Veterans Moving Forward provides veterans with therapy and service dogs and amongst the puppies they are raising to help veterans cope with various injuries is an assistance dog in training that is near and dear to our hearts. His name is Nathan, in honor of Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal.
Compass is sharing Nathan’s journey from birth, through his puppy “years” and into his final stages of training in our series “Life of a service dog.” We hope you enjoy Nathan’s story as he goes from a clumsy puppy to a focused service animal ready to serve our nation’s veterans.
Written by Nathan with assistance from Cyndi Perry & Maureen Kettenacker.
A good service dog has to be of sound mind and body. The body part comes from my parents. In earlier stories I mentioned my Canadian roots. My mom Jasmine was was awarded her championship title from the Canadian Kennel Club and was shown in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia, so she saw a lot of the country; my mom and I are a lot alike – we both like to travel. With all those awards and her breeding a suitor had to be found for my Mom. That turned out to be Indy, an American golden from Maryland. Both of them are English-type Golden Retrievers and are very beautiful. That is why I am so handsome and my sister Lori, also a Veterans Moving Forward puppy-in-training, is so pretty.
We were born in January 2011 after a major snowstorm. My siblings and I were all born within just over an hour, which is almost unheard of as it sometimes it takes all night for a litter to be born.
When we were very young there were lots of noises around us – music, ocean waves, children laughing, planes, trains, sirens, jack hammers, etc. My first human Mom played lots of noises for us and would ring a cowbell, hit a Chinese gong, bang pots, drop things and do funny exercises with each of us to stimulate our brains and bodies. It was only when I was a few months older and visiting New York City that I saw a human in the sidewalk and that jack hammering noise was coming from him. And you know what? I was not at all scared. I just looked at him and thought of my Mom and littermates. The man did look a little weird.
As we grew older it was safe for us to leave our pen and we were taken outside – oh my, that was different! Late February, cold air that smelled totally different and one day there was this strange white stuff out there. It was cold on our paws but we were curious so would launch ourselves into the fluff and it just smushed under us. It was fun, but we got cold pretty quickly, so the most wonderful thing about the snow was after that there were warm, clean towels for us to cuddle. Each of us got our towel wrapped around us and then we were placed in a basket to snuggle deeply into with each other and those great towels. We generally fell asleep for a while to have a pup nap. Yeah, we really enjoy our naps. For some reason humans have catnaps – why don’t humans have pup naps?
A very special thing kept happening whether we were in the whelping room, the kitchen pen or when we went outside – we had visitors! We were more popular than Prince William and the Kate the Duchess of Cambridge. Best of all were the visits from Veterans Moving Forward.
As days went by, we grew big and strong. I was chosen to be the male who would be donated and trained to help soldiers and veterans. My first human dad Arnold is a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force and my first human mom, Maureen, serves too. Before I was born they decided that it would be wonderful to commit one of the pups into training to be a service dog for a veteran. My siblings were going to families to be “pets,” so at first I wondered why I wasn’t worthy of being a pet. Then it dawned on me, and to this day I realize that Lori and I were the most important and special pups who would work with veterans and wounded soldiers. Wow, what a special life to be chosen to serve those who choose to serve.
As I continued to grow, I learned being half Canadian has some perks. I was invited to visit the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Not just any dog gets that invitation – just me! I sat perfectly when I was introduced by Lt. Col. Kettenacker to everyone. I met lots of important humans there and shook a few paws with humans too. The embassy was like nothing I had ever been to before; there were many beautiful pieces of art. I enjoyed walking around with the humans and getting to go out on the special balcony overlooking the U.S. Capitol. The fresh air up there was nice too. Someone teased me and said they knew I was Canadian by my bark – sometimes when I bark it comes out “woof eh.”
Looking back on my adventures as a pup, I do miss my first family. I hated to see everyone go but I fell in love with all of my new family. It is good to be part of so many families – canine, human, Veterans Moving Forward, Coast Guard, Canadian and other service dogs.