Marine Corps Veteran and professional service dog trainer Natalee Marick knows a thing or two about rigorous training, so teaching her 4-month-old foster kitten, Sir Biscuits, to walk on a leash was no problem. Marick handpicked Sir Biscuits from Palmetto Animal League's no-kill adoption center in Okatie for a special mission.
"By fostering Sir Biscuits, I'm giving a shelter kitten an extraordinary life, assisting me to train service dogs to help disabled veterans," said Marick.
Before Sir Biscuits, there was Chinook, the dog Marick is training to become a service dog for Operation Saving Jake, a Beaufort County non-profit that provides service dogs for veterans.
Marick is teaching Chinook important skills, including giving medication reminders, waking a vet from night terrors and retrieving items. When Marick noticed Chinook had a heightened interest in cats, she contacted PAL President Amy Campanini in search of the perfect service-dog-training-sidekick.
"I waited almost 2 months for a foster cat with the right energy and personality to help teach Chinook how to be calm, cool and collected around cats," said Marick.
After introducing Sir Biscuits and Chinook, Marick knew the dog's interest in cats was simple adoration.
"It was apparent within the first five minutes that Chinook and Sir Biscuits shared a special bond," Marick said. "Chinook immediately took to grooming the grateful kitten and before I knew it, Sir Biscuits was covered in dog slobber!"
The two are quite the pair. They share toys, a water bowl and even Chinook's beloved dog bed, but their favorite activities are riding on the golf cart and taking walks together.
"Sir Biscuits mastered his leash skills within two weeks of coming to live with us," Marick said. "He waits for vehicles to pass and if I stop to talk to someone, he lays down with Chinook and waits."
Soon, Chinook will go to live with his veteran as a professionally trained psychiatric and medical alert service dog.
"This little kitten played an integral role in training an 85-pound dog," Marick said. "It's nothing short of amazing and it's all thanks to the supportive folks at Palmetto Animal League."
As for Sir Biscuits, Marick said he was originally supposed to be a 6-month foster, but after bringing him home from PAL, she knew she would adopt him.
"Sir Biscuits was brought into my life for a reason," Marick said. "I think God sent him to fill the void I will feel when Chinook leaves and to help me train more dogs for veterans in need."
Lindsay Perry is the marketing coordinator for Palmetto Animal League.