A new team member has joined the Washington Capitals: Biscuit, a ten-week-old chocolate Labrador retriever.
Biscuit, who will participate in media and team events with the Capitals, became the Capitals’ team dog Sept. 22 as part of a partnership between the Capitals and America’s VetDogs, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for veterans and first responders with disabilities, according to a Sept. 27 press release from the Capitals. Under the partnership, Biscuit will simultaneously undergo basic service dog training and be socialized.
Biscuit will meet and play with teammates and fans during his time with the Capitals, which will prepare him to be a service dog, according to the press release.
“The Capitals will host Biscuit in the front office, at community events, practices and select home games to assist in raising Biscuit to be a confident and calm future service dog,” the press release reads.
Partnerships, like that with the Washington Capitals, provide a special opportunity for future service dogs because they learn to be comfortable around loud noises, groups of people and unfamiliar environments, making them better service dogs in the long run, according to Allison Storck, associate director of public relations at America’s VetDogs.
“It’s really important to expose our dogs to these types of experiences so that when they do come across these things in the future with their handlers, they’re already prepared and exposed to them so they won’t have a reaction,” Storck said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
This is the second time that the Washington Capitals have partnered with America’s VetDogs. In 2019, the team partnered with the organization to welcome Captain, a yellow Labrador retriever, to the Capitals. Captain’s tenure ended in June 2021 when he finished training as a service dog and was placed with U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Mark Gwathmey.
Service dogs help people with disabilities by assisting with balance and mobility and retrieving items, among other tasks. Before being placed with their owner, service dogs must be trained by a certified service dog instructor to recognize health issues, such as seizures, and to develop basic obedience skills.
As the first partnership between the Capitals and America’s VetDogs was successful, the Capitals are looking forward to seeing the impact Biscuit ultimately makes as a service dog, according to Amanda Tischler, vice president of marketing for the Washington Capitals.
“Following Captain’s successful journey and placement with retired Marine Corps veteran Mark Gwathmey, the Capitals organization is excited to once again partner with America’s VetDogs to begin Biscuit’s journey as an integral part of Capitals Canine programming,” Tischler said in the Sept. 27 press statement. “America’s VetDogs has an incredible impact in the military and first responder community, and we look forward to being a part of Biscuit’s formal training over the next season as he begins to learn how to best serve his future partner.”
Partnerships with well known organizations, such as the Washington Capitals, are essential for America’s VetDogs’ mission, which relies on press and social media coverage of their service dogs to gain support, Storck said.
“Having a platform and the notoriety behind partnering with the Washington Capitals and having an Instagram account and social presence has really boosted our ways to research new folks, new clients, new supporters, prospective donors, sponsors and volunteers,” Storck said.
As part of the partnership, the Capitals maintain an Instagram account for their service dogs, which has nearly 100 thousand followers. Posts feature Biscuit on the hockey rink and posing with Capitals players.
Biscuit’s social media presence further helps to educate the public about service dogs and the work of America’s VetDogs, according to Storck.
“They really have embraced the mission, and it shows throughout his social accounts,” Storck said. “They really have brought some educational awareness to what we do and the importance that service dogs have for our veterans and first-responders with disabilities.”
Biscuit will work with the Capitals for 14 to 16 months before returning to America’s VetDogs campus for further training with certified service-dog instructors at the organization.
According to Storck, Biscuit will be an extremely helpful service dog thanks to the experience he will get with the Washington Capitals.
“When you have partners like the Washington Capitals, who are willing to open their doors and their support to allow these dogs to come in, the experiences they get is second to none,” Storck said.