Even Santa was charmed by Onyx during the late night shopping photos with Santa event. /LAURA KEIL

By Andrea Arnold
Onyx, a two-year-old canine rescue, came to live with Valemount’s Lois McTaggart on Good Friday of 2022. It was an exceptionally good Friday for the dog, who had lived his whole life in kennels. He was brought home to Valemount to his forever home.

McTaggart, who has rescued dogs before, was struck by the gentle loving nature that Onyx displayed. Even right off the start, she could tell there was something different about him.

“He seems to have a sense about who needs to interact with him,” said McTaggart. “He has touched my heart more than any of the others.”

She began training him to work as a therapy dog, and he accompanies her as she makes her rounds as a volunteer within the community.

One day, when Onyx and McTaggart were at the clinic, McTaggart noticed an older gentleman across the room.

“His hands seemed to be crippled,” said McTaggart. “But when I asked if he wanted to see Onyx, he straightened up and took the leash. I wasn’t sure I was going to get my dog back.”

McTaggart has many stories of ways she has seen Onyx work his charms. There was a set of young sisters who were giving him some attention. Their mother told McTaggart that one of the two had been bitten by a dog, and this was the first time the girl had relaxed and enjoyed being around a dog since then.

Another story she tells is of a boy with special needs, who, after spending time with Onyx, had developed a bond. When it was time to go, the little boy signed “thank you.”

McTaggart and Onyx travel to Kamloops and Salmon Arm, as well as serving the Valemount community. In Salmon Arm, they visit a group of seniors. McTaggart says she hears so many stories from seniors about their own dogs who have long passed. McTaggart says she helps people who have been affected by fire and flood, and people who are in need, or homeless. She visits people in their homes, or wherever they are when they need a visit, and Onyx is right there with her.

During an outdoor event at a seniors facility in Salmon Arm, Onyx made his rounds visiting with many individuals. He even got some belly rubs. /LOIS MCTAGGART

“When he is wearing his vest, he knows he is going to work,” she said. “It is nice to see how he acts around seniors, kids, and people with special needs. When we go into people’s homes, he is calm and respectful.”

When Onyx is not “on the clock” he loves to play. McTaggart says that he wants to play with any other dog he comes across. He prances and spreads joy as he makes people smile with his antics.

McTaggart is in the process of writing a book called “Onyx’s Adventure.” The book follows Onyx through this first year of living ‘on the outside’ and shows the world from his perspective.

“Seeing the world through the eyes of a dog is similar to seeing it through a child’s eyes,” said McTaggart.

In the book Onyx tells of the first time he was given an ice cream cone, and was confused because he was being told to eat the cone, but he knows that you are not supposed to eat the container your food comes in. The book also tells of his experience the first time McTaggart brought home a giant water dish, put it out in the yard in the summer, filled it and then, to Onyx’s astonishment, climbed into it. It took a bit of time for him to realize it was a pool. McTaggart is waiting to see what new adventures they can experience during the Christmas season before completing the book.

In the book, McTaggart also writes about his different sort of family. His family consists of two-leggers and four-leggers. He has a rescue cat with special needs and a squirrel brother that he doesn’t want his friends to know about because they will make fun of him.

Once the book is complete, McTaggart hopes to be able to visit hospitals, schools, and women’s shelters with Onyx, to share his adventures.

“People are drawn to him,” said McTaggart. “He has a big heart, and I think he is paying it forward.”