America’s VetDogs Service Dog In Training ‘Captain’ Completes Training with Washington Capitals; Placed with Local Veteran
ARLINGTON, Va. – America’s VetDogs service dog in training Captain has completed training and been placed with retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Mark Gwathmey. The Capitals partnered with America’s VetDogs, a New York based non-profit that provides service dogs to veterans and first responders with disabilities, to raise and train service dog Captain in 2019.
Captain has been trained to assist Gwathmey, a St. Leonard, MD., resident, with several tasks and cues to help mitigate his veteran’s disability including retrieving dropped items, counterbalance, summoning assistance, seizure response, positional cues to extend personal space, and PTSD cues such as rest, nightmare interruption and shake.
Captain made his debut with the Capitals as a 10-week-old puppy during the team’s Rock the Red Carpet event on Oct. 5, 2019, and underwent basic training and socialization with the Capitals staff, players and public while being raised by America’s VetDogs area coordinator Deana Stone. The Capitals hosted Captain in the front office, at community events, practices and select home games to assist in raising Captain to be a confident and calm service dog. Following his puppy raising, Captain returned to the America’s VetDogs campus in Smithtown, N.Y., to undergo his formal service dog training. Captain began his formal training in February 2021 with Service Dog Instructor Kim Stasheff. The VetDogs’ assistance dog program was created to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence to veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders with disabilities.
Gwathmey has served the United States throughout the world, including in Desert Storm, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia and Bosnia. For three years during a stateside assignment he was a member of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, which was responsible for the clean-up of the anthrax-infected Hart Senate Building and the two Washington, D.C., post offices after the anthrax attacks in 2001, known as Operation Noble Eagle.
Gwathmey’s first Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment was during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where he was injured during a building collapse. During his second OIF deployment in 2004, Gwathmey blacked out following a combat mission and was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. Upon returning to Iraq, and following the siege of Fallujah, he was injured during a combat operation. During a third tour in Iraq, Gwathmey was yet again injured during patrol when a series of IEDs exploded. The percussions from the explosions exacerbated his previous head injuries, and he suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI), which brought on a seizure disorder.
Upon Gwathmey’s medical retirement in 2011, after more than 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was hired by the U.S. Navy as a disaster preparedness specialist, where he continues to serve his country as a civil service employee. Capitals fans were given an all-access look at Captain’s journey through his Twitter and Instagram, @CapsPup.
Since 2003, America’s VetDogs (www.VetDogs.org) has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, VetDogs opened its programs to first responders, including fire, police, and emergency medical personnel. America's VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation and serves clients from across the United States. VetDogs relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs, and foundations to fund its mission to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence. It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog, but America’s VetDogs provides its services completely free of charge to the individual. America’s VetDogs has been accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International.