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A day in the life of Buck

 In Facility Dogs, PPH Alaska, PPH Blog, Training

A Paws for Purple Hearts service dog-in-training

Meet Buck, an 18-month old black lab/golden retriever cross. Buck was born “Victor” at Bergin College of Canine Studies in Rohnert Park, CA on December 5, 2016 and was transported by volunteer, Sharon Johnston, of the American Airlines Puppies in Flight Program to the Paws for Purple Hearts site in Fairbanks, Alaska at 8 weeks of age. Buck has already worked with over 60 different Warriors in Fairbanks and surrounding areas, including Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, Fort Greely, and Clear Air Force Station. Buck and the other PPH dogs train with Veterans at several sites in the Fairbanks community including Fairbanks Correctional Center, Fairbanks Rescue Mission, and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital’s Denali Center.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a service dog-in-training? Well, here’s a typical day in the life of Buck:


5:30 am

Buck wakes up at the crack of dawn to follow his puppy parent, Lee, downstairs to work out, then quietly waits for Lee to be done with his shower so Buck can be fed his morning meal.


6:30 am

Lee’s wife, Connie is still in bed, so of course, Buck is invited to “jump on” into Connie’s bed for a snuggle before Lee and Buck leave the house for work.


7:30 am

Buck hops in Lee’s truck for a ride into town where Buck is dropped off at the PPH site in Fairbanks, Alaska.


8:15 am

Buck arrives and is greeted by a PPH Instructor with a smile. Buck is then given the “release” command to frolic and play with the other PPH dogs as they arrive.


8:45 am

Buck helps put on his service dog vest in preparation for a Canine Assisted Therapeutic Intervention session with Veterans experiencing homelessness at Fairbanks Rescue Mission’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program, where he and the other PPH dogs practice service dog commands such as turning on the light, retrieving keys or a telephone, and paying for items at a cash register.



Buck and the other PPH dogs hop in the Paws for Purple Hearts vehicle to head back to the PPH building for some “down time”. The dogs love to play ball, tug, and chew on toys together and sometimes even sneak in a nap.

Buck performing the “snuggle” command with a Veteran who is incarcerated at Fairbanks Correctional Center during a CATI training session
Buck performing the “snuggle” command with a Veteran who is incarcerated at Fairbanks Correctional Center during a CATI training session

10:45 am

Buck and the other PPH dogs hop back in the vehicle for another training session with Veterans who are incarcerated at Fairbanks Correctional Center to work on more service dog commands and get lots of pets and love from their trainers. Buck and his cohorts love being patted down by the corrections officers before entering the jail.


12:00 pm

Buck hops in the PPH vehicle to head back to the PPH site. By this time, the dogs are ready for a nap while the PPH instructors attend meetings, answer phone calls and emails, and take care of administrative and facility tasks.


1:30 pm

Buck helps put on his vest and heads off with PPH trainers on an outing to the grocery store, library, movie theater, or restaurant to work on {{ and practice service dog commands in public around distractions. These “field trips” take a lot of concentration and focus because a service dog-in-training is always working toward the goal of becoming an “unobtrusive helpmate”. On these outings, Buck will be expected to “heel” alongside his trainer and position himself out of the way of customers. He practices “go in” (laying down under a table or display case) or other service dog tasks such as paying with a credit card or pushing the elevator button. Buck is not allowed to sniff the ground or shelves in the store nor is he allowed to sniff or approach people in public while wearing his vest. Even short outings can take a lot out of the dogs, so Buck will be ready for some “down time” after this outing!


3:30 pm

Buck and the other PPH dogs nap and play around at the PPH site while PPH instructors take care of administrative tasks and building cleaning and maintenance. Sometimes, we receive visits from Veterans or members of the public during office hours and Buck is always ready for a demo of his favorite service dog tasks, like tugging open the dryer and retrieving laundry.


5:30 pm

Veterans begin arriving at the PPH site for an evening Canine Assisted Therapeutic Intervention session where Buck and each of the other PPH dogs are paired with a US Veteran or active Service Member. The session starts with Buck and his trainer engaging in a bonding activity, such as grooming: nails trimmed, teeth brushed, ears cleaned, and a nice brushing. Next, Buck will participate in a game, contest, or group activity with the other PPH dogs and their trainers, usually a fun challenge to establish the dogs’ focus on their trainers. A 20-25 minute training session will follow, where Buck will learn some new service dog commands or practice and refine familiar commands. Each CATI session closes with a bonding activity when the dogs and trainers show appreciation for each other. A lot of snuggling, kissing, and wagging goes on during this time.


7:00 pm

Buck is always excited when Lee (his puppy parent) shows up at the PPH site to pick him up and take him home for the evening. He hops in Lee’s truck for the ride home. Once they arrive, Buck runs enthusiastically to the front door where Connie greets him with his well-earned dinner. Buck and his puppy parents spend quality time together in their home and yard playing with toys or snuggling up to a good book.


9:00 pm

Buck settles into a deep sleep in his dog bed alongside his puppy parents’ bed, dreaming of all the successes he had today and of all the new adventures that await him in the coming days and weeks.

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