Would he do it for a Scooby snack?
Toby would. In fact, he would do just about anything for a dog treat. And that’s what landed him a job as a U.S. federal officer.
“Toby was very food motivated,” said Beth Mulrooney, president of the Cumming-based Humane League of Lake Lanier.
“The food motivation is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture looks for because it’s very easy to train them.”
The beagle, who was listed for adoption on PetFinder.com, was discovered by the USDA and is training to become an agricultural detection dog at an international airport.
Toby passed all the preliminary tests and is on his way to completing the program in early September, said Cresandra Anderson, his training specialist at the National Detection Dog Training Center in Newnan.
“At the end of three months, he will be proficient in being able to detect any prohibited agricultural items coming into the United States,” she said.
“He’s going to get paired up with a handler and placed in an international airport in the U.S., protecting the American dinner table.”
Toby, who is called Lenox in the program, is rewarded with treats for identifying five basic scents of agriculture contraband in suitcases: apple, mango, citrus, pork and beef.
He’s responding well to the training, Anderson said, and performing well for any snack offered.
“It doesn’t seem like he has a favorite. He likes them all,” she said. “He’s an equal opportunity food employer.”
During Toby’s 18 months being fostered at Gypsy Paws in Gainesville, he earned the nickname “The Hoover,” since he would sniff for food every place he went, said owner Kelley Emrey.
“Then he’d roll over and say, ‘I’m done. I’m done with my job for the day,’” she said. “His job was to make sure there was no loose kibble hanging out.”
Emrey said Toby’s always been driven, wanting to work and loving to be in charge.
While at the doggie day care, he would tell her which outdoor play area he wanted to enter each day.
“He would either stop at the small dog gate and wait for me to open it or he would stop at the big dog gate,” she said.
He also earned another nickname, “Toby-Toe,” since he would lift up his foot near people’s faces to show when he had a hangnail or other foot problem, Emrey said.
The beagle was found about age 2, she said, on the side of the road, guarding the body of his sister who had died after being struck by a car.
Emrey said it was difficult for him to adjust after losing his sibling and living on the streets.
Toby spent a long time being fostered at Gypsy Paws because he couldn’t be adopted by just anyone, she said. He wasn’t good with children and he was fairly stubborn, growling if he didn’t like a command.
Emrey was thrilled when she heard the USDA was interested in her Toby-Toe.
“This is just the best situation I could have asked for with him because of the behavioral things,” she said. “It was going to be very tough to find a regular, normal adoption process for him because I needed somebody with a lot of experience.”
Anderson is able to offer all the training that will make Toby an upstanding American dog citizen.
The program always seeks out rescue dogs like Toby, something Mulrooney said is a great way to give dogs another chance.
“They’re saving lives and using these homeless animals to protect our borders,” she said. “It’s a nice little story, from a homeless dog to a federal officer.”