NEW YORK - Toby the Heimlich dog cemented his status as Cecil County’s most celebrated hero — or at least its most infamous canine — with an appearance Wednesday on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
“It gives a whole new perspective on man and his best friend,” Letterman told his audience after explaining how Toby saved his owner from choking on an apple by jumping up and down on her chest.
“All my dog does is take a dump on the rug,” he said.
Although it was Toby’s story that initially attracted the attention of the “Late Show,” it was his owner, Calvert resident Debbie Parkhurst, and her other dog, Fred, who received most of the attention during Wednesday’s taping of the “Late Show.”
Parkhurst’s name flashed across the screen at the top of the show just after fellow celebrity guest Alec Baldwin and immediately before musical guest LCD Soundsystem.
Letterman, meanwhile, seemed to be particularly infatuated with Fred, a basset hound with a woeful expression who, according to Parkhurst, dutifully stood by as Toby leapt up and down on her chest, dislodging the chunk of apple that had lodged in her throat.
Throughout the show, the camera frequently returned to Fred, who was waiting patiently in the Green Room, along with Parkhurst’s husband, Kevin, a purchasing agent for a fiber company in Delaware.
“They say you get 15 minutes of fame,” Kevin said during a commercial break. “But this has gone way beyond that.”
The strange tale of Toby’s heroics gained national exposure after the Whig first reported the story two weeks ago.
The Parkhursts say they have been swamped with media requests, yet have been selective in which offers they accept.
“We’re very grounded people,” Parkhurst said Wednesday.
The Parkhursts visit New York City every Christmas, but the couple said they initially had reservations about making the trip with their dogs in tow.
“The dogs were like two little kids in the hotel room last night, but today they’re pretty subdued,” Parkhurst said. “I think they actually like it here in the big city.”
During the taping, Kevin recalled his initial reaction when his wife first told him she would have choked to death if Toby had not, literally, leapt to her aid.
“The first thing I thought about was what I would have come home to if Toby hadn’t jumped up and down on her,” he said.
Letterman encouraged Toby and Parkhurst to re-create their incredible experience on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater, but Toby appeared to be more interested in checking out the set than showing off his life-saving techniques.
Once off of his leash the 2-year-old golden retriever wandered the stage, and even cozied up to bandleader Paul Shaffer, but ultimately declined to pounce on his owner for the cameras.
“You have a beautiful animal,” Letterman said, wrapping up the segment. “Fred’s all right, too.”
Afterward, Parkhurst confided that she was only able to handle the pressure of the interview thanks to hours of prep work by the “Late Show” staff.
“I don’t think that it really sunk in until I was on the stage, and then I suddenly realized, ‘Ohmigod! I’m talking to David Letterman,’” she said. “Then, as I was coming off, I had a completely normal conversation with Alec Baldwin. I never, ever expected any of this to happen.”