Toki and I met in February of 2000 when she jumped up into the air and grabbed onto my sweatshirt sleeve. All I could see were her little black, bug eyes staring at me over my chomped on arm. "Will you be my Valentine?" she implored with her eyes. I accepted and we've been inseparable ever since. Toki has been the best friend, FURkid and babysitter I could have ever hoped for. She's taken every one of her roles seriously, loyally and as the saying goes, completely unconditionally. We had a pretty normal owner/dog relationship until about 2006 when she was diagnosed with a Mast Cell Tumor. After several tests and 2 whopping mega $ surgeries, Toki came home with what we refer to as her 6" tummy tuck. The tumors were removed and we waited for her results. She came home with this aqua blue body stocking to hold all of the stitches in place and as I watched her laying in a sunbeam with a frozen bag of corn on her belly, I promised Toki her very own website and that all she needed to do was recover quickly so we could build it TOGETHER. Her biopsy results came back with clean margins. HURRAY!
In no time, the little black-eyed bouncing bunny I knew, was back to her energetic, loving self. And I too went back to my mouse and keyboard lifestyle where I sat daily behind a computer screen designing and building websites and other web-based applications from my home office. Life for me and Toki went back to our normal ways and habits.
Toki told me I had to be honest in this next recollection, so here goes...
It wasn't until 2 years later when we were having another Mast Cell tumor removed, that I was reminded of my promise to Toki. I had forgotten that I was supposed to build her a website so this time after her stitches healed and her hair grew back, we started planning and brainstorming. One of the possibilities for this new website was a social and interactive resource center for pets and their people experiencing similar conditions or concerns. In 2006, I had no idea what a Mast Cell cancer tumor was and honestly had no idea what to do. I've never been the type that just listened to the doctor - I wanted backup research, history, statistics and I needed to COMMUNICATE with someone who had experienced the same with their pet. My Internet research at that time resulted in no CONNECTIONS with other pet owners so in the little time I had to make a decision, I trusted my specialist and went with what she said.
I think Facebook publically launched around 2006 so by 2008, it was well on it's way to being the social media haven and I put aside the ideas of a pet resource center. We watched as many pet-related websites launched over the next year and kept up with our brainstorming sessions that went hand in hand with the daily walks and belly rubs.
I am completely guilty of being that person who knows all the pet names but not the owners in my neighborhood. "Hi Magellan, how are you today?" Head pat, back stroke, belly rub, high five....and then mental note that I like the owners shoes cos I'm down at dog level. Oh right, the owner is standing there too! A glance upwards and a "Hi!.................." followed by a BIG SMILE and glance back at the dog because I don't remember their name. Shameful isn't it? But I don't think I'm completely alone in this as I'm 100% certain that more people know my dog's name than mine! It occurred to me I should be more social, but it really grabbed my attention that our pets are ALL SUPER STARS! It shouldn't be any surprise that this thought translated into Trading Cards. Why not? We all love our pets and think they're the BEST. And having a trading card gives us a chance to share their personality.
So with this crazy idea, Toki and I set out to build her website, appropriately named after her nickname, Toki Poki. And to say the least, it's been an amazing journey ever since. We officially launched TokiPoki.com in early 2010 and to celebrate, Toki and I put away the computer, put our stuff in storage and jumped in the car, leaving Los Angeles for a cross-country road trip that lasted 5 months. We visited pet stores, crashed pet parties and hung out at dog parks that spanned from San Franscisco to Chicago to NYC to Washington DC to Dallas. Along the way, both Toki and I made many new friends and I am proud to say, I know both the pet and owner names.
Many people have asked, "Why trading cards?" Well, let's see...
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. It's really pretty simple and fun!
TokiPoki.com was created to help us celebrate and share the pets we love!
Please join us...and DO THE TOKI POKI!
Christy and Toki in June 2011, photography by Orit Harpaz
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