To read on Sun Sentinel website:
‘Team Liam’ helps train service dog for student
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. »