Toki Wartooth is the name of the rhythm guitarist in the fictional animated death metal band Dethklok on the animated tv show, “Metalocalypse”. The show, which came on Adult Swim in the winter of 2010 in re-runs, was for a time a welcome distraction for me and my pre-teen daughters as we huddled under blankets, near space heaters, in the dark glow of the television late at night during the blizzards of February 2010. The show is funny and dark and bizarre but not anything near as dark as the reality we were actually living in at that time. It was also hysterically funny and light and strange, comic relief when we had no heat, but still had electricity. The propane tanks were empty, which meant no hot water. No cooking fuel. Just space heaters, which we used sparingly because the power had been blinking on and off. In the dark night, the falling snow was illuminated by the moon behind it, reflected back, it made an eerie glow outside in the unnatural early morning hours. We watched it rise, and rise, and rise, and wondered if our front door would be overtaken by the drifts.
That January, my mother and then 89 year old grandmother had called me at work one afternoon, telling me they had a surprise waiting for me at home. I lived in a small house, with failing systems, a bad roof. My daughter was 13, the younger 10 and a half, my son was 3. We were alone in this little house at the end of a cul de sac, where we’d lived for nearly a decade. Our dog, Tita, had died of cancer in 2008. She was a purebred chihuahua from a puppy mill, had never been healthy, had been skittish and not as well taken care of as she should have been. When my eldest daughter was five months old, Tita was a 3 pound puppy I could hold in the palm of my hand. She was a survivor in her own way, but the inbreeding and lack of constant veterinary care that she required, which we could never afford, resulted in breast tumors so huge they finally broke the skin. I had to put her down. I buried her in the back yard of that house, near the corner of the fence, and the next summer, a plume of daisy-looking weeds grew in that spot, sheltering her little grave.
My Mom knew that I needed a sentinel. She found a chihuahua terrier mixed breed at the shelter in West Virginia. He’s brindle, brown and black, with a tiny white star in the top of his muzzle, quick deep brown eyes, a white spot on his chest and on two of his feet. He immediately jumped up into my elderly grandmother’s lap and would not give up his seat until he was delivered into our home that night they adopted him from the shelter.
When I came home from work and the children met him, he was immediately friendly and protective, and he knew somehow that this was his place, and he would not run away from it. We tossed around names. My eldest daughter is into Anime, among other things. The dog was estimated to be about a year old, give or take. We came upon his name, unanimously, when she and her sister Thea chimed out the name of the rhythm guitarist: “Toki Wartooth”!
Toki. We still have him, two years later. He is an expert escape artist. He’s lightning fast and has never come home with any kind of damage from a skirmish with any other animal. His shots are up to date. He is healthy, sleek, hearty and hale. He could be called Houdini. He escapes on a regular basis, is willful, headstrong, and he knows how to survive. He explores and scouts and has fierce energy that can only be burned in these spurts of exercise. I learned long ago that I cannot chase him. He always came back unharmed at the old house, and he comes back unharmed when he escapes from our new house. I have a padded harness for him, I walk him around the property. He is our sentinel and alarm, but does not bark incessantly the way a lot of smaller breeds do. He only barks at animals that come too close to the house, at strangers, or at danger. He has an uncanny ability to tell friend from foe. He is our mighty Toki Wartooth, 12 pounds of lean muscle. A scrappy survivor, affectionate companion, intelligent and at 3 years old, in his prime.