Each month, Wild.com will feature a Minnesota Wild player and his pet(s). This series also appears in Wild Magazine.
The Minnesota Wild adopted Breezer, a Labrador Retriever, from Coco's Heart Dog Rescue for the 2019-20 season. He will become a service dog after his time at the Wild ends, but for now he is bringing a smile to so many in St. Paul.
Wild.com's Tyler Savitsky chatted with team president Matt Majka to discuss Breezer, how the idea to adopt him came to be and how he became the man tasked with fostering him:
Tyler Savitsky: Can you explain why the team decided to bring in Breezer, how it happened and who you partnered with?
Matt Majka: I guess it starts by saying, we just have a disproportionate amount of dog lovers in our organization, both on our team, our players and the families around our team, but even in the office as well. It just seems that whenever we do something that touches dogs, people are really enthusiastic about it. So, I'd start with that. And then this concept came to us, the idea of having a team dog for a year, but let's use a dog that needs a home, so we decided to work with Coco's Heart Dog Rescue in Hudson, Wisc. They are an organization we have worked with in the past and we have a really good relationship with them. We asked if they could locate a dog in need for us and they did a great job of that. We talked about the type of dog. We think Minnesotans kind of gravitate towards labs and golden retrievers and that kind of thing, so kind of in that realm. They found just a beautiful dog in that regard that needed a home and was rescued. The idea here is we will have Breezer for a year and I really like what the community relations group came up with. And that is that at the end of this year, after being around our organization, he will then be trained as a therapy dog and then he will end up with a veteran with PTSD, which gives him a really great purpose in life. It makes us all feel good.
TS: How did you end up being the one who will foster Breezer when he was not around the team and the office?
MM: My wife and I, like so many of our employees, are dog-lovers. We have one of our own, a golden retriever named Darby. We were wanting to get another dog anyway, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to see how two things work together in our house, even though we knew we knew we would have to let Breezer go at the end of the year, it would be a trial run for us. It's worked out great and I am sure even after Breezer leaves us, I am sure we are going to have another dog.
Video: Hy-Vee First Wild Game: Breezer
TS: Is this something you see the organization continues to do after the year is up for Breezer?
MM: I can't imagine that we wouldn't. It has been so great for the organization, for the office and the team to have Breezer with us. When it's a Breezer day, everybody has a little more fun, a little more smile on their face and everybody's a little less stressed out. He has lifted up the feeling around the organization.
TS: Do you have any favorite moment or favorite thing to do with Breezer, whether it is here at the office or at home with your family?
MM: It's really heartwarming to see Breezer and Darby become fast friends. It's going to be really difficult on Darby when Breezer suddenly doesn't show up one day, but we'll work through that. It's just so cool around here to see so many employees interact with Breezer and see the smile that he brings to their face. Like I said, it totally life up the organization on the days when Breezer is here. I just think that's awesome and for people to take a dog walk break and get a little stress relief, it's just a really great benefit.
TS: I know Breezer has put more smiles on the employees faces, but the employees also help train Breezer. What do they do to help out?
MM: We're going through some basic obedience training with Breezer right now, so there have been numerous staff members who have enthusiastically raised their hand to take Breezer to obedience training for a day or for an hour. And just interacting with him, and helping him to become a good dog, reinforce the training that he is getting, so that by the time we do hand him off, he will be ready to take the next step into therapy dog training and then with the help of Soldier's 6, which is the organization we are working with, be placed with a veteran. I think everybody takes a bunch of pride in that and he really is the team's dog.