Toby says, 'Be A Buddy Not A Bully'
Best-selling author and motivational speaker Charmaine Hammond shares with us who Toby is, and discusses how a sailboat accident that almost took her life and the life of her husband changed her.
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We adopted Toby from NASAP, a local rescue agency when he was five-and-a-half years old; he is now almost ten. His original owners loved him and must have struggled when the time came to surrender him for adoption due to tragic circumstances within the family. We understand from the foster parents that Toby was about 40 pounds overweight when he entered foster care and when we adopted him several months later he was at a healthy weight for his size. The foster parents did an amazing job at helping Toby’s health and social issues.
Several months after welcoming Toby to our family, little quirks, odd habits and strange behaviours began to surface. He began to exhibit extreme separation anxiety, even if left alone for short periods of time. When we would leave for work he would empty the front hall closet contents into the middle of the entrance way, knock things over and try and lock himself in rooms. He also closes himself in the bathroom and when unable to escape he crashes the toilet tank lid to the floor (we have replaced six tank lids to date).
At meal time, Toby either goes outside to bark, or goes into the bathroom and bangs the shower doors with his nose three times and frequently knocks the shampoo bottle into the bathtub. While frustrating at first, these behaviours and odd habits have now become somewhat amusing for our family. They are our daily reminders of Toby’s individuality and personality. When Toby’s routine is changed or if he is upset with us for some reason he retaliates by emptying closets, knocking things over and emptying the book shelves.
We sought help to deal with Toby’s behaviours. Maggie, from Capable Canines, provided us with a range of suggestions and helpful strategies. Maggie suggested that that Toby was uncertain of his role in our family - Toby needed a purpose.
We were introduced to the CHIMO Project, a well-respected Pet Assisted Therapy Program in Edmonton, Alberta. After Toby passed his tests we were accepted as volunteers with CHIMO and were soon placed with Alberta Hospital Edmonton. Wednesday afternoons are clearly the highlight of Toby’s world. The drive from our home to the hospital typically consists of Toby smiling, barking and panting with excitement.
Toby seems to understand his purpose and proves that by interacting with each individual in the appropriate manner needed at the time. He is intuitive enough to recognize that around some people, he must be quiet, and respectful of their need for space and distance. Sometimes patients take him for a walk or to play fetch outside. On other visits he performs tricks and shows off. Patients also help him with his obedience class homework. When it comes to people, Toby connects through the heart.
We are happy to say that as a result of his volunteer job, his behavior has improved a great deal. Charmaine and Toby have now volunteered for almost four years at the hospital!