In remembrance of our irreplaceable friend and co-worker Tad Toomay (aka Herb Canine), here is a compilation of gems from columns past. He loved life and dogs tremendously and we will miss him forever.
From March 2007 (our Inaugural issue)
Off leash during off hours, I was taking a run with the rest of the pack along the canal at Point Isabel when I spied two exultant mutts loping in the mud at the bottom of the channel at low tide. Oblivious to the muck and sinking two inches with every stride, Big Blonde Mutt and Petite Black Mutt were grinning from ear to ear as they galloped toward a flock of plovers.
They didn’t really care about catching the birds, of course. They just wanted to propel them into the air as a way of enhancing their own ecstatic jig.
Despite a chill in the air, it was spring in mid-winter, time to celebrate open space and the companionship of any and all species that cared to frolic in the unseasonable sun, on foot, paw, or wing.
Dogs get it – why we’re here and all that – and suddenly I got it, too. Beating out the rhythm in my Saucony Jogmasters, freshly launched plovers wheeling overhead, I panted down the trail enjoying the crisp air in my lungs, along with dozens of blessed out canines.
Remember Women Who Run with the Wolves? Well, I’m a man who jogs with the dogs.
From February 2009
I paddled a kayak down the Russian River recently. The mouth of the river had just been closed by bulldozer at Goat Rock Beach, so it was like a long, glassy lake snaking through the rain-soaked hills and hamlets between Monte Rio and Jenner. It was a day of green and gold glinting off the water, river otters splashing about, and engaging conversations with Tom, my compadre de paddle.
As we floated past Austin Creek, I noticed a motorcycle speeding over the bridge. It had a sidecar, and the passenger therein clearly enjoyed allowing her long black tongue and ears to flap in the wind. She barked at us, but only to say “Hi.” I wonder if REI carries kayaks with sidecars.
From April 2009
In Richmond the other day, I saw a squirrel get chased into the street by a Yorkshire Terrier. Suddenly, the squirrel stopped dead in its tracks as if thinking, “Wait a minute – I’m running away from a Yorkie! I’ll be the laughingstock of the entire neighborhood!” The Yorkie, seeing this wild beastie suddenly flushed with renewed gumption, also came to a screeching halt. Apparently the dog’s sense of proportion kicked in and he realized the squirrel only weighed about 8 ounces less than he did. The dog turned on a dime and went hightailing it in the other direction (can you hightail it with said appendage tucked firmly between your legs?). I swear, with dogs around, who needs the Cartoon Channel?
From August 2010
On a recent walk in Skyline Park with friends David and Eric, amidst the redwoods on a perfect day, I learned something from their spritely Corgi, Nia. I used to think of Corgis as companion dogs primarily, but watching Nia play with a neighbor pooch, I realized otherwise. She didn’t really take turns being “it” in tag like most dogs do. She was always the pursuer and her path was always elliptical, because she wasn’t playing, she was working. It was obvious to all observers that she was herding the other dog. The owners finally called the round off when Nia had corralled her pal at the edge of a small cliff.
Later, out on the trail, we passed a man with a couple of dogs going in the opposite direction. A few minutes after that, we heard the dogs bickering about something down in the forest. We turned just in time to glimpse Nia shoot off like a heat-seeking missile down the trail towards the commotion. Clearly, she was going to have to straighten things out between the two, even though they were twice her size. Nia has taught me that Corgis aren’t just lapdogs, they’re cops.
We miss you, Herb.