In Memory of Toby

toby was a standard poodle who worked as a HABIC therapy dog for 12 years.
Toby was a Standard Poodle who worked as a HABIC therapy dog for 12 years with owners Barbara and Greg Heffington. Photo: Silver Paw Studio

Story by Barbara Heffington; photo by Silver Paw Studio

Toby was our third Standard Poodle. I met his breeder, Paula, at a dog show in the summer of 2004. I was looking for a puppy and it just so happened she was having a litter in July. I asked Paula to keep me up to date on the litter as I wanted my new puppy to be a Therapy dog for HABIC. I also wanted a male.

The puppies were born and Paula did all sorts of temperament testing, and identified one “Red Boy” (he had a red ribbon to mark him) as an excellent candidate for my puppy. Paula had also picked out one of the girls to be her next show dog because she identified this puppy as the “pick of the litter.”  The Poodle Club of Denver came to look at the litter, but they choose Red Boy as the pick of the litter! Paula knew that Red Boy—a.k.a. Toby—was destined to do great things, and he did.

We brought Toby home in October of 2004. Our youngest daughter was a senior in high school and I remember she was looking forward to having a puppy in the house. Toby was very smart…sometimes too smart!  He had a nose that could smell goodies anywhere: in purses, in briefcases, and more.

One day he got into my daughter’s friend’s purse and unwrapped some spearmint chewing gum. Another time he got into Greg’s briefcase for a chocolate bar, which he proceeded to unwrap and gobble down. That one sent him to the veterinarian! He could be a little mischievous at times.

Toby was a therapy dog for 12 years. He completed his puppy training and moved on to obedience classes with HABIC at 18 months old.  He started working in 2006, at Monroe Elementary School in Loveland. His first students were in Kindergarten; when sitting, Toby was taller than they were!

He continued working at Monroe for many years with students in all grade levels. He also worked in the Windsor and Poudre school districts with the crisis teams. Toby’s career as a therapy animal also included work with the elderly, through weekly group sessions at Columbine Health and of course the “De-Stress with Dogs” events at Colorado State.

Toby loved his job as a therapy dog. He absolutely knew the days of the week, because on his work day he would watch me carefully for when I would be going in the closet to retrieve his HABIC bag. At work, he touched everyone he came in contact with in a very special way.

After he retired, he did a few special events. Lulu, his niece (Toby’s sister was Lulu’s mom), worked with Toby for two years at Lincoln Middle School. After I retired Toby, Lulu continued as a HABIC dog, so on days when she was going to go work, we had to try to fool him into thinking nothing special was happening. He still wanted to go help his kids.

Yet Toby was so much more than just a therapy dog.  He was a great watch dog, an unbelievable friend, and a perfect traveler for road trips and camping. He never met a person he didn’t like (unless you happened to be riding a skateboard). He was a very special boy. Toby will be missed by all who knew him.

About Human-Animal Bond in Colorado

Founded in 1993, Human-Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC) is a center in the School of Social Work, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. HABIC’S mission is to improve the quality of life for people of all ages through the therapeutic use of companion animals, with particular focus in the areas of community outreach, teaching, and research.