New York Rangers’ Newest Teammate a Bark Above the Rest

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One of the Rangers’ more popular pick-ups this offseason has unique puck-handling skills.

A 7-month-old yellow Labrador retriever is the hockey club’s newest addition.

The organization appropriately named him “Ranger.”

It is all a part of a partnership between the team and the non-profit organization BluePath, which trains service dogs to help families in the metropolitan area with an autistic child.

“Our dogs provide safety, companionship and opportunities for independence,” said BluePath Co-Founder Michelle Brier.

The partnership is raising awareness about autism and the role service dogs can play in improving the life of those living with it.

So, while the rest of the team is working towards the Stanley Cup, Ranger will train to get to the next level of becoming a professional service dog.

“There is an enormous amount of people invested in every dog and the difference that dog is going to make in the life of a family. In the same way that the Rangers community is so deeply vested in this team and through that it is like these ripple effects of hope around a common goal,” Brier said.

His head coach, or what Blue Path calls a “puppy raiser,” will help him get there. Saxon Eastman is teaching Ranger simple commands and a few classic tricks.

“I am responsible for house manners. Making sure he knows how to be polite in the house. Socialization, so socializing him to everything the world has to offer. And I also teach him his basic skills. So he learns all of the foundation skills that will eventually be transferred into the skills he will use as an autism service dog,” Eastman said.

As it turns out, Madison Square Garden is the perfect place to practice these skills.

“Getting to bring him to the arena where he meets fans, kids players, he hears all these different sounds, later on when he is in school and hears the loud sounds of kids screaming on the playground, it is not going to be unsettling for him because he’ll be so used to coming to the arena and hearing the cheers of fans,” Eastman explained.

As Ranger gets to know the Garden, fans will get to know him too.

The pup will walk around during home games. But always remember to ask before greeting the pup.

“Ask Saxon to say hello, because he is working when he is out and about at games, but he will be an enormous part of this upcoming season,” Brier said.

If Ranger successfully completes his service dog training, he will be placed with a family by early 2020, giving Rangers fans an additional cause to root for.

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