Meet Charlie!

Hi, I'm Charlie, TODAY's 'Puppy with a Purpose.' I'm a black Labrador Retriever and when I grow up, I want to be a service dog to help change the life for a veteran with disabilities.  There are so many things that I'll be able to do when I’m big, like open and close doors, turn light switches on and off, and even wake a veteran up if they're having a bad dream.  I can't wait to do all these really fun things, but first I’ll have to work on being a really good puppy. That means I need to learn how to behave when I’m out in public and keep my cool when I meet new people.

To help me, they set me up with this awesome roommate – Olivia, who’s my puppy raiser. She's going to teach me obedience and train me to do all those really amazing service dog tasks for the next 18 months while we're on NBC's TODAY.  

When I’m old enough and Olivia thinks it’s time, I’ll come back to America’s VetDogs for my advanced training as a service dog – kind of like going off to college.  And then – keeping my paws crossed – I’ll be teamed up with one of our nation's heroes.  

You want to know more about me? 

  • I was born on June 25, 2016.
  • My mom’s name is Quinta and she's a black Labrador, and my dad’s name is Ozzie, he's a yellow Labrador.
  • I have five sisters.
  • I love meeting new people, and if you get too close I may lick your face.
  • I love getting my belly rubbed.
  • One day I'm going to be a proud service dog.

Meet Olivia - Charlie's Puppy Raiser

Olivia Poff is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and the very moment her feet hit the ground, was riding stick horses around the house and obsessively collecting stuffed animal dogs.  A love for animals has simply always been in her blood. 

When it was time, Olivia pursued schools with animal science programs rich with hands-on learning.  She fell in love with the University of Georgia instantly upon visiting and had no idea the ways in which this school would shape the rest of her life.  During her freshman year, Olivia was introduced to the Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs through the Foundations puppy raising program on the UGA campus.  While at UGA, Olivia raised 6 dogs for the Foundation and VetDogs. 

After graduating, Olivia landed a position with the Guide Dog Foundation as a Puppy Program Representative and as a puppy trainer at two correctional facilities as part of the Guide Dog Foundation's Prison Puppy Program. 

After about 18 months, Olivia then transitioned into the training department as a guide dog training apprentice.  She has since become an official guide dog mobility instructor for America's VetDogs and the Guide Dog Foundation. 

Katie working with a dog in training.Meet Katie - Charlie's Service Dog Trainer

Katie Ruiz has been working in the assistance dog industry professionally for over 10 years and is an Assistance Dogs International Certified Service Dog and Hearing Dog Instructor.  

She has had the amazing opportunity to work for several organizations serving a variety of client populations.  From large organizations that primarily served children to smaller organizations where the clientele were adults with disabilities including mobility impairments and Post Traumatic Stress.  She furthered her professional career working for an organization that helped her become more skilled at training dogs for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing, have seizures or have autism.  She is proud to be working for America's VetDogs whose clients are our military veterans and first responders.

“Working for America's VetDogs gives me the chance to continue my desire to serve others.  I grew up in a military family and have a strong family history of people serving their country and community,” says Ruiz.  “My father graduated from the United States Military Academy, my Uncle from the United States Air Force Academy, and my Grandfather from the United States Coast Guard Academy.  I am proud of them and my many other relatives that have served in the military and law enforcement.  America's VetDogs offers me the chance to help others like them for whom I have the most profound respect."