Kindness mission inspired by pet therapy dog

February 23, 2012
By: 
Raina Delisle
Tags: newsalumni
Charmaine Hammond and Toby.

Toby lived his life with purpose and kindness. The pet therapy dog inspired his person, Charmaine Hammond, and countless others through volunteering at a hospital, presenting to about 10,000 children across North America and sharing his story on the pages of multiple books.

“From an educational perspective, when we’re passionate about what we do, and we do what we do with a lot of love, it really impacts the world,” says Hammond, a 2000 graduate of the MA Conflict Analysis and Management program.

With that in mind, Hammond, a bestselling author and professional speaker, and her husband, Christopher Alcock, launched a Million Acts of Kindness – Toby’s Global Mission on Valentine’s Day. Sadly, Toby passed away peacefully of natural causes in late 2011 at the age of 10.5. However, he continues to inspire. The multimedia project will be ongoing and will include a variety of activities for people of all ages, but with a focus on youth.

“Bringing kindness to the forefront is a priority for us,” says Hammond, who is putting together a kindness postcard, which will give people 100 ideas of how to display kindness in the workplace, as part of the mission. One of her activities for elementary school students involves a writing contest on kindness. The winner of the activity will become a character in Hammond’s next children’s book, Toby Says Be a Buddy, Not a Bully.

The book, scheduled for release this year, will be the second in a series. Toby’s story was first told in a piece Hammond submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog. In the story, Hammond introduces readers to Toby, a rescue dog who, when first brought into Hammond’s home, destroyed everything in his path. However, when Hammond realized that Toby needed purpose and focus in his life, just like all of us, she helped him redirect his boundless energy into becoming a therapy dog and hospital volunteer.

“Toby came into our life and literally turned our life and our house upside down and changed it for the better,” recalls Hammond, who further developed Toby’s story into a bestselling book, On Toby’s Terms.

“Simply a beautiful book about life, love and purpose,” says Jack Canfield, originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Canfield was not the only one taken by the story. Hammond has also sold the film rights to California-based Impact Motion Pictures.

When Hammond is not writing or working on the kindness mission, the Plamondon, Alta.-based businesswoman is travelling the world as a sought-after public speaker, facilitator and consultant. A former corrections officer for youth and adults and chartered mediator, she is an expert in building resilient teams by moving beyond conflict through courageous dialogue.

“The skills set that I developed through RRU have served me well, far beyond my conflict resolution practice because part of the program is also teaching other professional skills that I use all the time,” says Hammond, adding that the technical skills she acquired though online learning have been invaluable as she often runs webinars and recently launched two Internet radio shows, PAWsitive Radio and Corporate Conversations with Charmaine. “The RRU program stretched me into new areas of technology that I had been a little hesitant to play with.”

In addition to solo speaking engagements, Hammond frequently visited schools and other institutions with Toby. Dozens of testimonials, found on her website, speak of the pair’s powerful messages and inspiring delivery.

“Toby and Charmaine were amazing … inspirational and motivational in their presentation to 100 teen parents,” says a representative from the Terra Centre for teenage parents in Edmonton. “Toby and Charmaine reinforced to these young parents they have potential and when we ask for support, others can help us reach our goals. Toby is a licking and wagging reminder of the possibilities when we put our energies into positive directions.”

While Hammond carries on with her career without Toby, she will always remember the things he taught her and strive to share the lessons with others.

“One of the most important ways Toby inspired me was to move me out of being a perfectionist. I realized that being a perfectionist was really holding me back from a lot of opportunities in life. Toby loosened me up and really taught me to embrace play more and to show up in the world a little more real like he did every day.”

Learn more about a Million Acts of Kindness – Toby’s Global Mission by visiting www.ontobysterms.com.