Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ask Toto #57

Dear Toto,

Okay, let's talk about the really important things - where is the best place to sit for Thanksgiving that will guarantee you the best amount of food?

 - Planning ahead in Iowa.

I LIKE the way you think, Planning Iowan!  This is a very important question that involves a lot of strategy.

The primary thing to keep in mind is that you don't wanna blow your plan too early.  I see a lot of dogs who jump the gun and get underfoot when they see the turkey being pulled out of the freezer.  That's a whole SIX HOURS ahead of the dinner.

So it's that silly dog that starts drooling over a frozen turkey, gets in the way, and then is banished from the kitchen and the dining room and NO Thanksgiving scraps for him.

Don't be like that dog.  Be smarter.  Follow my easy 1-2-3- 4 step plan.

#1 - Be quietly cute from the get go.  This means giving your humans space in the kitchen while they cook.  They're gonna be in there all day, so be nearby, but not underfoot.  Stay close to a well traveled doorway, but don't block it.  You want people to see your cute furry face and go "awwwwww, look at how well behaved he is," not trip over you.

#2 - Case out the spill zones.  While you're being quietly cute in the well traveled doorway, take mental notes of potential spill zones.  This includes the kitchen sink, the stove, the oven, and the garbage can.  For my money, the kitchen sink is the best bet.  Stuff that falls from the stove is generally too hot to consume at first gobble.  Some dogs aren't picky about the trash can, but for my money, if your humans don't wanna eat it and are throwing it away, it's probably not good enough for you to eat too.  You're a dog, not a garbage disposal. Have some standards.

#3 - Case out the dinner guests.  Who looks like a sucker?  Who looks like they're gonna drop a lot of things?  Especially little kids.  Little kids LOVE dogs and they don't love getting the food to their face.

#4 - Dinner time! Again, patience and discretion are your friends.  If you take your time and put yourself under the table next to the right person, instead of jumping on every single person that comes through the door, everyone will think you're adorable and so well behaved, and would you like some turkey?  YES PLEASE.

Using these steps should guarantee maximum Thanksgiving goodies in your tummy.  I know it's really tough to be calm, cool, and collected when it's such a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and SMELLS, but slow, quiet, and cute wins this race.

thanks for the question and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Do I Wanna Be For Halloween?

Okay, so we all know that I'm not a people-who-put-clothes-on-their-dog for any reason - whether it's a costume for Halloween, an elf hat for Christmas, or bunny ears for Easter.

I mean, how would you feel if you kept seeing stuffed versions of yourself on store shelves, and you're just being used as a PROP.  You're not even your own identity.

But Dorothy has seen a few of these dog/human coordinated costumes and has decided that we need to come up with something.  So I said I'd at least make a best faith effort to go online and see what's out there in the wild wild world of people/pet coordinating outfits.

So this lady and her pup have gone as Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch (I THINK).  She seems to be radiating a lot of good cheer, it looks like she'd be a great friend for Dorothy but I can't help but cringe at her poor pup.  I mean, what if that dye job doesn't come out?

Theming costumes for pups and toddlers also seem to be in vogue as evidenced by these guys.  

Again, I GUESS it's okay, though I don't really think the kid knows what's going on, and the dogs appear to be suffering in silence.

I do love this guy though.  Harry Potter theming for the win!

I dunno.  Maybe I could go as Dorothy's bodyguard?  That may not require anything more than sunglasses at night and a serious disposition.

And again, our Yearly Public Halloween Announcement - do NOT do this to your dog.  Please?  Pretty pretty please?

Happy Halloween! :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ask Toto #56

Dear Toto,

My owner takes me to get my toenails cut a lot. I HATE IT.  Doesn't she understand that it hurts!  WHY does it hurt?  And WHY does she want to paint my toenails? What is the DEAL!?

- Anti-pedicures for Pets

Hi Anti-PP,

Well, first things first, it is important that our toenails get cut.  'Cause if they don't, they get all long and wolf-like and then they get caught on things, and that's no fun at all.

They also need to be cut because humans don't like being scratched.  That's a biggie.

It's true, some people don't understand how to cut their dog's toenails.  Quick refresher, humans: DO NOT CUT INTO THE QUICK.  Humans don't understand, because their nails don't have blood vessels and nerves in their nails.  And dogs that have black colored toenails are especially difficult, because you can't tell where the Quick stops and starts.  Here is a nifty How To picture that gives you a visual.

But you generally want to steer your human towards the guillotine type of clippers for a cleaner cut (though your human is going to pick the one your human feels the most comfortable with.)  And nudge your human to also cut the dew claw, which is easy to forget because it doesn't touch the ground normally.

And this is very important - train your human to give you a treat after a successful clipping.  That way you'll have a reward for going through this not-necessarily fun task.

In terms of painting toenails, well, this totally falls into the category of Don't Put Clothes On Your Dog category.  Don't Put Clothes On Your Dog, And Don't Paint Their Toenails.  It's dumb. Don't understand why humans paint their own toenails, don't understand why they want to paint their dog's toenails.  This is where I definitely recommend the Wiggle And Squirm Technique.  There is no reason to stay put for a toenail painting.  Run run far far away.

Thanks for the question!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Toto Takes A Quiz

So Dorothy likes to do a lot of these internet quizzes like “Which Walking Dead Survivor Are You” (She got Maggie) or “Which Movie Is Actually Based On Your Life” (She got Disney's Brave)

So when I stumbled upon Which DisneyDog Are You? Well, I couldn't resist! Which Disney dog COULD I be? Am I about to fall so deeply into a meta rabbit hole that I won't be able to get out? (Or worse, I'd get a dog who is COMPLETELY unlike me?)

And I did quibble that a lot of the questions didn't include an answer I was happiest with, (see #3 – My Favorite Meal is, but there's no All Of Them answer). And some of the questions I was happy to answer ( #5 asking me to pick my favorite Disney Cat did have “Ew, Cats” as a potential answer, which I totally picked). 

Number 9's “My favorite word is” was truly confounding, since “Dorothy” wasn't an answer (I picked “Yo-yo” since those things hypnotize the heck out of me when Dorothy plays with one)

It finally spit out the result that I'm Dug, from Pixar's Up. I guess I can live with that. I mean, he's kinda dumb, but incredibly loyal. I made Dorothy take the quiz and she got Max from the Little Mermaid, which is weird, because he's kinda nondescript in that movie.

Go give the quiz a try and see what YOU come up with.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ask Toto #55

Dear Toto,

What is it with humans that want to teach their dog how to shake hands/paws? What's the deal?

- Obedient But Confused

Hi ObBuCon!

Humans can be really weird sometimes, right? I mean, I get why they want to teach us to Sit, it's the most obvious way to get us to calm down. I get the whole Stay thing, too, it's about them getting us to be in one place and stay there until they're ready for us to be someplace else.

Shake hands/paws? Man, I don't know. At first I thought it was a manners thing, because I see humans shaking hands with each other as a greeting all the time, because, well, dogs sniff butts, humans shake hands. It's one of the ways we differ as a species, fine.

But humans wanting to shake hands with a dog, well. It kinda falls into the same category as Roll Over, or Play Dead, or even Speak. The category of Tricks Just To Show Other People You Taught Your Dog Something And Your Dog Is Obedient. A Useless Trick, in other words.

But this is where you stand your ground, ObBuCon. Because I'm guessing your human rewarded you with a treat when you did shake paws/hands, right? And then it gradually tapered off, and now you don't get anything but a smile and applause from your owner's friends? You can take the power back. Refuse to do the trick unless you see the box of dog treats. You are nobody's fool, ObBuCon. Useless Tricks can be Useful for you, but only if you train your human right.

Make sure they understand – No Treat – No Trick. Sounds a little bit like Halloween, I know. But you can do it. You have the power. They just don't know it yet.

Thanks for the question!

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Ask Toto #54

Dear Toto,

How many layers is your dog bed? I only ask because my dog sleeps on two dog beds, and the other one sleeps on one. Can dogs really tell the difference?

- Princess That Might Know Something About Peas

Hi Princess!

Well it's true that dogs like themselves a comfy bed. We're not so different from humans, you know. You like comfy beds, we like comfy beds, preferably the same bed you're in.

Okay, so here's a story. When I was just a pup, Aunt Em tried to make me sleep in my own dog bed. I didn't like it one bit. I know where my place is, and it is ALWAYS next to Dorothy. ALWAYS.

Aunt Em's resolve is no match for the power of my Whine and PuppyDog Eyes, so that experiment didn't last long. But what I do remember is that my dogbed for all of three days was Aunt Em stacking two cushions and a towel. And that was definitely more comfy than say, one cushion.

But if you don't want your dog in your bed, and they have to be on the ground, the thicker the bed, the better. Stack away with the bed/cushions/whatever. You know you've gone too high when they can't get into it on their own.

Or you could always get one of these:

Thanks for the question!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Toto Review - Legends Of Oz - Dorothy's Return

Well, of COURSE Dorothy and I had to go check this movie out. It's got US in it. Do you guys have any idea how weird it is to see a portrayal of you on a giant giant movie screen? It's REALLY strange. This must be what Presidents of countries think when they see pictures of them in every magazine. I dunno.

Anyhow, Legends Of Oz - Dorothy's Return has Dorothy and Toto returning to Oz in what we're told are days after her first adventure. Scarecrow has beamed her and me back to Oz to help them overthrow the evil Jester, who's gotten a hold of the Wicked Witch's Broom and some multi-colored crystal something or other and has turned Glinda and a few other Ozians into puppets.

Dorothy and me go on a convoluted journey, first to Emerald City, then to the Jester's place (Why couldn't we have just gone to the Jester's place first?) and pick up new companions along the way, like Wiser the Owl, General Marshal Mallow and China Princess, to fight the Jester and save Oz.

I loved the production design, Candy Country, China Country, the Emerald City Castle, all of it. There's plenty of fun in the details, from the Great Wall Of China, to the red licorice trim on Marshal Mallow's uniform.

But honestly, there's a lot of things that don't make sense in the story. While Scarecrow busts out a few mental gymnastic plans, Tin Man and Lion don't act especially loving or courageous, which is odd.

Dorothy barely spends any time with her old pals – Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. And yet we don't get an emotional bond between her and her new pals – Wiser, Marshal Mallow and China Princess (who's pretty hard to like in the first place) to make us want to root for them to succeed.

But what little emotion is in this movie comes from the relationship between Marshal Mallow and China Princess. She's haughty, cold, and a Not Very Nice Word, but Marshal Mallow's gallantry and growing love for her (to the point where he sacrifices parts of himself to put her back together) is quite touching to see.

The movie is bookended by scenes of Kansas, and Dorothy fighting off a callous con man trying to condemn her tornado-wrecked homes and those of her neighbors. But Dorothy already sees him as a fraud before she leaves, and unmasks him when she gets back. She didn't learn any new lessons in Oz that would help her back home, so why have the bookends? Dorothy's not learning any lessons, old or new. So we came out of the movie feeling like we hadn't seen anything new.

I was pleased to see that the onscreen version of me does a few heroic things here and there. But the onscreen Toto prominently sports a tag with the letter “D” on it. But it's never remarked on in the film. What does the “D” stand for? Dog? Why would I wear a tag announcing my species? Is it supposed to stand for “Dorothy?” Dorothy's not my name. If it's supposed to be one of those love token things, Dorothy doesn't wear a necklace with the letter “T” on it for Toto, so it still doesn't make sense.

And the fact that I spent the majority of the movie wondering about that, instead of being enthralled by the story, probably tells you everything.

But I do have to give the movie major major props for not featuring a single cat. So maybe this movie's all right in my book. ;)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ask Toto #53

Dear Toto,

My dog is fat.  There's no two ways about it.  I love her no matter how she looks, but she's fat in a way that the vet has gently encouraged me to do something about it.  Do you have any thoughts in terms of an exercise routine that all dogs would jump at the chance to do (preferably a bunch of times)?

- Pooch has got some Pounds

Hi PP!

Boy, I totally hear you about the weight thing. A dog's life can be really cushy, you know. Eat, sleep, get up, wag tail, eat, sleep, get up, wag tail.

It's great that you love your dog so much that they don't have to do much in the way of physical activity. And you could always check to see if there's a lower calorie dog food that your vet recommends to feed your dog.  But, as with so much in life, a good life routine includes some kind of daily sustained physical movement.  

But it can be tough for a pleasantly plump poochie to start a routine when they've never had to do so.  So try these few steps:

1. a simple walk.  Start off slow, maybe just down the block.  Then increase the distance a little bit at a time when they've got it down.  You might be surprised, your dog probably would love the chance to explore new surroundings.

2. Chase your dog around the house.  Most dogs are instinctively programmed to love the game tag and chase.  Give it a shot.

3. Have the dog chase the cat around the house. Because the cat has probably done something bad and needs to have a good scare.

4. If your dog resists all attempts to play and walk, bring out the big guns.  BACON.  Lure your dog on a walk, or chasing around the house by using bacon as bait.  This will probably work for you and him. The question is, who gets to eat the bacon first.

Good luck and thanks for the question!

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Secret About Tummy Rubs

So I'm gonna do you all a favor and clue everyone in on a secret - The Secret About Tummy Rubs.

It is totally true that all dogs love a good tummy rub.  Every dog's Achilles' Heel is a tummy rub, have no doubt.  Cats don't dig it in the same way and that's because Evil hates feeling Good. Obviously.

But what's the flip side of a tummy rub?


So when you see your lovable pooch twisting and turning on their back, or a half moon stretch on the carpet and it looks like they're just DYING for a tummy rub?  They probably are, and by all means, please move over there and relieve that tummy rub ache ASAP.

But!  They're probably also scratching their back.

it's the best of both worlds.  You rub their tummy, and they scratch their back.

Do it for your poochie!  Do it because you love them!  TummyRubs and BackScratches 24/7!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!

This has been a public service announcement from your dog.  If they could talk.  I'm speaking for us all. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Toto Review - Muppets Most Wanted

So it was time for another trip to the movie theater with Dorothy.  She smuggles me in her basket, I sit on her lap and promise to be good or else I don't get any popcorn.  This particular trip was more than a little taxing, since there were plenty of misbehaving kids running around like hooligans throughout the theater.  Do you have any idea how HARD it is to stay still on Dorothy's lap when there are mini-monsters climbing over seats, and throwing nachos in the air, and reaching out, trying to pet me with their grubby grubby paws?  CONTROL YOUR CHILDREN IF YOU TAKE THEM TO THE MOVIE THEATER, PEOPLE!  That's what I wanted to say.  But I didn't, because people don't understand a talking dog, but... MOVING ON.


Muppets Most Wanted is the story about how the Muppets meet up with a shady concert promoter, played by Ricky Gervaise, to go tour Europe with the Muppet Show.  What they don't realize is that Ricky Gervaise is partnered with Constantine, the World's Most Dangerous Frog, who happens to look a lot like Kermit.  So Kermit is shanghaied by Ricky and Constantine, and is trapped in a Russian gulag with a Russian warden played by Tina Fey, while Constantine and Ricky Gervaise conspire to use the Muppet Show tour as a ruse to steal stuff from various museums all in a bid to eventually steal the crown jewels of London.

That's essentially the plot, but since it's a movie with Muppets, the plot is pretty much an excuse to string as many gags and funny songs together as possible.  You could make a pretty good argument about how this entry into Muppetland is missing some of its spark, which is what happens when you separate Kermit from his gang.  Don't get me wrong, this movie is packed full of jokes, celebrity cameos (blink and you'll miss truly hilarious turns by Tom Hiddleston, Josh Groban, and Lady Gaga, among others.) Muppet cameos (my favorites included the yellow Hugga Wugga "You Are My Sunshine" Muppet, and a pivotal plot point by Bobby Benson and his Baby Band) and very funny songs.

But for me, it's all about the DOGS!  THE DOGS, PEOPLE!  TALK TO ME ABOUT THE DOGS!

Okay, well, I love Rowlf, for obvious reasons.  It feels like Rowlf gets no love from modern day Muppet audiences, which is unfair.  Rowlf was actually one of the original Muppets, making his first appearance even before the Muppet Show ever came into existence, as a guest star on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1963.

I love Rowlf because he's somewhat the voice of reason, if anyone would ever ask him.  You look at him and you know - the dog has seen a lot. But he's content to stay in the ensemble and inwardly chuckle at the chaos going on.

But sadly, Rowlf is not in this movie much.  Whoever's in charge over at Muppet headquarters continues to insist on pushing that dumb nobody Muppet Walter front and center.  

Nobody likes Walter, okay?  NOBODY LIKES WALTER THE MUPPET.  Look at that line up over on the left.  Don't your eyes kind of twitch and think there's a blank space in the middle? Get Walter out of the movie, and give the screen time back to Rowlf and Fozzie.

Having said that, I was pleased to see Miss Piggy's dog Foo Foo back at her side.  That dog can do a lot with a simple ear twitch.  Or two.  Or simultaneous ear twitching.  That's really tough to do, people.

In short, Muppets Most Wanted is fun for the fans, and pleasant enough for friends of the fans.  And if you're a dog, you'll have a good time too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ask Toto #52

Dear Toto:

My owner takes me walking in parks a lot, and I love every single second of it.  But I notice that we run into quite a few dogs who aren't on a leash.  I don't know how I feel about this, I'm very conflicted.  Part of me wishes I could be free like them, but then part of me wishes they would play by the rules.  Any thoughts?

- Conflicted In Griffith Park.

Hi Conflicted!

Boy, I hear you on that for sure.  it's the classic The Rules Don't Apply To Me conundrum.  Humans love the idea of them and their dog romping around the trails on hikes, and they don't necessarily realize that just because their dog is well behaved off leash doesn't mean other dogs are.  Most owners who know their dogs are gonna get snappy keep them on a leash, but then here comes a dog off leash and suddenly you have a nightmare.  A nightmare you wouldn't have if everyone simply followed the rules.

Not to mention the fact that if you let your dog off leash in Griffith Park (or any park, for that matter) then you run the risk of encountering not very nice park critters like snakes or coyotes or stuff.  It may feel like your owner is encroaching on your sense of freedom by having you on leash, but they're really keeping you safe.

As to the rule breakers, you can console yourself by knowing they're most likely coming home with dirt, burrs, and fleas all over them.

thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs twice a month until the questions run out.  Don't let that happen!  Send Toto your queries at

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ask Toto #51

Dear Toto,

I've always been curious, why do dogs sleep at the foot of the bed, instead of by their owner's heads?

- Someone's Breathing On My Tootsies

Hi Tootsies!

Well, it helps if you think about it from the dog's perspective.  Where is the dog during the day?  On the ground.  What does he comes into contact with the most of the ground?  The carpet, a lot of furniture legs, a lot of dust bunnies, that infernal cat who keeps hanging around and YOUR FEET.  Your shoes, your feet, your calluses, your cute little tootsies!  Your dog is probably more familiar with your feet than your face.  Your dog is probably more familiar with your feet than you are.

Yes, you will hear all sorts of experts talk about Alpha dog behavior, and your dog is looking to you to exert dominance to instruct the dog to specifically be at the foot of the bed, and no pillows for you and blah blah blah.

But so when it's nighty night, and time to snuggle down, your dog is gonna wanna be down by what he knows.  Which are your toes!

And if you've got one of those dogs that love to go under the sheets and you're worried they're gonna smother themselves, don't be.  Your dog is not THAT dumb, and they'll go seek fresh air when they need it.  

thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs twice a month until the questions run out.  Don't let that happen!  Send Toto your queries at

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Let's Talk About Valentine's Day


Valentine's Day approacheth! And since chocolate is bad bad bad for dogs, you may be wondering what some great last minute ideas are for your pet to give to you on Valentine's Day.  Here's a few suggestions:
FLOWERS.  Flowers are awesome.  They smell pretty, they bring smiles to Dorothy's face, and they don't kill me if I try to eat them.  Which I don't.  Because I don't know if you know this, but roses taste pretty terrible.
CANDLES - Candles are also awesome.  They might be more awesome than flowers because while there's no point in trying to eat them, they can SMELL like food.  Like Vanilla or Cinnamon or Pumpkin Pie or something.  So you can SMELL food, but it's NOT food.  Which is confusing, but remember, Valentine's Day is not about you, it's about Dorothy, or whoever your owner is.

POETRY - Nothing says "I love you" more than saying "I love you." but in different words, like your own.  I happen to be fond of a smartly worded haiku myself.  For instance:
I love you so much
And if you love me so much
Get rid of the cat

And a little reminder, humans.  No matter how much you might want to dress your dog up in some Valentine's Day ensemble.  Don't do it.  



Thanks, and have a great Valentine's Day :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Let's Talk About Squeaky Toys

So! We're past Christmas, and I bet some of you well intentioned humans got your dogs squeaky toys for Christmas. Maybe it was an impulse buy at the PetCo, next to the doggie treats that are supposed to make your dog's breath smell great (sucker, those don't work).

Sure, you think it's good exercise. Or it gives you the break you need so you can make dinner or watch Jon Stewart or go through the mail or something. Perhaps you think it's adorable to give the furry squirrel with a squeaker inside of it to your dog and watch him go bananas.

Here's the thing, though. I gotta tell you, honestly, those Squeaky Toys? They drive dogs insane. And not in a good way.

Imagine this – a can of savory candied cashews. Or a plate of delicious strawberries, covered with a plastic lid. A take out bag of yummy drool-worthy tacos? Whatever it is that makes your taste buds tingle. Can you see it? It's right in front of you. You can even smell it.

Now imagine you can't get it open.

No matter how hard you hammer the can or work at that plastic lid, or batter that bag, you cannot get it open. You can see it, you can smell it, you are SO CLOSE to eating it, but you can't get it open.

That's what's it like for dogs and squeaky toys.

We can't leave it alone. WE HAVE TO GET THE SQUEAKER OUT! We HAVE to, I'm telling you. We have rip that stuffed animal apart, chomp that squeaker inside, and trail stuff and fluff all over the floor. Don't you understand what happens if we leave that squeaker inside the stuffed chipmunk? IT WILL CONTINUE TO SQUEAK THE NEXT TIME WE PLAY WITH IT! THE SQUEAKER DOES NOT ABIDE! IT DOES NOT, IT DOES NOT, IT DOES NOT!

It's madness. Pure madness. The squeaker, taunting us, like a deranged whistle pounding at our eardrums. We're talking real OCD doggie behavior. We can't think, we can't go on a walk, we can't eat... okay, yes, we can. But it's not as much fun to eat, knowing that squeaker in that stuffed fox is STILL THERE.

Yes, it is fun for dogs. But fun in like the most grimly determined of ways. Fun like going to an all you can eat buffet. Where you know you're overeating, but you HAVE to try everything on the buffet because it's there, and it's all you can eat, and you are going to sample every last dessert in the dessert section!

So you can buy your dog a squeaky toy. But take pity, and also buy that cut of filet mignon (real meat, not the squeaky toy version.) Because your dog is gonna EARN that sucker, oh yes, he is.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ask Toto #50

Dear Toto,

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?

Compulsive List Maker

Hi Compulsive!

My resolution is the same every year.  It’s the same every year because I break it every year.  And that resolution is…

I promise to be nice to the cat.

It’s a resolution that Dorothy wants me to make, and I want to make her happy, really I do.  But it’s SO DARN HARD!

I promise to be nice to the cat.

You ever notice how the cat doesn’t make any resolutions at all?  I promise not to bother Toto.  That would be a GREAT resolution for the cat, and the cat doesn’t do bupkiss.  Just slinks around, so hoity toity and sneering at me and twitching its tail and thinking its so great and then I just have to BARK BARK BARK and chase it all over the house and hopefully into the water trough outside because I promise you, a wet cat is an awesome sight to see.

I promise to be nice to the cat.

Does it have to be “nice”?  Can it be “civil”?  “Polite”?  “Steadfastly ignoring you until you upset me”?

I am a dog.  I will try my best.  But don’t blame me if I break the resolution… oh, about two days ago.

Thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs twice a month until the questions run out.  Don't let that happen!  Send Toto your queries at