As It Happens

Toronto newsroom plans retirement party for guide dog

"She's part of the team. She's been with us all this time. So we need to do something to honour her. She's like a human co-worker. Let's send her off."

Reporter Michelle McQuigge and her Canadian Press colleagues bid farewell to Reva, a black Labrador

Reva is pictured here helping reporter Michelle McQuigge vote. The black Labrador guide dog is officially retiring this year. (Michelle McQuigge/Twitter)
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Transcript

Canadian Press reporter Michelle McQuigge has invited all of her colleagues to a grand retirement party — for her guide dog. 

Reva the 11-year-old black Labrador — dubbed "the world's best broadcast dog" — is hanging up her harness after almost a decade of duty by McQuigge's side.

McQuigge spoke to As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay about Reva's distinguished career and what it's like to plan a party for a pooch.

Michelle, how are you feeling as you're planning Reva's retirement party?

Very emotional. This is a very exhausting process in a whole variety of ways, as the process of detaching from a guide dog who's been with me virtually 24 hours a day for almost a decade is not something that I'm finding terribly easy.

At the same time, though, she deserves a really good retirement. She's been an incredible guide dog, and she's in her twilight years and she's still healthy enough to enjoy them. So I owe it to her to let her go and do exactly that.

So how do you mark the occasion for a guide dog? Tell me what this party you're planning is going to look like.

[Laughs] You really should be speaking to my co-workers in a lot of ways, because they're the ones who got emotional about it even before I did. And they said we've got to do something. She's part of the team. She's been with us all this time. So we need to do something to honour her. She's like a human co-worker. Let's send her off.

So this party that's taking shape is just an informal thing. It's just with everyone in the Toronto newsroom at Canadian Press. We'll get together. There will be human cake and puppy cake. I'm ordering that as we speak. 

McQuigge works at the Canadian Press office in Toronto with Reva by her side. (Jesse Johnston/Canadian Press)

So tell me a little bit about Reva. You've had her for almost 10 years. What does she do for you?

She allows me to navigate the world safely. So, in downtown Toronto, where there's no end of obstacles and no lack of traffic, she's invaluable.

She helps me navigate the streets, get me around both the stationary and the moving obstacles that crop up all around here. Because of her, I can walk in a much more comfortable, faster pace and not feel like I'm being hemmed in by the crowds.

She helps me feel more confident on surface transit and feel more confident on routes that I might not necessarily have taken before. Generally, she's a confidence booster. And she can help keep me safe even in situations where there may be changing factors.

McQuigge walks with Reva in Toronto in 2009. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

How would you describe her personality?

She's frisky and playful. Even at age 11 ½, she still quite often acts like a puppy and loves to play. She loves attention. She assumes that everyone's role on Earth is to pet her and love her and tell her she's wonderful. [Editor's note: It is.]

She'll make eyes at people in elevators without ever actually making real advances. She'll come and lay her head on me sometimes when I'm working or when I'm just around my home.

She loves to play with toys, but only when it's her idea. If you introduce a toy to her, she won't take it up. But when she brings it to you, you're expected to drop everything and get down to business playing with her.

She's a really fun, cheerful presence to have around any workplace or home.

Reva is young at heart and fond of attention. (Mike McQuigge/Twitter)

I can appreciate that after a decade, the decision to retire her, as it were, must have been a very difficult one. How did you do that?

There's no fixed date on when a guide dog retires. It's totally contingent on their health and how they're doing on the job.

So I knew it was coming. It's a numbers game at this point.

She's still in good health. She can still go at a pretty good clip. But her pace has slowed down some. Her energy level isn't quite as high as it used to be. And I figured it was time to spare her from another summer of hot, crowded streets and the joys of our local transit system.

And it was time for her to be able to enjoy herself and go and unwind and be in the country, where she's going to have a lot more leisure time and space and opportunities to just be a puppy.

And where will that be? What kind of place is she going to?

I have family members living east of Toronto and they have a lovely rural property out there, and she's going to go live with them.

So she's going to kick back, maybe take up golf?

Exactly. She's probably going to have a better retirement than me at this point.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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