Puppy trains to become a Patriot Service Dog - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Puppy trains to become a Patriot Service Dog

By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

CAIRO, GA (WALB) – A south Georgia couple is raising a special puppy destined to make a disabled veteran's life a little easier.

Kristen and Matt Benfield of Cairo are training a 10-week old Golden Retriever puppy named Cooper to become a Patriot Service Dog.

The Benfields are one of just a few service dog trainers in our area, but they're hoping that'll change soon.

As newlyweds, people constantly ask Matt and Kristen Benfield when they're going to have a baby. But the Benfields say they already have one.

"Cooper's a handful," Kristen says. "It's like having a baby. He wakes up at 5-6 in the morning and has to go outside. We have to hand feed him to form a special bond."

Cooper is a 10-week old Golden Retriever training to become a Patriot Service Dog. The Benfields will keep him for two years as he prepares to one day help a disabled veteran.

"He plays more than he works right now," Kristen explains. "He only works when he has the cape on. When the cape comes off, you're a dog."

During his time with the Benfields, Cooper will learn several commands. Anything as basic as "sit" to turning on light switches.

"I'm very excited to kind of learn some of the things that he's doing and use them to my advantage," Matt admits. "He's supposed to be able to turn on and off light switches with a special button they give us. So I'm kind of excited to see how that's going to work. That's going to make me a lot lazier."

But Cooper isn't the only one learning commands. The Benfield's other dogs are also active in his training.

"Anything he does they're usually sitting right beside him," says Matt. "They're very curious."

And while they train Cooper, the Benfields are training themselves for that inevitable day when they must say goodbye.

"We had a lady who has done this before who told us to look at it as raising a child. You teach them to crawl, walk, and talk and then you send them off to college. So you want them to succeed and want them to do well," Kristen says. "But you're gonna miss them, too."

But they say knowing Cooper will one day make a disabled veteran's life a little easier, makes it all worth it.

The Benfields set up this Facebook page for Cooper so they could document his training.

For more information on how you can get involved with the Patriot Service Dogs organization, click here.

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