New four-legged member of UVA athletics is the ultimate teammate
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- There's an elite new member of UVA Athletics, who is already making an impact on Grounds, and his name is Champ.
"So Champ is a service dog in training," explained his handler Missi Sanders. "He is going to be with me from eight weeks old to a year, and during that time, he'll be working on his socialization."
Sanders has trained nine service dogs so far, but Champ is the first to train in partnership with UVA Athletics. It's a partnership that will help prepare him for his ultimate calling of helping someone with special needs, but Champ isn't the only one benefiting from this relationship.
"It's also a great de-stressor for athletes to be around service dogs as well and service dog puppies," said Sanders. "It makes everyone happy so it's really a win-win for both groups."
From early morning practices with the soccer team to Saturdays at Scott Stadium, the Labrador retriever has become a vital teammate.
"Whenever you're going to practice obviously it's a serious time but whenever you're walking down and you see him right there I mean it just puts a smile on your face," said freshman soccer forward Andy Sullins. "I think it just helps us kinda relax honestly."
But Champ is playing for something bigger than a title or trophy. Once he is one year old, he'll leave the UVA training facilities behind to train with his new client.
"It's almost similar to teammates on the field the more they train together the more they know what the other is thinking, they know where to go, they know where the ball is going in advance because they've been working together so much," said Sanders.
And that's when he'll become a teammate for life.
"They're basically the ultimate team," said Sanders. "That's the kind of relationship that's developed between a service dog and their person it's pretty amazing."