Posted on June 23, 2014

We felt honored when approached to raise one of the first service puppies for Puppy Jake Foundation and thrilled that we had the opportunity to name the puppy after family members who were in WWII.  We decided on the name “Rudy” after my husband’s father, Walter Rudolph Thoms, Jr. who served in the U.S. Army Infantry from April 1942 until retirement as a Army Reserve Lt. Colonel in August 1968, and after my uncle, Rudolph Joseph Eckstein who served in the U.S. Army Infantry from 1941 to 1947.


Rudy came to us as a 12 week old puppy.  Not only did he have to learn about us and a new home, but also Allie, our 85 lb. therapy dog.  She is a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees.  Never intimidated, Rudy adapted quickly.

Over the next 11 months, we realized that Rudy was a quick learner and always wants to please.  He brought us clothes, dirty or clean, shoes, keys, unloaded the dryer, and opened drawers and doors.  Sometimes we asked him to do these things; sometimes we did not. Therefore, we had to do a lot of “shaping” of these behaviors so they were only performed “on command.”

Rudy is a good traveler.  He took his first two day, 18 hour car trip when he was only six months old.  Our trip to a family ranch in Texas was an easy one with him in the car.  Once on the ranch in Texas, Rudy had much more to learn.  Horses, donkeys, chickens, cats and big dogs were to be ignored.   He found the ponds and learned to swim. (Note:  Did you know that dogs must “learn” to swim?  A fun story for another time.)  His boundless curiosity led to fascinating walks off-leash.  It was a good thing his recall was excellent.

When not wearing his service dog vest, Rudy is a playful dog.  However, when he is wearing his vest, Rudy takes his role as a service dog very seriously.  Rudy and I visited the Iowa City VA Hospital many times.  When one of the veterans we were visiting gave Rudy a command, Rudy would demonstrate his skills of picking up keys, or credit cards, or opening drawers and doors for the veteran.  Rudy brought many smiles and laughs to our veterans.  He was well behaved, though still a puppy. 

When we are at the grocery store, mall and other public places in Cedar Rapids that Rudy frequented, people still ask, “Where is Rudy?”  I don’t believe they know my name but they remember Rudy’s.   

It is emotionally difficult to give up a service puppy in training.  Rudy will find his calling and serve someone who needs him the most.  This is our motivation for continuing to be puppy raisers and our way of saying “Thank You!” to our Military Veterans for their service to our country.

Trish and Chris Thoms, Cedar Rapids, IA

On a side note:  Both WWII veterans, as boys, were real "hellions", rowdy, very mischievous, and “trouble maker”.  There were times PJF’s Rudy would live up to his name sakes, but we still love them all!  



Posted on June 15, 2014

My name is Robin Lickteig.  My husband Dave and I live south of Des Moines on a couple acres of puppy paradise.  I want to share a little about the black lab puppy I am raising and training for Puppy Jake Foundation.  My new puppy’s name is Tank.  His given name is Nick, after my Grandfather, Harold Nichols.   My Grandpa fought in WWII and I wanted to name my brave new little puppy after a military veteran.  I then nicknamed him Tank after seeing what a strong and sturdy pup he was. 

The standards for the dogs accepted into the PJF program are very high.  I went to Clinton, IA with trainer, Renee Jetter to the breeder Victoria Walker, where Renee temperament tested each dog that we were considering.  We brought all three black lab puppies home that she tested that day.  They all passed with flying colors.   Tank’s training began immediately.  He has to work for his food so twice a day we train.  He quickly responded to the clicker training method that we use for all our dogs in the organization.  It is a training method that uses only positive reinforcement.  He is so smart and so eager to please that he easily performs the tasks asked of him. 

Tank is not the first service dog I have trained.  I raised and trained a yellow lab named Dee.  She was placed with her recipient in March 2013.  She lives with him in Maquoketa, IA.  It was extremely hard to see her go.  I didn’t think I could raise and train another service dog until I saw what a difference Dee made in her new recipient’s life.  So when Becky approached me about raising and training another dog, I accepted.  Raising and training a service dog is much different than training a dog to be a pet.  Tank goes everywhere with me.  Restaurants, grocery stores, meetings, Dr. Appointments...........well, you get the idea.  Legally there is nowhere that a service dog cannot go except churches, and most are very accommodating once prior approval has been given.  

Time flies.  I started writing this when I first got Tank and he was 10 weeks old.  He is now over a year old.  He has matured into an amazing companion.  He will be placed in his forever home with his very deserving recipient in only a few months.  This is bittersweet for me.  I will miss him terribly but he will go on to live a very productive life with someone who needs him.  I have two other dogs at home.  One is older than Tank and the other one younger.  At home he is just another member of the family.  He has to mind his manners and play appropriately.  He is happy to accommodate me in exchange for the endless amount of love given to him in return.

I am excited to see where Tank’s life will lead.  I believe he will continue to learn and do great things for someone.

Robin Lickteig

Puppy Raiser for TANK