PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — He sits. He speaks. He loves to eat. He’s friendly. He’s the perfect fit for #TeamPTL.
This Friday, Aug. 16, Penguin is making his big debut on Pittsburgh Today Live. Like any new team member, he’s going to need some training, but don’t worry, we’re sure he’ll get the hang of it in no time. He’s definitely worth tuning in for.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Brothers Honored During National Donate Life Month
So who is this new PTL team member?
No, Penguin doesn’t have wings and feathers. And, no, he doesn’t ice skate either.
A few weeks ago, PTL introduced viewers to a mother and son training team. Penguin is making his home with them here in Pittsburgh.
Jill Sabo and her son, Jack, have raised assistance animals before, but Penguin will be the first followed by PTL. The Sabos welcomed Penguin, an adorable 9-week-old Yellow Golden Labrador Retriever puppy, into their home last week and he’ll be staying with them for more than a year.
Penguin was born in Santa Rosa, California, as part of the Canine Companions for Independence program. That means, when he’s old enough and well trained, he will have the important job of being someone’s service dog.
Penguin’s training has already begun. During the first eight weeks of life, these pups are exposed to important new experiences vital to the training process.
“Incorporated into their play are different surfaces so that they’re comfortable using things. They start the training right away,” said Jill.
Then, at eight weeks, Penguin and his fellow puppies-in-training are sent across the country to Canine Companions for Independence’s regional facilities. There are six of them and Penguin went to the one in Delaware, Ohio.
That’s where the Sabos picked him up. He’ll live and train with them for at least the next 18 months.
“I’ve been able to see firsthand what these dogs can do,” said Jack. “They can pick up dropped items, they can turn on light switches, and for people who are hard of hearing, they can alert them when there’s a siren or when there’s a knock at the door. That inspires me to get up every morning to raise awareness about this amazing organization.”READ MORE: Body Of 25-Year-Old Thomas Hughes Found In Ohio River
Penguin is not the first Canine Companions for Independence dog to train in Pittsburgh, but the Sabos say they hope his time on PTL will raise awareness for the program and assistance animals in general.
“There have been boots on the ground for a lot of years in Pittsburgh, but usually one or two dogs at a time. When we pick up Penguin, we’ll be up to four dogs in the area and we’re hoping to grow with more puppy raisers, more graduate teams in the area, more volunteers,” Jill said.
PTL hopes viewers will not only enjoy Penguin’s sweet, lovable presence on the show, but also come to understand the intensive training these dogs go through to become an important guide to someone in great need.
After his training with the Sabos is complete, Penguin will go back to Ohio where he’ll go through six to nine months of intensive training.
“They’ll work with the professional trainers there; and then, hopefully, at the end of the six or nine months, they’ll get matched with their forever person,” Jill said.
Once he’s matched, Penguin will become one of the 6,000-plus assistance dogs places all across the country by Canine Companions for Independence. It all takes place at a graduation ceremony.
“They have graduation ceremonies every three months, February, May, August and November, and at the ceremonies, the first part is the matriculating dogs. The second part of it is when the puppy sits with the puppy raiser and then they walk across the stage and hand the leash over,” Jill said.
Jill says the leash ceremony is both wonderful and adorable, but also leaves everyone in attendance with tears in their eyes.
You don’t want to miss Penguin’s big debut on Pittsburgh Today Live on Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. on KDKA. And continue to watch as PTL will be following his journey as the Sabos take him from playful pup to assistance dog.
If you would like more information on the Canine Companions for Independence organization, visit their website by clicking this link.