Captain’s time with the Washington Capitals has officially come to an end. After attending his last Capitals game on Saturday, the service dog in-training departed on Monday to America’s VetDogs, a non-profit organization based in Smithtown, New York, to undergo final preparations and training to graduate to then be placed with a veteran or first responder with disabilities. In this piece, a few of us writers at NoVa Caps wanted to share our favorite moments and memories of Captain’s time with the team, and what Captain meant to us as a fan.
Let’s go back to where it all started:
I MADE THE TEAM! 🐶
I’m Captain the official pup of the @Capitals! Can I get a WOOF for the Coolest. Job. Ever? I love slick strolls on the ice, warm snuggles on the bench, and treats after a big win. It’s been ruff keeping this a secret, but I’m here now and can’t wait to play! pic.twitter.com/9zsQKSpcRE
— Captain (@CapsPup) October 5, 2019
Fans were introduced to Captain during the Rock the Red Carpet event on October 5, 2019, prior to the Capitals’ home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, making his first appearance with captain Alex Ovechkin and attending his first game that evening.
— Captain (@CapsPup) October 5, 2019
Not only have fans had the opportunity to enjoy Captain’s company and cuteness at practices and other events, but they also got to watch his progression and growth as a future helper to a first responder or veteran.
As an animal (and dog) lover, I had long hoped the Capitals would follow the suit of other NHL and sports teams and have their “own” puppy. When it was announced that Captain would be joining the team for his acclimation and raising period, I was super stoked.
While a specific moment doesn’t come to mind, perhaps my favorite thing about the relatively short time Captain got to spend around the team was that the players clearly embraced him just as much as the fans did. Not one game day or practice went by when the players would not stop to spend time with Captain or get showered with puppy kisses and it was clear Captain loved it too.
If I had to pick a favorite photo of Captain it would be the one Joe Noyes took of him looking down at the camera or the one where he made his debut with Alex Ovechkin, looking quite perplexed by the whole celebration. The saying “It takes a village” really did apply here when it came to helping Captain in his socialization and raising period, though “It takes a hockey team…” might be more appropriate a phrase. Good luck Captain!
— Michael Fleetwood
Championing canine causes has been a huge part of what we do at NoVa Caps ever since we began in 2014. We sell items on our website simply to cover operational costs and to pay our contributors, with all remaining money going to Lab Rescue Of The Potomac. We’ve also held Caps game watch parties to raise money for the organization.
Personally, as a dog lover and warrior for their many causes, I was excited to see sports teams begin “drafting” service dogs-in-training several years ago. It seemed like a win-win for all sides. Fans had a new friendly face to add to the team, but more importantly, the exposure for the service-dog community was tremendous.
I can’t recall which team started the trend, but I remember retweeting each new announcement and carbon-copying the Capitals Twitter account. It came to the point I was starting to worry this might be annoying to our followers and to the Capitals but continued anyway. I knew it wouldn’t accomplish much, as adopting a service dog is a huge commitment and wasn’t something decided overnight. But it was a momentary salve for my soul, nonetheless.
The arrival of “Captain” on opening night last season was both a surprise and a tremendous joy. Following his brief journey has been a great experience, personally, but more importantly, the joy and education he has brought to the Capitals community have far surpassed my initial expectations. Following America’s Vet Dogs on their social media accounts over the past 18 months has also been a great education for me, personally, and a cause I plan to support going forward.
I would like to personally thank Deana Stone, Captain’s trainer, handler, friend, caregiver, and landlord over the past 18 months. Her family, including Captain’s sidekick “Smudge” have been tremendous for Captain and a joy to follow along the way. He couldn’t have had a better family for the first 18 months of his life. I know they are going to miss him a lot. Thank you, Deana and Stone family.
Deana said in a recent interview that she firmly believes Captain was born to do the work ahead of him. As an observer from the sidelines, I couldn’t agree more. Good luck Captain!
— Jon Sorensen
Whenever I would see a new photo or video of Captain, I broke out into the biggest smile. The not-so-little pup has had that effect on everyone over the last seventeen months. I could make an endless list of my favorite memories and I echo Michael and Jon’s comments, but I have really enjoyed learning about the process and progress he has made during his training.
From puppy classes on surface socialization and getting comfortable with the sounds and various people at Medstar Capitals Iceplex to visiting local law enforcement and first responders (here and here), Captain’s growth is remarkable. Being with the team and interacting with players have enhanced that success, and it’s been a joy watching. There were so many details and areas of service dog development that have been fascinating to learn.
Although I am sad seeing “the goodest boy” leave, I’m beyond excited to see Captain’s next chapter start and follow his journey as he goes off to training camp. I am so happy and proud of him.
— Della Young
Take a look back at Captain’s career:
— Captain (@CapsPup) February 21, 2021
Trained like Rocky Balboa:
— Captain (@CapsPup) February 22, 2021
From all of us at NoVa Caps, thank you, Captain, and best of luck as a service dog! We’ll miss you, but we are so proud of you!
— Captain (@CapsPup) November 11, 2020
More Captain Content
By Michael Fleetwood, Jon Sorensen, and Della Young