Kim McCulley is bidding a fond farewell to her companion who has been at her heel for the last 17 months.
Many in the valley have come to recognize Toby. The tall lean Black Labrador, often wearing a white pinnie showing he is working, McCulley has been raising Toby since he was a pup for future use as a Seeing Eye Dog.
On Tuesday he boarded a flight to Vancouver where he will be entering college.
“The time flies, and it was lots of fun,” said McCulley. “He is doing excellent, they expect him to be a star.”
McCulley and Toby have been working together on basic skills, and have been attending training. Toby is now mature enough to enter the final phase of intense training. It is bitter sweet for McCulley.
“It’s tough, but we expect they are going to leave, and when they do you hope they are confident and they have no problems,” she says with a grin. “You hate to have nagged him for 17 months for nothing.”
She believes Toby is ready. He has an even temperament and has done well with his training. Basic skills such as indicating doors and stairs are well entrenched. She says without his bib he loves to play like any other dog. The Newcastle Ball Diamonds have become Toby’s stomping ground where he revels in the endless supply of windfall that was knocked from the trees following the September windstorm. When he is in uniform he is all business. Having said that, seeing eye dogs take pride in their work and are happy to serve.
McCulley’s relationship with Toby will endure. She says she will be able to keep track of him throughout his training, and often the new owners are generous sharing how he is doing.
“It’s not like I am losing him, I still get to hear how he does, and the clients send letters and photos, so it’s not like I’ll never get to see him,” she said.
For Toby now comes five months of intensive 9-5 training before he starts his service.
McCulley says the Town of Drumheller has been very supportive to make sure he is a healthy, happy dog with no issues.
“He’s been everywhere with me, to the doctor and grocery store. Everywhere I go, he went with me,” she said.
McCulley has enjoyed the experience of raising Toby and hopes to continue. She is eligible to act as a foster to another seeing eye dog in the future, and if given the chance, she will take in another dog to raise.