Owned and loved by Amy, John, Josh, Andy, and Emily Coglio
May 3, 2001 - April 28, 2005
Story submitted by owner, Amy Coglio
We purchased our Toby boy after our family had lost our first mastiff Jake at the age of 11. My kids were 13, 11, and 7 years old. They were devastated after Jake died and we needed to love another dog. Toby was about 7 months old and needed a lot of work. He was shy and very sick when we got him, but nothing that some antibiotics, worming and frontline couldn't cure.
After the initial newness wore off and the medications were done, he was coming around to being a happy boy. But three months after we got him, we noticed that he was having some difficulty walking, running, and going up steps. We took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. We got a second opinion, which was the same as the first. Our family did some research and talked about what to do. The kids thought that we would have to put him down, and they were begging us not to do it. I explained to them that people get hip dysplasia, and a lot of the "Special Ed," kids that I work with have HD, and they are fine. We talked about how people who have disabilities are still people with feelings, and can live happy lives with some adaptations and special care. We discussed the possibility of surgery for him, and told the kids that the cost would deplete our vacation and our fun money fund. Our whole family talked to the vet about post-surgical recovery and all the work that would be needed to help him, and that it would be difficult for everyone, but especially Toby.
So he had the surgery, and then the real work began. Before we left the vet, we were all trained on how to do range-of-motion exercises with Toby. It had to be done several times a day on both legs, so he would not lose too much muscle mass. We brought him home after a week in the hospital, and scheduled our lives around him for the next 12 weeks. We all took turns sitting with him 24-7. He could not move without our help. Our daughter was too little to move him on her own (he was 100 pounds at the time of surgery), so one of us was always with her while it was her shift to care for him. He had a beach towel tied around his waist for 12 weeks. Every time he needed to stand, relieve himself, and move from one room to another, he had to be lifted by one or more of us. We crated him at night and used lawn furniture cushions to pad the sides of the crate to comfort his hips. He learned to lay quietly and not move while we ate dinner, which was a big help. We all got up an hour early in the morning, so that we could get him and ourselves ready for our school and work days. We had no visitors for several weeks because we needed to concentrate on keeping him quiet and comfortable. Sharing in his care brought us together as a family.
Toby took a tough situation and adapted to it in his own way. When he wanted his dog biscuits, he learned to bark three times. And he turned himself in a semi-circle to get pointed in the direction he wanted to go, and wait for us to help him get up. He accepted his exercises and never showed us any aggression. He seemed to know we were doing our best to help him.
Once he was able to go out for short walks, we took turns because he was still needing help and he was getting too heavy to do it alone. Sometimes kids and adults would make comments about the dog who walked like he was drunk, and our kids would stick up for him and defend him and his disability, to the point of embarrassing the people who made the remark in the first place. We had a disabled dog now and we were not going to put up with anyone making fun of him.
Toby did struggle to walk, and he would let us know when enough was enough. He learned to bark in several different tones, and each one meant something different. His funniest was when he would bark at me around 8:00 every night until I would tell him a bedtime story. We started this when he came home from the hospital. It was a way to pass the time while we were sitting with him, and he loved it. He loved to be talked to, and he tried to talk back.
His last three months were hard. He slowly lost mobility, and was once again in need of help to get up and keep his balance. We were back and forth with the vet once a month during that time, trying to find out what more to do to improve his mobility. In the end it was a tumor in the leg of his bad hip that took him from us. It had eaten away all the muscle mass that he had, and there was no chance of recovery. He died with his big head on the lap of my daughter who was now 10 years old, telling him how much we loved him, what a great dog he was, and how we did everything we could for him. She told him that God would fix him and he would be able to run in heaven with our Jake when he got there.
Toby taught our family to be compassionate, to understand disabilities, and work together to try to improve his quality of life.