Liam has a dog friend

To read on Sun Sentinel website:

‘Team Liam’ helps train service dog for student

Marci Shatzman


At the service dog training announcement at Florida Atlantic University were, from left, trainer Matt Christie, Faith the dog, Nicole Bolufe-Cruz with her son Liam Cruz and her daughter Cassy Cruz. Marci Shatzman/Staff (Marci Shatzman/Forum Publishing Group)

It was hard to decide who was more excited, Faith the dog or 5-year-old Liam Cruz.

Two weeks after his golden retriever left the Cruz family’s West Boca home to be trained as his service dog, Liam’s broad smiles for his « wow, wow » and Faith’s jumping and barking were unmistakable.

The pair was temporarily reunited at an announcement by the K9 unit at Florida Atlantic University that a restaurateur and a canine dog trainer had teamed up with them to train Faith.

Liam is a special needs student at the J.C. Mitchell Elementary School in Boca Raton. He has Allan-Herndon-Dudley syndrome, a rare, inherited disorder that causes intellectual disability and muscle development and movement problems.

« I needed $10,000 to train Faith and I’m a special needs mom. I don’t have that kind of money, » Nicole Bolufe-Cruz said.

So as a customer, she reached out to Rocco Mangel, owner of Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar with locations in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

« I get requests like this all the time, » he said.

But he got right back to her.

« She and her mother sat in my office; it was very emotional, » Mangel said.

Once they met, he contacted his friend Bob Anderson, who runs the International K9 College in Palm Beach Gardens. They worked a deal and even donated Kona, an 18-month-old Labrador retriever, to FAU’s new K9 unit that started last May.

« Bob trained my dog and the FAU dog, » Mangel said about the unit’s first dog. « It’s everybody paying it forward. »

« We’ll start with obedience and how to pick things up and deliver them and open doors, » Anderson said to describe the training, which will take more time, depending on Faith’s « overall intelligence. Nothing bothers her. You can see she’s comfortable with a lot of people.

« We’re here every night at FAU so the family can come here, » he said. « We call ourselves Team Liam. »

« I’m so blessed to have this amazing team, » Bolufe-Cruz said. « Liam’s more verbal when Faith is around. She greets him when he comes home from school. »


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