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Homeless puppies train to become service dogs

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm •  Published: January 13, 2013

"And easygoing," said Bowman, who hails from Seattle. "This training has been a lot simpler than I thought it would be. We can take him to the mess hall. He'll lie down by the table around all the guys. He stays right there. He catches on very easily."

Stepping in to help train the veterans was veteran dog trainer Cary Voorhees, owner of Cooperative Canines in the Applegate Valley.

On Friday, former Marine Vincent Bocchicchio, 47, Zippy's handler, demonstrated how he uses a clicker to direct the pup into a box. When Zippy stepped inside, Bocchicchio handed him a treat.

"I've been with him five months now — I'm going to miss him terribly," said Bocchicchio, who plans to return to his native Philadelphia upon being discharged from SORCC.

"He learns quickly and has a great spirit," the veteran added. "And he is well-named — he zips around."

Former Marine Michael Smith, a native of New York, will step forward to become Zippy's primary handler.

"I didn't know anything about dogs until this," he added. "He's a good dog. This has been a great experience for me."

Army Veteran Evyn Balog, 42, has eagerly volunteered to serve as Zippy's sitter.

"I love dogs," she says. "I'm missing two of my own dogs now who are staying with my sister. It's going to be nice to have a dog I can help take care of and one that will motivate me to take care of myself."

Pete Penlington, 48, a former Navy Seabee from Cape Cod, Mass., has been working patiently with Sam, the youngest dog in the training.

"He's going through those teenage years right now but he's very intelligent, very affectionate," Penlington said.

"One day he will make somebody a good service dog. When I walk around here with Sam, he will make a guy's day just by sitting next to him."

Brady Norman, 30, a former member of the Oregon Army National Guard, will take over as Sam's trainer. The Portland native has been his sitter since late last summer.

"We've gotten to know each other fairly well," he said. "Now I'll be the full-time handler for him. It'll be a little more responsibility, but I love being around animals."