Wrangler won the TODAY Show staff’s hearts — along with America’s — as last year’s “puppy with a purpose.” This time around, America’s VetDogs has brought black lab Charlie on the set as he learns how to become a service dog.
Trainer Olivia Poff and Andrew Rubenstein, America’s VetDogs director of marketing, chatted with Hoda Kotb about the process of training the precious pup. They’ve been familiarizing him with wheelchairs and walkers, Poff said, and ultimately will teach him three foundation service dog tasks: retrieving, pushing and tugging.
“If there’s a veteran in a wheelchair and the veteran needs something to drink or medicine out of the refrigerator, the dog can go to the refrigerator, pull the door open, grab something out of the refrigerator, close the door and then bring the item back,” Rubenstein explained. “It’s really an amazing thing to see. Our dogs are also able to get help, so if somebody has seizures or has some kind of disability through a traumatic brain injury and they pass out or they need help, the dog will go and find the closest person to them and bring them back. It’s literally like straight out of Lassie.”
And when Charlie isn’t wearing his black vest indicating he’s being trained, he’s free for some old-fashioned puppy love.
“His socialization is really wonderful for us, because it’s making him a happier and more comfortable puppy in this environment, and a happy and comfortable puppy that wants to come to work, they want to do the job,” Poff said. “And so we’re kind of pairing all his favorite things — snuggling with people and toys and treats and games — so that the job is something that he looks forward to doing.”
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