Office of Advancement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Donor Spotlight: Toby's Story

The Toby Peskin Project

Thanks to the generous support of Stan and Gail Peskin, in memory of their vivacious dog Toby, experts at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine will investigate contributing factors in canine inflammatory bowel disease, a condition similar to Crohn's disease in humans.

In human patients, Crohn's disease is sometimes linked to low circulating levels of vitamin D, possibly due to the inflammation itself, the lack of absorption, or a combination of these factors. Supplementation with vitamin D appears to improve response to treatment, regardless of the type, in these patients.

The Illinois study will examine vitamin D levels in dogs with inflammatory bowel disease and normal dogs. If a difference is found, additional research may explore the value of vitamin D supplementation in canine patients.

To support the Toby Peskin Project, please go to the College of Veterinary Medicine online giving page and identify "Toby Peskin Project" as the designation for your gift.

If you would like more information about making a donation to the College of Veterinary Medicine in honor of a cherished animal or human friend, please contact the Office of Advancement at 217-333-27632.

About Toby

Toby the Yorkie“It has been said that there is a potential for every life to change the lives of others.”

This philosophy has moved many generous donors to the College of Veterinary Medicine, and it was cited by Stan and Gail Peskin in making a gift in memory of Toby, a very special Yorkie who touched their lives and who will continue to make a difference through a research project funded by the Peskins.

“We lost Toby on June 29, 2012, due in part to illness attributed to Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease,” wrote the Peskins, a few months after Toby’s death.

“With the passing of our beloved Toby, a door closes,’ they wrote. “Perhaps a new door of hope will open for, potentially, thousands of canines” through a research study on inflammatory bowel disease undertaken at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

Why Illinois?

The Peskins chose to make their gift to Illinois veterinary college in part because of Stan’s Illinois connections. He was born in Chicago and spent many years living in that area. His mother earned a bachelor’s degree from the Urbana campus in 1935. And the Peskins were impressed with the college’s leadership in research and clinical studies.

More about Toby

Toby was an AKC-registered Yorkshire terrier, born October 30, 1996. He traveled from a breeder in Missouri to a pet store in Mesa, Arizona, where he was adopted by Gail on February 3, 1997.

Gail’s sister phoned to tell her about this cute little Yorkie at the nearby pet store.

“I just had to see him,” wrote Gail, “so I went down that day to the store. I wanted him, though didn’t have the money with me. I whispered to Toby ‘I’ll come back tomorrow for you.’”

The following day, Gail returned to the store and her heart sank. Toby wasn’t in the kennel she had last seen him in.

“I walked around the store and eventually found Toby in another kennel towards the back of the store,” wrote Gail. “Toby and I went home together that day. I have owned many dogs earlier in my life raising and showing Shetland Sheepdogs. However, I never felt the bond between human and canine as I did with Toby. I always felt that he was my best friend and soul mate.”

Toby’s Personality

Gail says Toby was “My Little Shadow,” who followed her around everywhere. Canines are ‘pack’ animals, meaning they prefer to be in groups rather than alone, says Gail.

“Toby always had to be with me: in the house, in the car, out for walks, at the mall or with family and friends,” says Gail. “Together, we formed ‘our pack.’ He was outgoing and kind to other animals (even cats!) and humans. He had an attractive personality, at any time putting a smile on your face. There was never an incident where he bit anyone or was aggressive.”

When Gail and Stan began to date in August 2002, Toby would jump up on the couch and wiggle in between them. He was very protective of Gail, plus had to be the center of attention.

After Stan and Gail married in May 2003, Toby accepted Stan as part of “our pack,” Toby loved to travel and as long as the three were together, they were all happy.

“My mother once said that in Toby’s life, he experienced more than the average person does,” writes Gail. “He did it all; Toby rode in the car, flew on airplanes,  sailed on boats, rode the Bart in San Francisco, the ‘L’ in Chicago and has been from coast to coast. He loved to go, go, go!”

Highlights of Toby’s Life

  • Loved to travel
  • Appeared as a character in the children's book, 'The Tales of Tinker's Tails Too' by Peggy Howell. This is a lesson book for children. Toby's life lesson was to "Share what you learn with those less fortunate so they can dream of the world beyond their own backyard".
  • Met some famous people along the way; Luis Gonzalez and Mark Grace (Arizona Diamondbacks players), Dean Torrence (Jan & Dean), David Kirschner (producer & creator of Chucky)
  • Played the role of ambassador for the canine and feline members of his community during the local annual holiday pet drive benefitting the Sun Valley Animal Shelter
  • Dressed in a baseball jersey, walked the warning track at PETCO Park in San Diego
  • Had a family photo taken at Chase Field ballpark, Phoenix
  • Sat on a chair and ate with us at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, San Francisco
  • Was our teacher: he inspired us all with his unconditional love and kindness