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Sabres proudly introduce Rick as the franchise's 1st team dog

Team has partnered with WNY Heroes to foster puppy who is training to become a service dog

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

Meet Rick, the Buffalo Sabres' first team dog.

Based on an overwhelming number of fan responses, Rick is named after Sabres Hall-of-Fame play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret, who is in his final year calling games. 

Rick the Team Dog is an (approximately) 8-month-old Newfoundland who was rescued by the Niagara County SPCA.

The Sabres have partnered with WNY Heroes and their Pawsitive for Heroes program to make Rick a member of the Sabres family this season. 

Rick is currently being trained to be a service dog for a local veteran. The Buffalo Sabres Foundation is sponsoring Rick's training.

"We had talked for a long time about getting a team dog, but we wanted to make sure the dog served a greater purpose that could have a meaningful impact on our community," Sabres Vice President of Community Relations Rich Jureller said. "In partnering with the Pawsitive for Heroes program, we've found the perfect match for the team, the dog and the veteran."

Rick will attend select home games and community events this season to greet fans and cheer on the Sabres.

"It's very exciting for us. I know it's very exciting for the Buffalo Sabres. We're very honored to have been asked to do this," WNY Heroes President and CEO Chris Kreiger said. "For everyone to come together to make this happen, to the Niagara County SPCA, who we turn to look at the dogs, to the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, where Rick is housed and being trained to John Knoph, our trainer, and Western New York Heroes." 

Once Rick is paired with a veteran, the veteran and the dog will go through training together to build the trust and bond between the two. Throughout the training, Pawsitive for Heroes takes an extensive look at how the dogs behave in different situations to make sure it is the right match.

"When we look for service dogs to be candidates for the Pawsitve for Heroes program, we look at the size, we look at the breed, we look at the temperament. It's basically a 123-point check," Kreiger said. 

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Rick is gonna be a big boy 😂Our doggo will attend select home games and community events this season to greet fans and cheer on the team!Learn more about Rick's training, name and background: https://t.co/SGa1EaYGEz pic.twitter.com/6uhpgFjElT

Founded in 2007, WNY Heroes, Inc. has become a critical life sustaining vehicle for veterans and their families by providing immediate financial assistance to those in need.

WNY Heroes has a long-standing relationship with the Sabres and this initiative will help create more awareness and support for the Pawsitive for Heroes program.  

Pawsitive for Heroes launched in 2014 and pays for service dog training with the help WNY Heroes receives from its sponsors. The dogs and their owners go through various courses together, properly preparing the dogs to serve those who've served.

Currently, 96 local veterans are paired with service dogs as a result of Pawsitive for Heroes. Each veteran is referred to WNY Heroes through the VA Hospital for medical reasons. Six veterans are currently in training with their service dogs and four dogs are currently in training, waiting to be paired with a veteran. 

While Rick is excited to meet fans - and interacting with people is an important part of his training - fans should please be mindful when they greet Rick that he is a service dog in training.

"He's still a pup so he still has that play mode in him. It'll start to come out of him as he gets older. As a puppy, they're always going to want to be a puppy first," Kreiger said. "We just ask that everyone keep in mind that he is a service dog. He's not here to play around and jump."

Stay tuned to Sabres.com and the team's official social media channels for more content with Rick this week and throughout the season. 


 

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