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Rapid City Rush team dog introduced to veteran

“He’s really a crucial part of my life from every aspect to the physical, the mental, the emotional,” said Tony Russell, a United States Air Force veteran.
Published: Jan. 9, 2021 at 4:42 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In 2019 the Rapid City Rush decided to give ‘bark’ to the community in a unique way and it’s still paying big dividends today.

”He’s really a crucial part of my life from every aspect to the physical, the mental, the emotional,” said Tony Russell, a United States Air Force veteran.

Man’s best friend is now a veteran’s perfect supporter. Rush, the puppy, is more than a lovable friend, he’s also a service animal.

“From the moment I wake up till the moment I got to sleep and even when I’m sleeping sometimes,” said Russell. “He is there to comfort, to help with some of the mental health things that go along with sometimes military service and he’s just been the best addition to our family.”

Rush is newly living with Tony and his family and his arrival came much sooner than they expected.

“The service dog aspect of things is very challenging right now for a lot of veterans. I reached out to multiple agencies and it was between a year to two-year wait and that was just for a dog, not necessarily special training. So, Rush has been able to come to us within a lot shorter time frame,” said Russell.

When the Rapid City Rush knew there was a need for service animals they teamed up with Mission 22, whose goal is to help America’s veterans.

“When we got into the community what we started to do was find out what the needs were and one of the things we heard a couple of different times was that there wasn’t much of an opportunity for veterans that potentially needed help with a service animal to get that locally,” said Todd Mackin, the president of the Rapid City Rush.

Rush lived with Mackin and his wife for the last year, spending time training but also bringing lots of love and ‘paws-itivity’ to everyone around him.

“He’s a morale booster,” said Mackin. “He came into our locker room every day, he was in our office every day, he was just a piece of the team and a piece of our family.””Lauren and I had a great time with him. He was a big part of our family during that time and we wanted to treat him like he was our own dog full well knowing he had bigger and better things in store for him.”

Mackin said the Rush hopes to unite more furry friends with veterans to make their ‘fur-ever’ home.

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