New pup joins ranks of Rapid City Rush before lending a helping paw
RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Rapid City Rush gained a new team member Thursday, with twice as many legs. Hockey and puppies make a great combination, especially when they unite for a good cause.
During the 2019-2020 season, the team dog, Rush, was trained to be a service dog for South Dakota veteran Tony Russell, retired Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force.
“Receiving Rush was kind of my first experience with a service dog,” Russell explains. “When I was diagnosed with some of my military injuries, I was put on a list, between two and three year wait to receive a service dog. And that to me is just unacceptable.”
Shortly after, Russell and his family started South Dakota Service Dogs, which gives away service dogs to veterans in need, completely free of charge. Now, they’ve partnered with the Rush and Ebelution Heating and Cooling to continue the program.
Plus, they got the players involved. Forward Stephen Baylis and his fiancé Kelsey Brewer-Jette are raising and training the new team dog and future service dog.
“Stephen and Kelsey volunteered their time, their home to raise this puppy so they’re putting in a lot of effort into starting his training right now for a veteran,” Russell says. “We do have a veteran that…has already been chosen and this dog is being specifically raised for.”
Training a service dog is no easy assignment, but Kelsey has some experience with labs already.
“I’ve always grown up with labs, so I’m very excited to have a lab of my own, and especially for such a great cause,” she says. “Mental struggles are a real thing and giving anybody a little boost or anything they really need to help with that is kind of the best thing we can do.”
The pup is still acclimating to his new parents, and his new parents are still acclimating to him too.
“Last night was our first night with him, got a little bit of sleep but not much,” Baylis says with a laugh. “It’ll get better, but yeah he’s cute, we’re having fun with him, I think it’s gonna be great.”
As for his name? That’s for the public to decide. The names have been narrowed down and it’s your chance to vote. Submit your vote here.
Pucks and Paws as well as Marvel Night will be December 31, New Years Eve.
You can bring your furry friend and meet the newest member of the Rapid City Rush, all in one paws-itively fun night.