The Chargers aren't scheduled to start training camp until later this month, but the newest member of the team was an early report to Costa Mesa last week.
In partnership with Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, the Chargers have teamed up with Canine Companions for Independence to follow a puppy on its journey to becoming an assistance dog. The aptly named Bolt – a yellow Lab-Golden Retriever cross – touched down in Southern California last Wednesday.
According to volunteer puppy raiser Angela Jackson-Brunning, Bolt will spend the next 18 months or so getting socialized, while learning approximately 30 different commands. He'll also make appearances at various Chargers events, including practices and games.
"These dogs do amazing things," team owner Alexis Spanos Ruhl told CBS Los Angeles. "They pick up dropped items. They open doors. They can pull a manual wheelchair. They can open up a refrigerator and retrieve medicines for you. … And they're also very comforting. The thing that I like most is that they're always there so that these people never feel alone."
Since 1975, Canine Companions for Independence has provided over 6,000 assistance dogs at no charge to children, adults and veterans with disabilities, according to CCI public relations coordinator Stacy Haynes.
Haynes said that CCI has expanded their programs, including providing service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I think any time you can help a disabled veteran, just knowing what they've done; risking their life to go overseas and fight for us, for our freedoms and liberties, it makes the effort all the more worth it," Spanos Ruhl said.
Heather Birdsall, the Chargers' director of community partnerships, said that Bolt's arrival coincides with the team's newly launched animal welfare platform. Earlier this offseason, the Chargers worked with LA Animal Services to conduct a virtual dog draft, helping "undrafted free agents" find a new home.
Bolt's time with the Chargers, though, is about laying a foundation for the future, Birdsall explained. She said his most important work begins when he gets paired with his new family.
"And that's life-changing," Birdsall said. "And that's why it's so important for us, really, is that we can actually help change a life and that's so meaningful to us."