News Online: Local volunteer rescue dog Toby to become a movie star

Published online at on March 7, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, March 7, 2011

Local volunteer rescue dog Toby to become a movie star

His owners call it paw-sitive inspiration.

He was in foster care and was a rescue dog with behaviour problems, and now he’ll be a star on the silver screen.

It’s the story of nine-year-old chesapeake bay retriever Toby, a local volunteer rescue dog whose touching story has turned him famous.

Charmaine and Chris Hammond adopted Toby about four years ago and describe his behaviour at that time as destructive, wounded, and anxious.

The couple would often come home to rooms turned upside down by the dog.

“We had to get help. We called in a behaviourist to basically help us deal with Toby’s behaviour,” Charmaine said on Monday. “She trained us on learning about what was going on with Toby.”

What the family learned was that Toby didn’t seem to know what his role was and that he needed a job, a purpose, in order to get better.

It was then that Toby became a pet-assisted therapy dog with the Chimo Animal Assisted Therapy Project.

Toby has been volunteering every Wednesday for three years at Alberta Hospital, working with mental patients.

It’s a weekly ritual that’s been advantageous for everyone involved, Charmaine said.

“While Toby is giving back to the patients, he is getting so much in return from them,” she said.

“His life has transformed and so has ours.”

Toby has worked with the Humane Society, Vets without Borders, and participates in children’s programs with Charmaine, who is a motivational speaker. He’s helped raise money for SPCAs and other animal and children’s charities.

Charmaine wrote a story about Toby’s progress and the work that he’s down and it was published in a 2009 edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

From there, she wrote a book called On Toby’s Terms, which was published last September.

“The book goes through the journey of Toby and talks about all the rich, powerful life lessons that we learned as Toby’s owners.”

Since then, the family has been going on book tours with their special dog and now, California-based Impact Motion Pictures has offered to turn Toby’s story into a movie.

“He just seems to have this inate sense of the human condition,” said Stephen Hubis, with Impact Motion Pictures, on why the company wanted to put Toby on the big screen.

“He’s just one of a kind. He has a really unique gift, he can teach us all a lot about friendship and emotion.”

“We’re going to follow him through a four or five year period. It will be in a reverse format, we’ll be using a lot of flashbacks. It will mostly focus on how he came into their lives and changing everybody he came into contact with,” Hubis said.

To Charmaine and Chris, the news that their furry friend’s story had caught the attention of Hollywood came as an exciting surprise.

“We’re just thrilled about that. It’s so surreal,” Charmaine said. “We love Toby’s story and we see how much Toby is giving back to people and we wanted to share that story to the world but we thought that would be just through the book, so to have the movie is just another exciting accomplishment.”

Charmaine says Toby has taught herself and her family a number of life lessons and continues to teach others each and every day.

“It’s one of my favourite things to watch, how Toby just steps into his purpose and into his role. He just seems to know what people need,” she said.

“Being authentic, persevering, and just being real and bringing the best version of yourself to work every day. It is amazing.”

Toby is expected to make a cameo in the motion picture, which is now in screenplay development.

Hubis said he would like to shoot the movie in Edmonton.

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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