Crosstown LRT construction builds bond between construction worker and a local dog

Workman’s best friend – Amid carefully made planning, a special friendship grows

Amidst the chaos of building a 19-kilometre transit line, a friendship grows naturally.

Though aided by dog treats.

Just like his human counterparts, Coby the standard poodle has been navigating Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction for years. Patiently he patrols his Leaside territory with his trusty owner, Robin O’Donohue, stopping to smell familiar aromas on trees, fire hydrants and pesky squirrels – all while the LRT gets closer to completion. Things were pretty ordinary for O’Donohue and Coby, until one day something new caught Coby’s attention – call it a sign.

Slow. Stop.

Slow. Stop.

At the corner of Bayview and Eglinton avenues, Tony Igbinogum, the signalman and his double-sided stop sign rotates, while keeping area residents and travellers safe. Little did he know when he started manning his post, it would lead to a friendship that would last years.

“I can’t really explain it, it just happened, “said Igbinogum of the bond between workman and dog which started in 2017. “Coby is one of the things that makes me want to come to work every day – he’s became part of my day.”

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Coby jumps for joy every time he sees his friend Tony

In the middle of such an important project for Toronto – expected to be completed in 2021, the Crosstown LRT will link to 54 TTC bus routes, three subways stations and three GO stations – this friendship may not seem particularly remarkable. But it’s an example of how crews and communities on major developments can become connected. How those toiling away become part of the neighbourhoods they are working in.

Though apparently it wasn’t love at first sight for Igbinogum. O’Donohue says Igbinogum was a bit weary the first time all 70-pounds of standard poodle came barreling down Bayview towards him. But all it took was one interaction for Tony’s trepidation to melt away.

“Once they connected by touch, it was game over,” said O’Donohue.  “Normally he’s a well behaved dog, but the moment he sees Tony, all the rules go out the window.”

“I’ve never had this kind of connection with a dog,” said Igbinogum.

Maybe it was his orange jumpsuit, his infectious smile, or, sure, perhaps it was all those dog treats in the pocket of his reflective vest. Whatever it was, Coby is undeniably captivated by Igbinogum.

“Tony calls Coby his coffee break – you can tell it totally makes his day,” said O’Donohue. “It’s hard to tell who likes it more.”

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Old friends taking a coffee break

Igbinogum, the ever present sentinel with the swinging traffic sign, tries to stay warm as the relentless chill of winter bears down on him. But nothing thaws the grip of winter like Coby. That joy is contagious.

Passersby are amazed at the friendship between the two as Igbinogum gives Coby his daily biscuit. Nearby, those in cars, walking the streets, or the nearby paid-duty police officer, smile at the interaction between the signalman and the furry local.

Some might call it fate while others would say it happened purely by chance. But regardless of whom you ask, this connection was never part of the LRT master plan. It just grew on its own.

Story by Scott Money, Metrolinx advisor, social media and issue management.