To the Ruff and Back: WCC’s Captain Visits with Jack Nicklaus

We often say “it takes a village” to raise a Warrior Canine Connection service dog. There’s the help of loving puppy parents, Warrior trainers, volunteers, EPWs, staff, community leaders, and even a sports legend! Golf icon Jack Nicklaus, who has served on WCC’s Board of Advisors since 2014, recently had the opportunity to spend some time with WCC’s Captain, a service dog in training.

Mr. Nicklaus recently welcomed Captain to his office and talked with puppy parent Terrie Bates about some of Captain’s experiences on his journey towards becoming a service dog—from grocery shopping, riding the metro-rail, taking escalators and elevators, going to medical appointments, dining outdoors, and standing in socially distanced lines at the post office. Having the chance to (safely) visit an office building and work the environment for the first time was a great new experience for Captain. He was happy to show off some of his skills, such as opening and closing desk drawers and cabinets, and retrieving dropped items like a TV remote. 

Like everyone, WCC has had to adapt its programs and do things in a new way. For example, much of Captain’s training has taken place via weekly virtual video sessions with the professional Warrior Canine Connection trainers.

“Despite these very challenging times,” Mr. Nicklaus said, “I was happy to learn that Warrior Canine Connection has remained focused on the delivery of program services to our veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries and is assisting them in reintegrating back into their families and communities.”  

Mr. Nicklaus has long been a supporter of Veterans’ charities, including PGA HOPE, Folds of Honor, and donating his design services to various golf courses that benefit our military men and women. One of these is the American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Tacoma, Washington, a course designed solely for the rehabilitation of wounded Veterans. And most recently, the American Dunes Golf Club in Grand Haven, Michigan, where, once opened officially in May, will steer proceeds to the Folds of Honor, a foundation in place to provide educational scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled Service Members. His support of Veterans and love of dogs made him a natural fit for his long-time role on the Warrior Canine Connection Board of Advisors.

Recognizing the rehabilitative and recreational benefits that golf might bring to Captain’s future Veteran, one of the Nicklaus Design team members, Tommy Hearden, introduced Captain to the sights and sounds of the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. In this environment, everything was new—golf balls (which are for looking, not touching!); a big, clanky bag of clubs; the loud thwack and whoosh of a driver hitting a ball off the tee; the tractor-driven ball collector on the driving range; riding in a golf cart; the sound of a chip shot with a 9-iron; and learning to sit quietly nearby, as a golfer steps up to the ball. It was a great day for Captain and he’s looking forward to his next tee time!

Thank you, Jack, and thank you, Nicklaus Design!

WCC’s Captain is a 14-month-old Golden Retriever named in honor and remembrance of United States Army Captain Michael D. Scotton from Laytonsville, Maryland.