Atlanta United today announced the club has partnered with America’s VetDogs, a New York-based nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to U.S. veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities. Through this partnership, Atlanta United will be co-raising Spike, a 12-week-old Labrador Retriever, who will be trained in the Atlanta area for the next 14-16 months with the purpose of becoming a service dog. Spike is the first service dog to represent a Major League Soccer club.
“One of the pillars of our club and a priority for the Blank Family of Businesses is giving back to the community,” Atlanta United President Darren Eales said. “It is always a privilege to be able to support our Armed Forces. This partnership allows us to be a part of a program that serves veterans while also educating our supporters and raising awareness about the incredible work of the America’s VetDogs organization. We are excited to welcome Spike into our family and can’t wait to introduce him to our fans.”
To learn more about the partnership and Spike’s journey, visit atlutd.com/pup. You can also follow him at @ATLUTDPup on Instagram and Twitter. Media assets can be found here.
“America’s VetDogs is thrilled to partner with Atlanta United on co-raising the team and leagues’ first future service dog,” said John Miller, president & CEO of America’s VetDogs. “Atlanta United’s passion for supporting our nation’s heroes aligns with our mission to provide trained service dogs for veterans and first responders with disabilities. This opportunity offers a unique environment for Spike to grow and thrive in. A well-socialized puppy will have fewer adjustments to make when he returns back to VetDogs for advanced service dog training. When it’s time, that confidence will help someone with disabilities conquer any challenges they may face together as a team.”
During his initial training phase, Spike, named after Atlanta United’s “Golden Spike” tradition at its home matches, will live with an Atlanta-based volunteer puppy raiser selected by America’s VetDogs. Following his puppy raising, Spike will return to the America's VetDogs campus in Smithtown, New York, to begin his advanced service dog training with a certified service dog instructor. When his training is complete, Spike will be matched and placed with a veteran or first responder with disabilities at no charge to the individual. Funding comes from the generosity of individuals, businesses, and community organizations.
Fans will have opportunities to interact with Spike at select Atlanta United matches and community events throughout the year as exposure to a variety of environments is necessary during the detailed training process.
For more on America’s VetDogs and ways to get involved, visit VetDogs.org.
Position: Service dog in training
Birthdate: Oct. 25, 2019 (age: 12 weeks)
Birthplace: Smithtown, New York
Breed: Yellow Labrador Retriever
Transaction: Atlanta United signs Spike Jan. 23, 2020