A Life-Changing Graduation Gift Named Toby

October 23, 2019

For her college graduation present last May, Emily L. pleaded with her parents to adopt a new dog.

“We hadn't had a dog in years, and I had wanted one for a while,” says Emily, who recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. “I finally convinced my folks that I’d be able to take care of one since I was moving back home for graduate school.”

So, the day Emily graduated, her father Jacques picked her up and they proceeded immediately to the ASPCA Adoption Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, in the hopes of meeting their new family member. That’s where they met Toby. 

“When I met Toby, I saw a bundle of energy who wanted to be with people all the time,” Emily says. “I watched a staff member walk into his kennel, and Toby jumped all over him, wanting to be pet. I wanted a cuddly dog who would always want to be around me, and I could tell that, with some training, Toby would be a perfect fit for our family.”

Emily adopted Toby that day, helping him into her father’s car, which was already filled with belongings from her dorm room. Toby then made the two-plus hour drive back to Binghamton, New York with his new family, mostly sitting on Emily’s lap—making fast friends already.

Learning A New Life

Toby has come a long way from his former life, literally and figuratively. Involved in an animal cruelty case in early May 2019, he was brought to the ASPCA Animal Recovery Center (ARC) for care.

During this time, ASPCA behavioral experts taught Toby how to sit and helped him contain his excitement. This included learning not to jump on people he meets. “We practiced more favorable ways for Toby to share his love for people,” says Corinne Fritzell, Behavior Specialist at the ASPCA Adoption Center. “He’s very affectionate, often exuberantly so.”

Emily continued Toby’s training when she took him home, teaching him to stay, lie down, come, speak and shake. 

Once in his new home, Toby didn't take long to warm up to humans and animals alike, including Emily’s eight-year-old cat named Boo. 

“During the day when I’m home, Toby is my shadow and follows me around the house; he even sits outside the shower and waits for me to get out,” says Emily, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Binghamton University. “When I come home from work or school, I usually find him on my bed waiting for me to get home and play. At night he sleeps in my bed and has to be touching me at all times.”

Friend to the Whole Family

Toby is a big part of Emily’s entire family, which includes her mother, Jeannie, and her triplet sisters Rebecca and Alexandra. Jacques walks Toby three miles every morning, which they both enjoy, and Emily spends an hour with Toby on most days at a nearby dog park.

“Toby goes back and forth saying ‘hi’ to all the humans and playing with the other dogs,” says Emily. “It's definitely his favorite place to be.” 

When they’re not at the dog park, Emily and Toby hike on short trails near their home or to a friend’s house where he plays for hours with a Golden Retriever buddy named Bailey. His favorite toys are tug-of-war ropes and when he sleeps, he “snores up a storm,” Emily tells us.

For Toby’s first birthday on July 4, Emily’s family celebrated with peanut butter and pumpkin cupcakes made from a dog-friendly recipe. It was a fitting gift for the dog who was himself a life-changing gift to the family.

“I am so thankful for him and the love and joy he brings into my life,” says Emily. “I would definitely say Toby was the best gift ever.”

This Saturday, October 26 is National Pit Bull Awareness Day, a day which celebrates and promotes important truths about pit bull-type dogs. We hope that you will honor this special day by keeping dogs like Toby in mind as a reminder that no dog is confined by labels and stereotypes. Spread awareness this Pit Bull Awareness Day and every day and help us remind misunderstood dogs and other suffering animals that there is always hope for a better tomorrow.

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Behind every animal rescued and every happy ending at the ASPCA is a generous friend like you. Please help us find loving homes for animals—and make more second chances possible—with your special gift today.