Hockey is a famously hands-on sport, but some NHL teams, including The St. Louis Blues, are bringing puppies on board to soften its image.
Born on Sept. 13, 2018, the yet-to-be-named baby Labrador retriever loves hockey pucks, barking at referees, and gleefully rolls over when his home team scores. Even better is that the puppy, whose new teammates are currently polling fans for help in picking a name, is also in training to be a service dog. Over the coming season, he’ll learn basic obedience skills, with countless opportunities for socialization at home games.
After this basic training, he’ll embark on 4-6 months of intensive training with Duo, a non-profit organization that places service dogs with disabled people and veterans, or in anxiety-inducing facilities like hospitals, courthouses, and schools.
There the dog will learn how to open and close doors, retrieve objects, pick up dropped items, and practice other important skills, like alerting hearing-impaired people to doorbells, alarms, and crying infants, before being dispatched to a facility or family depending on need. (The Blues are covering the costs associated with this particular dog, but you can help sponsor Duo’s other puppies-in-training here).
The Blues aren’t the only NHL team to have recognized the benefit of bringing a puppy on board. The New York Rangers’ hockey pup, Ranger (aka Rangey or Meatball) was drafted on April 2, 2018, to cheer on his namesake team in Madison Square Garden as part of his training with Project 2 Heal, a nonprofit providing capable dogs to wounded veterans and kids with special needs.
Not to be outdone, The New York Islanders have adopted Radar, a Labrador puppy who will help the home team through their 2018-9 season before going on to assist impaired children on behalf of the Guide Dog Foundation.
Meanwhile, down in D.C., The Washington Capitals, whose annual Caps & Canine Calendar has already raised $282,000 for animal rescue since 2014, have recently welcomed Nigel, a service-dog-in-training who will one day be dispatched to help physically disabled adults.
Regardless, all of this dog adoption has definitely led us to reconsider the teams we’re cheering for this season. May the best puppy win!
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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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