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Nipissing District Victim Services brings newest K9 recruit on board to start training

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To meet the demand of the number of clients who need trauma support, Victim Services of Nipissing District has brought a new partner on board to help: a young yellow Labrador puppy named Toby.

To meet the demand of the number of clients who need trauma support, Victim Services of Nipissing District has brought a new partner on board to help: a young yellow Labrador puppy named Toby. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)He is currently learning the ropes as one day he will assist in providing comfort to those who need it. The agency’s current trauma support dog is set for retirement in the next few years.

“We've had so much success with the program and so much positive feedback,” said K9 handler Gillian MacIntosh.

Toby, a three-and-a-half-year-old yellow lab puppy, was generously donated to victim services in October by the Citadel Canine Society based in Vancouver and Lucky Labs. His arrival comes at a critical time as the agency looks to one day need a new fully trained support dog.

“It will be a tiered approach as we look to integrate Toby into the program,” said Kathleen Jodouin, the executive director of the area’s victim services.

Toby, a three-and-a-half-year-old yellow lab puppy, has started his training to be Victim Services of Nipissing District's new trauma support dog. (Supplied/Victim Services of Nipissing District)Toby is currently in puppy training. He recently graduated from what’s called puppy “elementary school” and now he is in puppy “high school.” To get him to become a fully certified trauma support service dog and get his vest, it will take him two and a half years. His training follows the standards set out by the Canadian Association of Service Dog Trainers.

“He does public access training and obedience training and then task training,” said MacIntosh.

“So the task training is specifically what he needs to do in an interview room and that's being calm and lying on the couch with someone and let them pet him."

Toby's been following his ‘big brother’ Chewie - the current trauma support dog - around to learn all the ins and outs of his new job. (Supplied/Victim Services of Nipissing District)Toby's been following his ‘big brother’ Chewie around learning the ins and outs of the job. Chewie, a seven-and-a-half-year-old lab, is the agency's first trauma support dog. He started his work in 2017 and his service dog vest will be hung up in the next few years.

“Chewie, as a lot of service dogs, will enjoy retirement with his family and want to make sure we have time to properly train Toby over the next two years for that,” said Jodouin.

That means, one day Toby will follow in Chewie’s paw prints and assume the clients Chewie sees and will provide support for victims of crime and tragedy and for emergency responders in the Nipissing District.

“Chewie interacts with hundreds of folks every year,” said Jodouin.

“He works with many first responders and visits many detachments."

Macintosh said Toby’s training will come with a lot of hard work, dedication and preparation – but with that comes a few tasty treats.

“We'll have the next-generation dog ready to go,” she said.

Toby waiting for a treat from his K9 handler Gillian MacIntosh. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)

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