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Local artist in need of community support for dog’s operation

November 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

When a company turns its back on an injured employee, dodging Workman’s Compensation, denying responsibility and, as a consequence, effectively blocking other paths to compensation, chances are the employee will be out of luck – damaged and nearly broke.

This is the story of Toby Heyworth, an intuitive abstract artist, who has been using his art to help him deal with the pain a work accident dealt him in 2012.

Shelly Maiorana told the story of how she met Mr. Heyworth and what had happened to him: “It was so funny – I was on Plenty of Fish and he reached out and said ‘Will you talk to me?’ I said of course and discovered he has an amazing soul. I love him like a brother.”

She invited him to live with her, coming from a house where he was living with others on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program).

“My house has several bedrooms and I was attracted to him because he’s a good soul and an artist,” she said.

Of the accident that had done Mr. Heyworth so much harm, she said, “He suffers from brain swelling; he had an accident when he was working for Musashi Auto Parts in Arthur. A big pipe blew open and all the waste dumped all over him. We tried to work with the company and insurance.”
They went to a Toronto law firm and were advised that pursuing the case against Musashi or the insurance company could take years, cost a fortune and result in nothing positive.

“We had his uniform covered in the muck and still couldn’t make a claim even with Workmen’s Comp because Musashi didn’t make a claim.” Ms. Maiorana continued.

“We even tried ODSP because the medical expenses were $1,000 a month. But he was scaled back. I’m a single mom but they wouldn’t help; they said I have too big an income – but I’m not his family; I’m just a friend.”

Toby Heyworth has always loved to paint. His artist mother, Elspeth Heyworth, was also a well-known social worker. The Elspeth Heyworth Arts Centre is in the Old Mill Hub (former Mill Street Mall), here in Orangeville.

Toby Heyworth, like other intuitive abstract artists, paints with colours and “whatever comes out.”

He offers them online.

Ms. Maiorana explained, “There’s other people in pain reaching out to him and struggling, and he sends his paintings to them without asking for money.”

She went on to say, “We worked for a long time and put a lot of energy into making a claim and got nowhere,” commenting philosophically, “So, eventually we thought – that’s it – no more energy spent on this,” adding, “In 2014, he was told he had six months to live.” 

Since they two have come to together, Ms. Maiorana reckons Toby has taught her compassion, patience, and how to think about what “you’re saying”. Her business in life is financing – a hard world where compassion can be rare.

“I’m very grateful that I was born in Canada,” she said. “I’m trying to save money to put in a new vinyl floor because he’s tripping all the time.”

The other part of this story is the dog, Stella, a Shiba Inu, a Japanese breed.

“She looks like a fox,” Ms. Maiorana opined. “Actually, she’s my son’s dog but she likes us better.”

Among his other ailments, Mr. Heyworth has Parkinson’s and it is well documented that a companion dog is very helpful for those suffering from the disease.

“She’s really good company,” Ms. Maiorana observed. “But one day she couldn’t walk; her knees just went and we’ve bought her a wheelie, which she hates and doesn’t want to use.”

Here are the facts: Stella is scheduled on January 3, 2022, for surgery on her left leg, the first of two ACL tears and TPLO is the name of the surgery for the knee. Both knees require the same treatment. It is the number one surgery in canines. The recovery period is six to eight weeks. The total cost is $8,200.

“My son started a GoFundMe; [technically], this is his dog; he bought her four years ago but he bought a house in Cambridge and is out all day. He works on the removes and freshens vinyl signs on trains and trucks. Once he had to go to the west coast for a week’s work.

“Stella keeps Toby company but my son started the GoFundMe in October under his name, Matt James; so far it has raised over $1,000. It tells Stella’s story –she is only five years old.”

So, Stella came to hang out with Toby Heyworth. In spite of both Parkinson’s and scoliosis, plus a few neurological problems, still unidentified, Mr. Heyworth “can still walk” and does his best around the house to contribute by doing some housework, laundry and “he does a lot of the cooking. One weekend, he made pancakes without eggs – got really excited about that and all the things he can do …”

Toby Heyworth paints and mostly donates his paintings, although they would do well in a gallery. His use of colour and shapes vary considerably, some include texture and, once in a while, an image haunts the canvas. He paints for painting’s sake and to relieve the pain and the tension of pain for himself. Others who see his work online, ask to own one.

Said Ms. Maiorana, “He just gives them away; if a painting of his makes things easier for someone, that’s what matters to him.”

He has also been a teacher to her: “Toby has really hammered home that others can help me too; people are put in each other’s path for a reason – if we hadn’t met, he would have been gone by now. We’ve been together for nine years.” 

As for the drive to help the dog, “Stella’s just got a huge heart to want to continue, with no indication that this is her time to go. It’s completely the opposite. We don’t want to put her down just because of money – even $5 dollars helps,” was the appeal.

Although Toby Heyworth commented that he is not good at words, he did tell the Citizen, “Stella is very good therapy for people that have Parkinson’s. That’s why we strive to make this dog live a good life. She’s a big part of my life. She knows when I’m sick and sits on my feet. She’ll poke me when I’m really bad, to get out of it – she will bug me for snacks and cheese.

“I know three other people – all men – and they’ve all got neurological disorders and they all have dogs for therapy that help them go through the day. They all drive, every one of them,” Toby Heyworth said.

To visit his website, go to:

The site to donate to Stella’s surgery is:

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