Friday 23 August 2019

My Pet: Londoner Toby is a country boy at heart


Aoife Barron

Toby, a Spaniel/Labrador/Retriever cross, originally belonged to my neighbours in North London, whom I used to help out by taking him on walks and day trips at the weekend, and the occasional sleepover.

Toby wasn't a city dog by nature and in London he became something of a scavenger to relieve his boredom. Normally a 'very good boy', but when food is involved, he becomes possessed, forsaking all others in pursuit of a discarded apple core or an overflowing rubbish bin. Once I had to pay £10 to compensate a man sitting under a tree in a London park, when Toby relieved him of his lunch. Fortunately as we now live in the countryside, there are less of those moments and more space for Toby to run free and swim in the nearby lakes and streams.

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It was a very fortunate day for my husband and I when my neighbour decided she wanted to rehome Toby. I instantly agreed to take him, somehow I always knew he would be mine. Six months later, after completing his bronze medal in dog training (another finest-hour moment) and with his pet passport stamped, we boarded a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and drove west to our new home in December 2016.

When you have a dog, you have to walk every day, come hail or shine, and Toby has opened up our world by making us venture further and further afield in the pursuit of a new woodland where he might catch a fleeting glimpse of a red squirrel, or a lake he can jump into to fetch his stick.

He is a talking point when I meet neighbours and fellow dog owners on walks and has helped me navigate our new surroundings with his boundless energy, curiosity and joy. He equally loves curling up on the sofa and watching a nature documentary. He makes me laugh every day and sometimes I think my heart will burst with love.

Last summer we went on a campervan trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, where this photo was taken on Achill Island as he launched himself towards the sea. So far he has been to 13 of the 32 counties in Ireland, and he has plans to visit them all, with my husband and I along for the adventure.

Aoife Barron, Co Clare

Name: Toby

Finest hour: Moving to Ireland

Likes: Squirrels, treats and swimming

Dislikes: Loud noises

Sunday Independent

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