The Guide Dog Foundation: Kirby

How old is Kirby and what is a brief background/story about him? 

Kirby is a one-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever in-training to become a service dog for a veteran or first responder with disabilities. Kirby is the Puppy With a Purpose with the Houston Texans, who co-sponsored him with Kroger. Kirby and his volunteer puppy raiser, MacKenzie, attend games, events and experience other unique environments with the team as a part of his training that will mold him into a confident service dog. Kirby was recently featured in the 2022 Puppy Bowl where he received top honors being named the MVP of the game

What type of work does the pup do and what makes him special? 

Kirby is in-training to become a service dog for a veteran or first responder with disabilities. America’s VetDogs dogs learn a variety of skills that are tailored to the need of the individual. These skills include nightmare interruption, retrieve dropped items, provide balance, open and close doors, turn on and off lights and much more. From eight-weeks-old to two-years-old, these dogs are training to provide continuous support for their veteran or first responder. 

Can you explain the pup’s opportunity of being the Puppy with a Purpose with the sports team or organization?

The Houston Texans loved the work of George H. W. Bush’s service dog, Sully, so much they decided to co-sponsor with Kroger a service dog with America’s VetDogs to help a veteran or first responder in need. Supporting those individuals who serve our country and our community is a priority for the Texans and this was a great way to give back to those who sacrifice so much for us. Also, it just so happens Kirby is Sully’s cousin! You can follow Kirby on Instagram and Twitter @Texanspup to stay up-to-date on his training and journey to become a service dog.

What are some of the pups’ favorite things to do/eat/etc.? 

Kirby loves to hang out with the Houston Texans players and fans. They are such great supporters of Kirby’s journey. His favorite thing to eat is kibble and ice cubes. He also loves to a good round of modified fetch with his favorite ball.

Does Kirby have any health issues himself (arthritis, joint predispositions etc). 

Americas VetDogs dogs are bred for personality, but also being able to medically trace their health. He does not have any health issues (otherwise he wouldn’t be in our program), however the Big Barker beds provide a safe, comfortable, snuggly spot for him to rest after a long day of training. The bed will also be used as a training object to train the cue “place” where we train our dogs to target a specific spot where a client can tell their guide dog to go to if folks come to the door, opening an oven, etc. A safe space where the client knows they are out of the day of any potential danger.

If the pup could tell the world one thing, what do you believe it would be? 

Kirby would tell the world that anything is possible! In February, Kirby competed in the Puppy Bowl XVIII with puppies from all over the country. Kirby was named MVP (Most Valuable Puppy) after a double touchdown that led his team, Team Fluff, to win the Lombarky Trophy. Kirby loves to work hard and will one day put his strong work ethic to play when he is teamed with a veteran or first responder in need.