Toby likes pears. Actually, he loves them. A love so deep it's almost unnatural for a living being to feel that strongly about an inanimate object.
We have a wonderful fruit-bearing pear tree in our backyard, and even though it produced a mass quantity of bulbous edible orbs last year -- enough for me to bag them and hand them out to all of our neighbors after saving a few dozen for ourselves -- Toby didn't really pay any attention to them. I think because he was too enamored with our lower-to-the-ground cherry tomato plants at the time.
Well this year, the tomatoes didn't grow. I didn't realize it was one of those "plant them annually" type of thing. My thumb is about as green as a silver crayon. Jerry jokes that my specialty is killing things, feeling guilty, then working frantically to nurse them back to life.
So without any bite-sized tomatoes to rip from the vine this summer, Toby discovered the pear tree. I'm not quite sure how, but I think the idea literally hit him on the head when one of the weaker ones dropped off a branch prematurely.
At first, they were too hard and flavorless for him to treat it as anything more than a glorified ball. So we'd toss them around the yard and he'd run and fetch, much as he would his mini tennis balls inside.
But inevitably, they grew and softened. And Toby discovered that they taste good when he sinks his teeth in. Now, instead of playing fetch, he happily lays in a sunny patch of grass, holding onto the thick end with his front paws and gnawing on the fruit from the top down. All over the yard are remnants of his snacking -- tiny pears with the tops chewed off.
Occasionally, he'll sneak one past us into the house. I can usually tell because he makes himself scarce to indulge in his latest victim. One time a few weeks ago while I was downstairs reading a magazine, I heard a series of dull thuds upstairs followed by frantic feet. When I walked up to investigate, I saw that Toby was tossing a pear high into the air with his mouth, jumping in excitement at his own creativity and running to retrieve it. The thuds were when the pear slammed against a wall.
I was laughing too hard to ruin his fun. I let him play until he tired of the game. We found the disgusting remnant a few days later in the corner of the kitchen floor near his food and water bowls. It was black and sort of fuzzy from being tossed around on the carpet. In fact, Jerry mistook it for a dead mouse. I just leaned over, picked it up and tossed it in the garbage with a single-syllable explanation: "Pear." Jerry understood immediately.
By now, most of the weaker fruits have fallen, and Toby has grown frustrated with the drought. Rather than take it lying down, he decided to spring into action. Literally. He jumps and spins and strains and works his tiny body to the extreme to pluck pears off the lower branches.
It's absolutely hilarious.
And more times than not, he's surprisingly successful. He loves the game of retrieving them as much as he loves the fruit, so sometimes he'll collect as many as he can, then play with them all at once.
As much as I love pears, no pear pie or pear sauce or pear cobbler is as enjoyable as watching Toby enjoy them.
I may never plant cherry tomatoes again.