From a Fan’s Perspective: Reflecting on Captain’s Time and the Joy with the Capitals

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 will be departing soon 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:

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.

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

Photo: @capspup

Take a look back at Captain’s career:

Trained like Rocky Balboa:

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!

More Captain Content

Dog Days Are (Almost) Over: Captain’s Final Visit to a Capitals Game

Let’s Paw-ty! Happy First Birthday Captain!!

Captain & NHL Team Pups Thank Frontline Healthcare Workers

The Dog Office: Captain Re-creates “The Office” Opening

Hath’s Heroes: Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway Visits Arlington County Fire Department Alongside Captain & Scout

Capitals Pup-date: Captain’s Growth Four Months Later

Meet Scout: Corporate Puppy With A Purpose; Monumental Sports & Entertainment, America’s VetDogs Introduce Second Service Dog In Training (Photos)

Let’s Paw-ty! – Captain Celebrates Six-Month Birthday

Tail Of Two Cities: Washington Capitals’ Pup And New York Islanders’ Pup Meet For The First Time

A Paw-fect Day: Caps Pup Visits America’s VetDogs In New York

Dog Days At Practice: Team Pup Captain Joins Capitals at MedStar Capitals Iceplex

WeRateDogs Gives Capitals Team Dog, Captain A 14/10

“All I Want For Christmas Is You”: A Rendition By The 2019-20 Washington Capitals Feat. Captain

“He’s Silly And So Sweet!”: An Interview With Deana Stone, Captain’s Handler & Updates On The Capitals’ Team Dog

Hockey Player’s Best Friend: Capitals Welcome “Team Dog” Captain, in Training to Be Placed With a Veteran In Need; Makes Debut On Red Carpet with Alex Ovechkin

By Michael Fleetwood, Jon Sorensen, and Della Young

About Della Young

Della Young is a fiction writer based out of the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. area and an online student attending Full Sail University. She got her start in the entertainment industry at age seven as an actress. At the young age of nine, Della wrote a psychological thriller short story that sparked her interest in creative writing. She comes from a family of big Capitals fans and became inspired to start writing for sports. In her spare time, Della enjoys photography, traveling, and working on both sides of the camera. Follow Della on Twitter: @dellayoung
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