Remembering our Toby

July 20, 2014

As many of you may already know, we had a big loss here at Écluse as we lost our little blind dog, Toby, on July 20, 2014. She was a real light and was always happy with her tail wagging; she was never deterred by her handicap. Having just celebrated her 17th birthday in April, she will always be with us in spirit and through her legacy, Blind Dog Wines.

We will always remember the sunny day in March of 1999 when our then two year old Toby (Topaz – her call name at the time) arrived from Dogs for the Deaf. She was accompanied by her trainer Kim to start her “job” as a hearing assist dog for Duane Robinson who lived here on our vineyard with his 14 year old blind dog, Bingo. Toby’s happy and loving nature came through the minute we all laid eyes on her. She had been rescued from the Jackson Humane Society in Southern Oregon by Dogs for the Deaf the year before. At that time she began her training which eventually brought her to Duane here at the vineyard. Dogs for the Deaf is a terrific organization out of Central Point, Oregon that rescues shelter dogs and trains them as hearing assist dogs. They are then matched with qualifying recipients across the country at no cost to the applicant. During the 15 years she was with us, Toby provided much needed help to Duane and so many happy memories to us. It was quite a sight seeing her sitting on the seat next to Duane riding all over the vineyard in his Gator as his faithful and loving companion and doing her “job” of notifying him of the phone ringing and visitors arriving. Her happy and joyful personality was felt by all who met her. Toby and Duane were even featured in a 2000 Paso Robles newspaper article after they were spotted walking downtown by a local reporter. We knew then she was a star!  We lost Duane in 2006 and Toby became diabetic in 2007. Within two years she lost the sight in one eye and then two years later, the other eye. It was quite ironic for her as an assist dog to lose her sight, making her the second blind dog we’ve had on the vineyard. Neither Bingo nor Toby were ever deterred by their handicap and they became an inspiration to us all. When we decided to create our second label, it only seemed right to dedicate our “Blind Dog“ wine to these two special dogs and donate a portion of the proceeds to Dogs for the Deaf, the organization who rescued and trained Toby.  She loved the attention her wine brought her. Many times she “oversaw” the process in the making of her Blind Dog Wine and was often times present for bottling, even sitting in the seat of the forklift! She was a little “princess” when it came to holding court in the tasting room with visitors - both two- and four-legged! She always loved posing for photos with her friends, new and old, especially during her 17th birthday celebration in April 2014. Toby enjoyed wandering the tasting room mingling with our guests and our visitors loved meeting her, the inspiration behind our second label.

We know she is back together with Duane and Bingo, running through the clouds with her sight back, watching over us and the vines. Her legacy will live on with her namesake wine.  Lift a glass in her honor and always remember her motto: “Let the wind blow in your face – Smell the flowers – Eat well – Take naps – Smile a lot – Love your people!” We miss you Toby!

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