53. Toast and the Cowboy

Today’s blob is about Toast — but not the kind my smoke alarm screeches at.

Toast is one of the 13 dogs in my immediate family, and he’s easily the most heroic.

He’s a pure-bred Australian Cattle Dog, a breed noted for courage, intelligence, hard work, and ferocity when it’s called for.

Every cattle dog needs a cowboy.  Toast’s cowboy is my grandson Neil.  Neil doesn’t ride a horse very often, but as one of the youngest licensed big-rig truck drivers in Washington state, I guess you could call him a “cowboy”.

They don’t have a master/pet relationship.  These guys are friends, buddies, comrades.  And if you know Toast, you know why.Toast doesn’t think he’s a dog.  In personality, he’s a cross between Robert Duvall and Clint Eastwood.  Most of the time, he’s dignified in a friendly way, amiable, kind of laid-back, composed, but when a crisis looms, – stand back – he morphs into Dirty Harry.

Toast was born in Eastern Washington.  Granddaughter Josie found an ad about him at a Petco Store in Bellevue.  Shortly after, Neil bought him and brought him home. Toast was 8 or 9 months old – and very stout –  Neil had to carry him up and down stairs.

That was almost 8 years ago and today Toast is a textbook example of how this handsome, powerful breed should look. Neil’s own diet is so wholesome it’s downright sickening. He eats things like spinach, and kale.  (And he wouldn’t know what a six pound bag of Black Forest Gummi Bears even smells like.  Or Macademia Nut Clusters either.).  So it wasn’t long before Toast  acquired the healthy, lean silhouette he has today.

He still loves to eat though.  One time Neil was with some friends and he left a Supreme  family-size, Costco pizza in its cardboard box on the table.  He was only out of the room for about three minutes.  When he came back, the box was on the floor and every crumb of the pizza had disappeared –  inhaled by Toast.

On a more disastrous occasion, Toast ate 24 surgical gloves.  When he discovered it, horror-struck, Neil called the vet and reported what had happened.  “Look, Doctor”, he said, “I don’t have any money.  I’m broke. What can I do?”

The vet said “He’s going to die unless you can get him here or unless you can get him to throw up.  Go to the store and buy at least two large bottles of hydrogen peroxide.  Then call us back and I’ll have my nurse instruct you what to do.”

Neil hurried to the store, and when he came back, Toast was just sitting there pretending like he had good sense. Once he got the nurse on the line, Neil managed to get a total of 3 and a half cups of the hydrogen peroxide down Toast’s throat.  At last, he began retching and eventually vomited up all 24 surgical gloves.  Hopefully, never to dine on latex again.

Toast goes to work with Neil every day.  They work at Quality Towing for at least 50 hours per week, so Toast guards it like it’s his own property.  All customers have to be approved by him before they can be served.  I am certain you wouldn’t want to be a person he didn’t approve of.  Or a squirrel.

One time, Neil drove into a Kid Valley to get a burger.  He pulled his truck around to the rear, dark parking lot.  It was warm so the windows were down and Toast was seemingly asleep on the front seat.  Neil was reading the menu sign, when suddenly the dog leaped into action and started barking ferociously.  Neil got a glimpse of their would-be attacker about two feet away.  He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a knife.  The guy beat as fast a getaway as he could, not willing to tangle with the enraged beast in the vehicle.

Australian cattle dogs are famous for their devotion to their cowboys. My all time favorite story of Toast happened one summer when Neil was at his friend Blake’s summer place.  Neil had locked Toast in a room upstairs.  He and his friends were outdoors on the property somewhere, when, all of a sudden, Toast managed to get himself up on the window of the second story room he was in. He saw Neil and then he JUMPED. Two stories.

Unbelievable – but there’s more.   Neil put him back in the room upstairs and left him again.  But later in the day, Toast got up on the window, saw Neil, and JUMPED A SECOND TIME. Dogs aren’t supposed to jump out of the windows of two story buildings even once.  But TWICE?

Another time, Neil was with friends at Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend. Neil wanted to swim across the lake to a big boulder.  Apparently, swimming is not on the job description for a cattle dog, so Toast wouldn’t swim.  Neil wasn’t sure what the dog would do if he left.  He saw an inner tube on the edge of the lake so he took it, called Toast, and then paddled him across the lake to the big rock.

They were sunning themselves on the boulder when the kid who owned the inner tube, swam up, irate because his inner tube had been “stolen”.  He confiscated it and left.

This left Neil with a dilemma — how to get back to shore with a strong dog who probably can’t swim and who doesn’t like the water.  Neil figured the only thing he could do to get back was to push or throw Toast off the boulder and hope for the best. So he did.

And Toast, as always, met the challenge. If the cowboy could do it, so could his dog. Somehow they both made it safely back to shore.

Toast is very smart.  When you speak to him, you find yourself thinking, “He gets it”.  My daughter Susy says that, typically, intelligent dogs often quietly and firmly form opinions and rules of their own.

One time, Neil couldn’t get back from a long towing run and asked my granddaughter Gretchen to pick up Toast at Quality Towing and take him to her house. Gretchen and my grandson-in-law Joe have three dogs of their own and all three ride in the back seat of their car.  Gretchen put Toast in the back and then went around to get in the driver’s seat.  By the time she got in, Toast was sitting in the front passenger seat, calmly looking at her.  As if to say, “Thank you for driving me in your covered wagon, Miss. But my cowboy prefers that I ride in the Shotgun seat.”

As far as I’m concerned, a dog like Toast should ride Shotgun anytime he wants to.



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3 Responses to 53. Toast and the Cowboy

  1. Gretchen Covey says:

    Thank your for this incredibly inspirational tale of the love between Neil and Toast. Our lives are so blessed by these four legged friends. God’s gift to man kind of his beloved dog is priceless!

  2. Susy says:

    Toast is awesome. Smartest dog I’ve ever met but he is independent and reserved too. There is one thing I really appreciate and admire about Toast. When he comes to our house for a visit and our cocker spaniels start yapping about one thing or another he completely ignores them. Toast knows they are not reliable guard dog material. Toast only trusts himself to distinguish between friend and foe. He wastes no time barking at crows or school kids walking by or imaginary robbers like our spaniels do on an hourly basis but when Toast does bark he really means it and he will defend his territory very seriously. I never worry about Neil when he is out with Toast cause that dog is always protecting him in his quiet dignified way.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I agree, Toast is awesome! It’s really cool how bonded he and Neil are. What great stories they have.

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