A more diametrically opposite pair of dogs you will never find. And they are brother and sister!

Holly_TobyIn getting to know my girlfriend, I had to go through several security screenings. Three children, four horses and a cat were fairly routine procedures. From her kids: “Well, Will, what do you do for a living?”

Are you seeing any other women?” “Do you have children?” “How long have you been single?” From the equines: “Will you feed us more often than she does?” From the feline: “Will you feed me better food than the dried crap she gives me?”

The tough part was the canines: Holly and Toby. “Will you love us unconditionally?” “Will you give us scratches in all the right places that give us stupid grins?” “Will you let us lick your face, after we’ve just licked our own bums?”

Eventually, I was accepted by all. Time inevitably led to the big discussion – living together. I told my girlfriend that I’d take her dogs for a couple of weeks and if they acclimatized to Idle Acres then I might consider moving her in, too. After 17 years of being a bachelor with no pets there has been some “adjustments” made.

She and I took a day off work to build The Box (from the classic Paul Newman prison movie “Cool Hand Luke”) for the dogs. “If you pee in a garden, you go into The Box! If you run away, you go into The Box! If you leave a land mine in the yard, you go into The Box!” It went surprisingly well – we were still talking to each other after the endeavour. The dogs took to it quite well and got used to my place in only a few days.

Holly is definitely the more intelligent and mature of the pair. Toby is always pushing the boundaries. Like peeing everywhere to mark his new territory. Bad dog!” Or digging huge craters in the driveway in vain attempts to catch a chipmunk. “Bad dog!” Or chewing on newly planted flowers. “Bad dog!” He quickly reminded me of a funny screen saver my daughter gave me years ago of this mutt with black around one eye who was always getting in trouble and you hear his master yell, every few minutes, “Bad dog!” The poor pup would slink away with head bowed until he came to his next misadventure.

One afternoon, I came home from work to let them out and Holly started to zing around the yard like a cat stoned on catnip. Dashing up the porch steps and leaping off into space. Toby just watched her for a bit then tried to follow her. Holly ran back up the steps and sailed off it like a precision diver. Toby lumbered up the steps and did a wonderful belly flop with a grunted “Ouch!” then limped around for the rest of the day, favouring a foot. Toby has been losing weight at my place but he’s got a ways to go to match his sister’s litheness.

A few months after I had gotten to know this pair, I met their parents.

I didn’t know it at the time and I mentioned “Isn’t that pair as dissimilar as Holly and Toby?” “Yes, Will, that’s their parents.” Dad is mostly black lab and mom is shepherd and Chou, with the last providing some interesting features in them. Holly’s tongue is mottled purple and pink and Toby has the long hair of a Chou.

Where Chou’s were trained to be ferocious hunters and killers, and Toby has a lot of their physical attributes, it is Holly that is the effective hunter. She knows how to sneak up on prey and brings home a fair amount of squirrels and chipmunks to show off her prowess. Toby insists on barking like The Hounds of Baskerville to hopefully terrorize his prey into submission but all to no avail. A similar tactic was employed by the Scots of old – wearing kilts and wailing away on bagpipes to scare their enemies – with much greater success.

Toby finally did get his “war wings” courtesy of a porcupine. Over 200 quills! This has to be a world’s record. And at $ 2.50 per quill,

TG (The Girlfriend) was most “impressed” with his hunting abilities. 

In anticipation of dinner, Toby circles, like a shark, the spot where his dish will be placed for an hour before the appointed time. Holly will calmly, languidly lie down with one paw draped over the other, quite lady like. When Toby sees his dish he starts prancing like a Lipizzaner horse. Holly will dance backwards leading you to the drop zone for her meal. Toby eats like a python – he just wolf’s it down as quickly as possible. Holly has to be the world’s slowest eater for a dog. Toby takes about a minute to suck up a bowl of dinner while Holly will savour each mouthful for about five minutes each. 

Toby_HollyToby continues with his theatrics après dinner. He’ll locate a section of lawn/snow/ice to start rubbing his muzzle all over. Methinks he still feels results of porcupine quills. He gets into this so much that he rubs his whole head to almost the point of somersaulting over. This continues with a complete body rub on the ground then he quickly jumps up and shakes himself all over with a big grin.

When I give them dog biscuits, again, Toby, inhales his immediately. Holly will find a nice quiet spot in the shade, lie down and put the biscuit vertical between her paws and take little nibbles. She has taken to tease Toby by not eating her biscuit for hours then parading around with hers. She’ll toss it up in the air and test him to come and steal it.

I think their most amazing abilities are their singing. They will sit facing each other and commence barking. Toby starts off as baritone and quickly ascends to tenor then a high pitch yelping, akin to puppies. Holly takes the middle road throughout the concert and just when you start thinking it is a pack of wolves about to descend upon you they stop. All of a sudden. With their tails wagging throughout the performance and smiling at each other. Interested audiences should note that they perform twice a day: 9 pm to “serenade” us to sleep and about 7 am to make sure we are up, including all of our neighbours within half a mile.

Will Perry


Sadly since Will wrote this piece on Holly and Toby, Toby has since passed away. Click here to read Will's tribute to him in the Napping on a Sunbeam section.

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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