Originally published Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 06:50p.m.

KINGMAN – Now that his life has been saved, Boss the Belgian Malinois will join the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation.

“Incredibly friendly, super sweet and really outgoing,” Boss, who resides at the Mohave County Animal Shelter, is a perfect fit to become a service dog.

He will head to California next week to begin his training.

The Patriotic Service Dog Foundation started about five and one-half years ago with the goal of expanding service dog programs for military veterans and first responders, according to Tom Tackett, the organization’s executive director.

With a motto of “22 to zero,” speaking to how 22 veterans take their own lives each day, Tackett says that not one of the veterans who has received a dog from the foundation has taken their own life.

Veterans receive service dogs at no cost to them, but first they must go through an application process to ensure they are a good fit for the program. That includes phone interviews, in-person interviews, a DD 214 showing an honorable discharge and a letter from a doctor saying a service dog would benefit them. From there, a meet and greet is set with a dog that might be a good fit.

“What we look for is a dog that’s very stable, not aggressive, not shy, not fearful,” Tackett said. “I don’t care if it’s a puppy or adult, you take them to Home Depot and ideally they walk in there like they’ve been there a million times. Friendly, outgoing, not shy or worrying about sounds, lighting, shopping carts. They need to be very stable minded that none of that stuff bothers them, then from there we can train them because they’ve got a clear mind.”

Tackett, and Nicole Mangiameli, Mohave County Animal Shelter animal care supervisor believe Boss, who currently resides at the shelter, has those qualities.

“This is just a super friendly, incredibly intelligent, beautiful animal who deserves better than what he was given,” Mangiameli said.

When Boss was picked up in Mesquite, Mangiameli said he was probably 30 pounds underweight, “skin and bones.” And while the shelter has been working on fattening him up, Mangiameli said the process takes a while because the starting point was at a weight so low. Now, Boss is on the mend and about ready to begin his training.

“This is just the best situation for him to get him into training, and the fact that what Tom’s doing is super top notch to provide these animals to vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and some first responders,” the shelter director said.

Veterans are expected to carve out at least two days a week for training, which can vary in time and by dog. Service dogs must be at least 18 months old to receive their certification, Tackett explained. Once matched and during training, veterans and their dogs are taken out into a variety of public settings.

“We really expose them to as many things as we can during the training, anywhere you can think of, we go there,” Tackett said. “Escalators, elevators, the mall, so the dogs and handlers really get used to working with each other. When you’re out in public, different things are going to happen, so they learn how to deal with it and handle it.”

Heavy focus is also placed on spending time with the handlers, not just the dogs, to teach them the psychology behind the training.

The foundation is even featured on a Netflix documentary, “To Be of Service.” If the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation sounds familiar, it may be because Jon Bon Jovi has gotten involved. The 80s rocker wrote the theme song, “Unbroken,” for the documentary, and Tackett says he is donating the proceeds of that song for the next year to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation.

The Patriotic Service Dog Foundation has multiple ways that veterans can get involved and start the process of being matched with a service dog, whether they live nearby Murrieta, California or not. For more information on the nonprofit organization, go to https://www.patrioticservicedogfoundation.org/.