you.

More pictures of Tosh here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eastern Europe Part 2

[Disclaimer: As mentioned earlier my camera was misplaced in Prague, so all the photos in this post are of the crappy-cellphone variety.]
One of the many amazingly cool statues in Vienna

4 hours by train from Prague, Vienna is the current capital of Austria and the last capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Famous as the city of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Haydn, it is drowning in music halls, operas, and musical history in general. It is also, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in Europe.

Vienna was originally a Celtic city, but pretty quickly came under the rule of the Roman empire, and was even briefly threatened by the Mongolian empire of Genghis Khan as his son Ă–gedai marched the armies across Eastern Europe. After about 1500 years of being part of someone else's empire, they returned to championship form with 3 consecutive dynasties, the Badenberg, Hapsburg, and finally the Holy Roman Empire which later became the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and lasted until 1918, making it one of the most recent empires in Europe. Briefly occupied by the Nazis during WW2, and the Allies for about 10 years after, it very quickly regained its glory as one of the most prosperous cities in Europe.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Due to its long-lasting empires, and relatively benign occupations around WW2, Vienna's amazing architecture and riches accumulated during its time of power remain in really good shape. Rome's riches are mind-bogglingly cool, but being thousands of years old, part of the allure is imagining how magnificent Rome used to be. There is no need for that imagination in Vienna, the city still is that remarkable.


I'm not much for hopping on and off of tour-buses, so we didn't take any "official" tours of they city. We did, however, grab a map from the Mozart tour company, so we spent a day hopping from places that Mozart slept or played music and ended the day with a pretty magnificent performance of some of his most famous works by the Viennese Orchestra. After the unintentionally comic performance of American show-tunes we saw in Prague, this was an incredibly enjoyable performance (and a much better use of 25 Euros).

George Clooney is huge in Europe

Not having much need anymore for all the palaces, summer palaces, and other remarkable creations built just to show off imperial power, many of these amazing constructions are now put to more practical use as libraries, schools, or museums. We visited the Museum of Natural History in the aptly named Museum Quarter, and I think I spent as much time marveling at the architecture and statues of the old palace grounds as I did studying the museum exhibits themselves.

This is a science museum

The main library in Vienna is another of these amazing buildings. Located just behind the parliament in an extremely large and extremely impressive building that probably stressed the ability of lazy royalty to traverse its many steps, it was one of the first buildings in Vienna to have an elevator. While I am sure it was an amazing invention at the time, the lack of doors and the inability to actually stop (to let people load and unload easily) makes it a bit of an adventure for the more modern lazy among us.

cool elevator

Vienna is definitely one of the places everyone should get to at least once in their lives. For more amazingly bad cellphone photos (and videos) of Vienna, and a few from Prague and Berlin, click here. And please do a Google image search for Vienna too, to get much better pictures than my horrible photos here.