Jenni Chase

Jenni Chase

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Meet the Commanders' new MVP - a service dog!

Here's everything to know about "Mando"! From the Commanders website:

"Mando, an 8-month-old English black Labrador retriever, knows "first paw" about what it's like to undergo a name change. Born "Buzz," Washington's new team dog made the switch after a process involving multiple stakeholders and has adjusted well so far.

"Puppies are motivated by all sorts of things -- food, cuddles, play. For Mando, it's treats," said Lindsay Snyder, K9s For Warriors' director of development. "We show him a treat, call him his new name, and suddenly he's a fast learner."

Mando, whose final name was chosen by Commanders players, will make his debut at the team's season opener on Sept. 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But there's more to this black Lab than long, floppy ears and massive front paws. Upon completion of training at K9s For Warriors, he'll be paired with a veteran suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma. Roughly 20 veterans die by suicide each day, and K9s For Warriors is looking to change that.

A majority of K9s For Warriors dogs come from high-kill rescue shelters, though a portion, such as Mando, are donated as puppies via breeders. When the Commanders learned about Mando during initial conversations with the organization, there was an almost immediate sense that he would be a great MVP (Most Valuable Pup) candidate.

"He looked like a linebacker. He was just this stout little chubby puppy," Snyder said. "Mando comes from a winning bloodline. So, when we talked about that, [Commanders Charitable Foundation members] were like, 'Oh my gosh, you know, it goes along with our history and what we're trying to get back to here at the Commanders. He'll fit right in!'"

That chubby little puppy is now 70 pounds and has made significant strides in his training -- with more than a few naps along the way.

"Think of your best day, and that's Mando's. He gets to go to the gym with his handler in the morning, and he's socialized during the day. He gets to come to the K9 For Warriors campus and have playdates. And then he naps as much as possible," Lindsay said. "His breed in general is just very mild tempered, so he wants to eat and sleep."

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