Seeing Toby’s ‘ghost’ eyes is believing

When we bought our 1850’s farmhouse near Colborne a few years ago, I quickly concluded we had a ghost! Not to worry. Like Casper, he’s a friendly spirit. He also has four legs.

As ghosts tend to be, Tobias the Ghost Dog is invisible – except in the eyes of one of our beagles. Ever since joining our family, Ruby-Sue has enjoyed the not so flattering habit of blankly staring off into space. I used to chalk it up to a wandering mind with a terrible sense of direction, but now I know better. Our Ruby has a special gift! She can spend hours happily convening with the dearly departed.

pet-Toby-at-TAS-cIt was around Christmas when my rescue partner started to pester me about Toby, the mesmerizing dog pictured here. I was instantly reminded of Ruby’s BPFF (Best Phantom Farm Friend). For starters, they share the same name. Secondly, those eyes are positively other-worldly! Ruby and I agree Toby would make a great ghost dog. But here’s the sad truth – he might as well be a ghost for all the luck he’s had being seen.

Toby had been haunting the Scarborough pound since September when his owners dropped him off before a move. I’ll never understand that overused excuse, as if disposal of the family pet is a natural part of the de-cluttering process. Still, it might have been just as well in Toby’s case. The roughly 6-year-old Hound mix had never been to a vet for annual vaccinations or anything else. He was suffering from a nasty ear infection upon arrival and a poor diet had left him far too thin. The caring staff at Toronto Animal Services – East Region saw to his medical needs and filled his tummy with regular meals, but they could do nothing for his hungry heart other than hope a family would come to the shelter and fall in love with him one day.

Why some dogs turn invisible in our animal shelters is an ongoing mystery. Statistics have shown that middle-aged tail-waggers tend to sniff out less interest from prospective adopters than perky puppies or golden oldies, but there’s not much more to go on other than that. If only private rescue groups like mine could come to the rescue of every invisible shelter dog experiencing a mid-life crisis. Sadly, even ghost dogs need space and we all run out of that sometimes.

Even as I write this, we have no foster homes available and Toby really doesn’t fit the beagle profile even if we did. Nevertheless, I had to do something. Like a ghost hunter, I was determined to shine a light on the invisible! But instead of infra-red night goggles, I opted for the written word and sent out one howl of a heart-tugging e-blast to our friends and supporters. I figured if we could cast the light far and wide enough, maybe someone special like my Ruby would see Toby in all his wondrous glory.

I wrote about how he thanks the moon and stars whenever a staff member or volunteer finds time to challenge him to a riveting game of fetch. I wrote about how he’s whacky for walkies and head-over-paws for plush toys that squeak when squeezed. I also wrote about how none of the above compares to receiving a gentle kiss on his forehead and a tickle behind his flip-flop ears. Those are the moments his sense of being invisible truly disappears.

My next step was to feature Toby the Ghost Dog of Scarborough Pound for this article. But before I even began, I received an email that sent shivers up my spine. The sender was thanking me for my e-blast about Toby. She’d been so touched by it that she read it to her family. They’d been seriously considering a spirited sibling for their beagle for some time.  Mr. Blue Eyes isn’t invisible anymore. I’ve got their family photo to prove it.

I thought about tracking down another story for my article after learning of Toby’s adoption, but then I started thinking about the power of illumination and how it changed the life of one dog already. Maybe Toby’s tale could serve to bust a few more ghosts out of our shelters.

Still not convinced there’s any such thing as ghosts? Maybe you should check with Toby’s new family. They didn’t believe in ghosts either until they met him. Without a shadow of a doubt, they know he’s real! They can tell every time they plant a gentle kiss on his forehead and ruffle the fur feathers behind his flip flop ears.

Ain’t afraid of no ghosts? Join Ghostbusters – head to your local shelter and bring an invisible dog back into focus! You might get there by ectomobile but you’re sure to float all the way home with your happy new family member leading the way!

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