BILLINGS, Mont. -
The future looks bright for a furry little friend with four paws who arrived in Billings today to begin his first year of training as a service animal for a veteran.
Rigger is just 11 weeks old and he’ll be joining pups from 12 other foster families to benefit Northwest Battle Buddies. The organization helps veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by pairing them with professionally trained service dogs at no cost.
Of the 12 pups who’ve been sent to foster families across the country to begin their service dog training, Rigger traveled to the Magic City from Washington state to begin his life with his foster family, the Hoovers.
“We help out locally with some different veterans groups,” Brian Hoover said. “None of us ever served, but we got a heart for veterans so we try to do what we can and one of the biggest things that we’ve seen is how good a service animal does for a veteran with PTSD.”
Brian and Deb Hoover have volunteered to take care of Rigger for one year, taking him through his basic training.
“They call it Basic Respective People,” Deb Hoover said. “They’re looking for staying off the couch, listening when called, dropping when they’re not supposed to have something in their mouth, just potty training and making sure that they’re always respecting the human and trusting the person to take care of them and they don’t have to do it themselves.”
Rigger won’t be the only one learning valuables lessons. Brian and Deb’s son, Troy, will be learning as well.
“He’ll be learning and already has started learning a lot about training dogs and what’s necessary to do that, and more importantly, training this type of a dog to be a service animal,” Brian said. “So it’s not just your normal play and roll around on the floor. There’s actually quite a bit that he’s going to have to hold back on.”
Once the furry little friend finishes his time with the Hoover family, he’ll be ready to travel to Park County, Wyoming to begin extensive training as a service dog. For now, the Hoover family say there’s one thing they’ll make sure to do while Rigger is staying with them, for a “pawsitive” experience.
“Cuddle,” Brian and Deb said. “For sure.”
“I think I’m going to pet it. I don’t know!” Troy said.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a foster parent for the Northwest Battle Buddies, log onto www.northwestbattlebuddies.org