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He was such a sweet little puppy. His mum, was part Jack Russell and part something big and black. His dad could have been any one of the farm dogs. He was black and tan and quite lovely. The farmer’s wife took to him straight away and he became her special favourite. Fed with extra special snacks and treats he grew bigger than his brothers and sisters. His coat was sleek and shiny and muscles bulged in all the right places. It was just a shame that he had short stubby legs, Somehow his grand entrance was always let down by his comical look and waddling walk. He loved the freedom of the farm and he hunted every one of the 300 acres. He was a good ratter, being both brave and strong. People never quite understood how he managed to catch all the rabbits that he did. Somehow those legs propelled him fast enough to catch the bunnies! Or, more likely, it was his not inconsiderable intelligence that kept the rabbit population under control. What a perfect life Toby led. Loved unconditionally by the farmer’s wife, free to explore wherever and whenever he wanted and all the rats and rabbits he needef to amuse himself with. As always life wasn't quite that perfect. One of the farmer's sons liked nothing better than to tease. He would tease people until they cried and animals until they broke. That was to be Toby's fate. Right from the time he could open his eyes the farmer’s son made his life hell. He poked him with sticks. He shouted at him and his favourite trick was to drive poor Toby into a corner and laugh as he whimpered and shook. He would pull himself into a tiny ball and frantically try and hide in any nook and cranny he could find. The farmer's son was of course an angel when anybody else was around, The farmer’s wife would wonder why Toby would tremble when he heard voices outside but she put it down to his unknown breeding and loved him all the more as she tried to calm him down. Usually the victims remained quivering wrecks all their lives. Toby didn't. He was small but strong. He knew how to fight and he knew how to kill. He was frightened of only one thing. One day that fear left him. The farmer's son came into the kitchen carrying some milk fresh from that mornings milking. He saw Toby and placed the jug on the table. Picking up a tea towel he deftly twisted it into a knotted terror tool, one of his favourites. He swaggered towards Toby casually swinging the towel from side to side. Toby knew what was coming and he started to tremble. He frantically searched for somewhere to run as had done so many times before.
"Tobeeee", whispered the farmer’s son. "Come and get it sweet one! Something in Toby's brain clicked. There would be no running to day. In fact there would never be any more running away for Toby. Nobody except the farmer’s son and, of course, Toby knew exactly what had happened in the kitchen that day. The change was noticed by everyone. The farmer's son avoided Toby like the plague and Toby never ever let anyone bully him again. In fact he became a very scary dog. If a visitor came to see the farmer's wife Toby would Jump on their lap. The Visitor would sit there like a statue for as long as Toby was there. The farmer's wife wondered why callers stayed for “such a long time” never realising that until Toby let them go it wasn't safe to move. Of course with the farmer’s wife Toby was as loving and as playful as he ever was. Toby was the master of all he surveyed. He grew stronger, but no taller. He would step aside for neither man nor beast. One summerh e took to sunning himself on the farm driveway. A daily visitor was a giant bulk tanker sent to collect the milk. To tiny Toby the eight wheeled lorry was a monster. When it careered towards him blaring its hooter did he run? What do you think? He calmly shifted himself and quietly gnawed his back leg. The huge Lorry screeched to a halt inches from his nose and the furious driver jumped from his cab planning to give Toby a good boot in his rear end. Of course, that didn't happen. For the rest of the summer the lorry would thunder down the drive and pull to a halt in front of Toby. By some sort of unwritten agreement Toby would continue to catch the rays before slowly walking to the house, Then and only then would the lorry complete its daily task. Adults understood the situation and no one wanted to upset the farmer’s wife, who they all loved. Children didn't understand and the farmer was always careful when children came to visit. There were some close calls but somehow nothing too bad happened. That is until the day when it went too far. The boy was not the nicest of boys but he didn't deserve what happened. His nose and lip were not as bad as it looked at first, In fact a speedy intervention by the farmer left the boy with nothing more than a bad cut on his lip. It didn't even look like a bite. There were some harsh words but the parents were friends of the family. The friendship ended that day but no further action was taken.
The farmer’s wife was distraught. How could her lovely little Toby have done such a thing? It must have been the boy's fault. The farmer loved his wife very much but he knew it couldn't go on. She beat him on his chest with her fists, and pleaded with him not to put Toby to sleep. Only 43 years of marriage held them together that night. They had pledged on their wedding right that the sun would never go down while they were angry with each other. They held to that pledge. She asked only one thing and that was “Toby mustn't feel any pain”. The farmer closed his huge hands over her tiny ones, gently kissed her lips and said "I promise”. There were over 300 animals on the farm and the Vet was not only a regular visitor but he was also a friend. He was surprised to hear the request but it wasn’t unexpected. Together the farmer and the vet walked towards the barn where Toby had spent his last night on earth. The farmer’s wife's sobs could be clearly heard coming from the farmhouse. Toby knew at once that something was wrong. He had never been locked in a barn before and his great mind was working overtime. He knew and loved the farmer, not as much as his wife, but he was a gentle man and not usually a threat. He had seen the Vet on the farm many times before and he tolerated his presence. The vet approached Toby. Toby gave a quick flash of his teeth accompanied by a low rumbling growl. This wasn't going to be easy. The farmer came forward but received the same treatment. He could call his wife but he wanted to save her from the pain. Vet and farmer considered the problem. A rope was obtained and a lassoo fashioned. Toby watched with interest and his eyes never left theirs. He was a coiled spring waiting to be released if he felt threatened or betrayed. The vet threw the lassoo and Toby was on him in an instant. Snapping and snarling but thankfully not biting. It had been a very close call indeed. As Toby returned to his safe corner the Vet tried again. It was a clumsy throw but a quick pull tightened the noose around one of Toby's back legs. The scene-that followed was the stuff of nightmares. A ball of teeth and muscle ran round and around the Vet who was struggling to hold rope that held the dog. Instinct or pure self preservation made him throw the end of the rope over a low beam. With one quick tug Toby his hanging from the beam by his back leg. The vet tied the rope off and leapt out of range of Toby’s flashing teeth.
The farmer and the Vet stayed safely out of Toby's reach as he swung from side to side vainly trying to fight off his attackers. Several times the Vet ventured forward with the syringe full of poison trying to inject the fatal close. Time after time Toby frantically drove him back. The noose was tightening on his leg, made worse by the swinging from side to side. He was bleeding and obviously in pain. Was he terrified? We will never know because the only look he was giving was one of defiance. Safely out of range the farmer and Vet considered the options open to them. A shotgun was mentioned but the farmer remembered the promise he had made his wife. Somehow the dog had to be stunned before the injection could be administered, but how? A nearby piece of wood supplied the solution. The farmer picked up the wood and weighed it in his hands. Yes, it would make a good club and it was long enough to keep him safe while he delivered the blow. That was almost right. Almost. Frantically swinging Toby was able to lurch at the farmer who swung the club blindly through the tears. A few glancing blows hurt Toby but didn't stop him. A good blow caught his ribs but didn’t send him to sleep. This couldn't go on. One last valiant effort struck Toby cleanly on his had and within seconds he was hanging seemingly lifeless from the beam. His once sleek coat was smeared with blood and a stream of blood and mucus was running from his open mouth to the floor of the barn. In a matter of moments the injection was administered and Toby's passing was confirmed by the Vet. Together they gently lowered him down and removed the evil rope from his broken leg. The farmer picked up a tuft of hay to clean the blood from Toby’s coat and settled him down to "look peaceful for the Missus”. Farmer and Vet left the barn and as expected there was the farmer's wife waiting for news. Through her tears she choked "Did he he feel any pain?" "No my love, he passed peacefully in his sleep ", said the farmer as he enfolded his wife in his strong arms.