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!