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Meet River, the Los Angeles Chargers' Newest Service Dog In-Training

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_Bolts & Lazy Dog Restaurants team up with Paws for Life K9 Rescue to train River, a Golden Retriever named in Chargers Legend Philip Rivers' honor, for future placement with a military Veteran _

The Los Angeles Chargers and Lazy Dog Restaurants are entering their third year partnering to sponsor a service dog in-training, this time collaborating with Paws for Life K9 Rescue to train River — a three-year-old Golden Retriever that was brought to LA Animal Services' East Valley Animal Shelter as a stray and subsequently rescued by the Paws for Life.

River is named in honor of Chargers legendary quarterback Philip Rivers who, during his 16 seasons with the Bolts, was named to eight Pro Bowls and led the team to six postseason appearances and four division titles. Rivers currently ranks sixth all-time in NFL history in both passing yards and touchdowns.

In April of 2014, Paws for Life launched the first dog rehabilitation program in a men's maximum-security prison. Their inaugural cohort of trainers included fourteen men from the California State Prison-Los Angeles County "Honor Yard" in Lancaster. To join the team, the incarcerated individuals committed to 10 weeks of work and shared their lives with 15 dogs from high-kill Los Angeles shelters. Working in collaboration with a trainer, the detainees–most of whom faced life-sentences–worked in shifts to care for, train and socialize the animals, and created a bridge to the outside world. All 15 dogs earned their "Canine Good Citizen" (CGC) certification through the American Kennel Club, and the men introduced the dogs to their new families.

"Paws for Life's mission to save shelter animals by training them – within California's prison system – to become adoptable family pets or service animals for military Veterans suffering from PTSD has been an inspiration to me since the day I first met them years ago," said Alexis Spanos Ruhl, Chargers Co-Owner and Special Advisor to the Chargers Impact Fund. "Having recently visited the California Medical Facility to observe River's training, connect with prison administrators and meet Paws for Life trainers, I am confident that River will shine as a service animal and be an amazing ambassador for our organization.

"We couldn't be more excited to welcome the Paws for Life K9 Rescue team to the Chargers family and look forward to sharing River's journey with our fans as she prepares to support a special Veteran in the same way that they have supported our country."

Beginning in 2020, the Chargers Pup program sponsored by Lazy Dog Restaurants has followed a service animal in training to highlight the importance of these dogs for people with disabilities. River is specifically being trained to become a service animal for a military Veteran with PTSD and will be the face of the team's animal welfare work this season. River is the third Chargers pup and first in the team's partnership with Paws for Life K9 Rescue.

"We are thrilled to join forces with the LA Charger football team in our shared commitment to transforming lives, said Alex Tonner, Founder and President of Paws for Life K9 Rescue. "This collaboration not only strengthens our mission of saving animals and empowering incarcerated individuals through canine-centered rehabilitation but also underscores the immense value of supporting our veterans by providing them with life-changing service dogs."

The Chargers' commitment to supporting animal welfare is a year-round effort that, beginning in 2022, extended to gameday with the launch of the team's Most Valuable Pup (MVP) initiative. Now in its second season, MVP highlights local animal shelters and/or rescues by inviting their staff and volunteers to attend games with dogs looking for their "fur-ever" homes. With a goal of raising awareness for the importance of pet adoption and fostering, to date 25 shelter/rescue dogs have been featured at 10 Chargers home games as an "MVP."

In recent years, the Chargers have collaborated with numerous local organizations in effort to provide hundreds of pets with new homes, crucial health services, comfortable shelter and safe places to play. Additionally, the Chargers Impact Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, provided more than $100,000 in funding to renovate the turf play yards at LA Animal Services' East Valley Animal Shelter while also providing new signage for the facility.

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About Chargers Animal Welfare Platform

Because pets are an important contributor to a thriving family unit, the Los Angeles Chargers connect members of the community to organizations and services that improve the quality of life of our four-legged companions. Since 2020, the Bolts have strategically partnered with local shelters, rescues and nonprofits to raise awareness for animal welfare causes and initiatives. Through these partnerships, the Chargers have hosted and supported pet adoptions, pet wellness events and spay and neuter clinics. To date, after being featured in Chargers sponsored and/or hosted adoption events online and in-person, 159 dogs have been adopted or fostered.

Photo Link: RIVER

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