Milk Bone, Albertsons partner to pay for animal and training

Daniel Swanson, right, tempts his service dog, Sprock, into a hug with a doggie treat, much to the delight of the preschoolers gathered at Albertsons grocery store at 32nd Avenue and Highway 27 in Spokane Valley on Friday. (Jesse Tinsley)
Daniel Swanson, right, tempts his service dog, Sprock, into a hug with a doggie treat, much to the delight of the preschoolers gathered at Albertsons grocery store at 32nd Avenue and Highway 27 in Spokane Valley on Friday. (Jesse Tinsley)

Sprock, an impossibly curly cuddly goldendoodle service dog, stole all the attention Friday afternoon when he and his owner, 19-year-old Daniel Swanson, accepted a $20,000 donation on behalf of Canine Assistants.

“He’s a pretty laid back dog,” Swanson said of Sprock, who was much more interested in the mountain of Milk-Bone boxes than anything else.

Canine Assistants is a Georgia-based nonprofit organization that provides free service dogs to people with disabilities. Albertsons and Milk-Bone partnered on the donation, which will provide one service dog two weeks of training in Alpharetta, Ga., where the recipient will meet and learn about the service dog, and lifetime veterinary care for the dog.

“We are just really happy we can be part of this,” said Jerry Howard, store manager at the Albertsons on East 32nd Avenue in Spokane Valley. Together with various grocery store partners, Milk-Bone will donate seven service dogs to people across the country who need them as part of an initiative over the next month.

A group of children from nearby Christ Beginnings Child Center also attended the event.

They got to ask questions about Sprock, including whether he likes cats.

“He’s OK with cats, as long as they don’t run. If they run he’ll chase them,” Swanson said.

The children also wanted to know if there really is milk in Milk-Bones?

“Yes,” Howard said, after reading the label, “it’s the fifth ingredient.”

Swanson received his first service dog through Canine Assistants in 2001 and he shared with the children how that dog helped him relearn how to walk after he had surgery for a brain tumor.

“He was only 7 years old when he had surgery for the tumor,” said Phil Swanson, Daniel’s father. “His first dog, Dasher, had this sturdy harness on when he was working and Daniel held on to that so he could walk.”

Daniel Swanson is now in remission, but had a brain hemorrhage two years ago.

“It was very hard,” said Phil Swanson.

Sprock arrived at the Swanson’s home in November 2011 and he goes everywhere Daniel Swanson goes – including to class at Spokane Falls Community College.

“Daniel still has balance issues and Sprock helps him with that,” said Phil Swanson. “And he knows when Daniel is not alright. He gets unsettled and restless.”

Goldendoodles – a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle – are popular service dogs because of their trainability and because they shed very little.

Sprock watched most of the commotion splayed out on the floor at the grocery store, barely reacting to people stopping and pointing and the children yelling out questions.

“He knows he’s working when he has his vest on,” said Daniel Swanson. “He goes into a different gear when you take his vest off – he loves to run. And he loves to get his face in the snow.”

Service dogs are very well trained. Daniel Swanson said the family constantly works with Sprock who’s rewarded with treats for excellent behavior.

“He loves cheese and peanut butter,” said Daniel Swanson.

Does he have any bad habits?

“He sniffs people a little bit too much,” said Daniel Swanson, laughing. “I guess you can’t take the dog completely out of the service dog.”

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