How the Washington Capitals' Team Dog Biscuit and Trainer Deana Stone Work Together to Help Veterans
Eight months after his much-heralded introduction as the Washington Capitals' team dog, chocolate Labrador retriever Biscuit is still pulling double duty as a goodwill ambassador for the NHL's Caps while also training to become a service dog for a military veteran or first responder.
In both of those jobs, he's guided by Deana Stone, a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran, now working as a pet handler for America's VetDogs. Stone and Biscuit spend time at the Caps' Capital One Arena, attending team publicity events and games—the perfect training for Biscuit's future job as a service dog.
"It's allowed the public to fall in love with Biscuit, fall in love with America's VetDogs, and also fall in love with the Capitals for what they're doing for veterans and first responders," Stone tells Daily Paws.
Now 9 months old, Biscuit continues to grow and learn from Stone while also becoming not only a fan favorite at Capitals games, but a well-loved member of the Caps team.
"The partnership between the Caps and America's VetDogs is great," says Capitals center Nic Dowd. "Anytime we can give back to veterans or first responders is awesome. But it's also great for the players as well ..."
If you're having a bad day or, you know, the monotony of Game 45 and you come into the rink and it's a little cold out there in the winter and you're trying to wake yourself up and get going—and there's our guy, greeting us when we come on the ice and kind of gives you a smile."
Stone, who also trained the Caps' first team dog, a yellow Lab named Captain, will work with Biscuit until he's about 16 months old. At that point, America's VetDogs will place him with a military veteran or first responder who can use a helper. He'll continue his training in areas specifically for his human, but until then, Stone works with Biscuit on a variety of useful tasks like positional cues, learning to fetch, and using his nose to open and close drawers.
"When he's—off duty, we'll call it—he's really goofy, super loving; he's a kissing machine," Stone says. "However, when we're training and he's learning something new, he's extremely focused and remains on task really well."
Another important part of Stone's training is socializing Biscuit to a wide variety of noises and situations. This is where the loud excitement of Caps games and training sessions becomes especially important.
"If he can handle that, I think he can handle just about any situation [in] his future," Stone says.
Stone admits giving Biscuit up when his training with her is complete will be a difficult day. The bonding she does with the puppies she trains is an important part of the socialization and training process, but it makes it bittersweet to see them handed off to someone else. However, Stone understands just how big of an effect Biscuit can have in someone's life and, as a veteran herself, she knows how vital it is to give back to people who have given so much.
"These dogs have such an important role in important people's lives," she says. "I'm excited about the day he's matched with his veteran or first responder."