Tommy, a service dog FOX 7 Austin helped train, has officially graduated from the Patriot Paws program.
Patriot Paws typically trains service dogs for disabled veterans, but they are doing something a little different with Tommy. He will be active duty serving with a chaplain to help soldiers overseas.
Tommy will be traveling to military bases to help soldiers overseas with an army reserve chaplain candidate, Spencer Fusselman
“I think it's just gonna be a fantastic opportunity to really influence lives to impact people in a positive way and that's my whole mission here,” Fusselman said.
That's after Tommy learns how to behave in several different scenarios he may face while on duty.
“So after the two weeks off he's gonna start going back to work and drill with me and we're going to start getting him more used to the tactical vehicles,” Fusselman said. “I do have another helicopter mission coming up for him shortly so he can get used to being on a helicopter and how to do it tactically.”
Tommy's main job will be to comfort those who need a little help opening up.
“He's going to love on them and kiss on them and be able just to touch them so when they go in to talk to Spencer as a chaplain they will be able to be there without reservations,” said Bre Fusselman, Spencer’s wife.
When he's not helping other soldiers, Tommy will have an opportunity to care for his handler as well.
“He's gonna have Tommy right by his side to keep him comforted through every night that he's gone,” Bre said.
As a former infantryman, Fusselman knows how difficult being deployed can be.
“He knows the struggles and what actually happens and being ripped from your family and not knowing if you're going to get to come home,” Bre said.
Fusselman hopes his experience in the army combined with Tommy's calming presence will help break down barriers that prevent soldiers from opening up about their struggles.
“It's an opportunity for somebody that I might not ordinarily be able to approach, to approach me and say hey how are you doing. They'll come up and ask ‘hey can I pet your dog,’ well yeah absolutely, how are you doing today,” Fusselman said.