For weeks the small ambassador sat outside Baylor Law School and greeted those who walked in the building. He, in turn, was recognized with a call of his name and often an offering of food or other kind of treat. He had a small house against the building, and he could escape there to avoid inclement weather or just to take a nap. Unusual behavior, to say the least, but not when the ambassador is a stray beagle mix who considered Baylor Law his home and who now has a real home of his own.
Baylor Law students, staff and faculty love dogs. After all, this is the school that awarded a "Juris Dog-tor" to Skeeter, the lovable Labrador and service animal for alumna Amy Jones. So it was only natural that all took the legal beagle under their collective wing. They even named him Toby, in honor of Baylor Law's Dean Brad Toben.
"Dean Toben runs the law school, and Toby ran around the law school," said student Whitney Keltch.
Whitney is an avid animal lover who has fostered many animals for the Waco Humane Society. She first became aware of Toby's plight in the winter.
"My friends, Johnny Wen, Lauren Hartman and Kyle Counce, all called me about Toby the same night during our winter finals week. It was a study day so I came up to the school to try to wrangle him in. Of course, this was to no avail as nobody was able to quite catch the little guy," she said.
Toby would not allow anyone to touch him. He would run up to people but skid to a stop about 18 inches from whomever he was greeting. There is speculation that he was abused by his previous owner, which created his phobia about being touched. Many people tried to catch him, using food as a lure. Whitney, along with friends, tried for hours on end to catch him using everything from canned dog food to grilled chicken. Ron Ostrom, who works for Waco Parks and Wildlife and is Humane Society volunteer, also spent hours with Toby.
"I even saw Professor (Ron) Beal and Professor (Rory) Ryan on a few occasions trying to lure him," Whitney said.
Toby still liked to play with his friends, albeit at a distance. Whitney's favorite memory of him was during spring Practice Court. Toby would run up to the PC students and chase their rolling PC boxes, trying to play.
"It was a great start to a difficult day," she said.
But after calling the Law School home for several months, Toby left. Several law students spotted him on the main Baylor campus when they would run the Bear Trail (the path that goes around the campus). Then another student spotted him by the Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Waco. But that was the last time anyone connected with the law school saw him until May 25.
"Rob Ostrom saw that Toby had been picked up and was at the Humane Society," Whitney said. "He immediately called me to tell me Toby was there but needed out fast. He was terrified and not doing well in the shelter. Apparently he was picked up by animal control after getting locked into someone's backyard off 26th and Columbus."
Whitney went to spring him and found a scared legal beagle.
"He was covered in ticks and shaking out of fear. But he let me pick him up and give him a bath. He was so overwhelmed for a few days that he barely ate, never interacted and would just shake in whatever corner he could find, hiding his face," Whitney said.
He also got sick with an upper respiratory infection that was treated with antibiotics. Eventually Toby came out of his shell with the help of Whitney's boxer, Braydie, and a Labrador named Howie. Whitney said Toby followed his new canine companions and learned to be a dog from them. After just two weeks, he was a completely different dog with a good appetite--a dog that slept in Whitney's room and followed her everywhere.
It was then that Whitney knew Toby could go to his own home. She found a couple in Dallas who have dogs and cats and are aware of Toby's issues. Whitney plans to keep up with her little friend to see how he is adjusting.
She gives much of the credit for Toby's rescue to the Waco Humane Society.
"Kristen of the Humane Society and Ron were invaluable and instrumental in saving this dog. I can't thank them enough for contacting me as soon as they saw him at the shelter and for helping me give this little guy a chance," she said.
However Dean Toben gives the credit to Whitney and the Baylor Law family who took an interest in Toby's welfare.
"I commend, and am thankful for, Whitney and each of our students who have reached out (literally and figuratively) to Toby. We have a community at the Law School that is marked by our care for each other - including 'the least of these.' Toby captured the hearts of all of us and everyone at the Law School is smiling about his happy ending with folks who will love him as he deserves to be loved," Toben said.