California Model, Dog News, Rehabilitation

Chargers promote Paws for Life and dog River

Dog running on football field.
River has a second chance thanks to the Chargers, CMF and Paws for Life. (Photo by Los Angeles Chargers / Ty Nowell.

In a display of community support and compassion, the Los Angeles Chargers recently joined forces with Paws For Life K9 Rescue to introduce River, the newest member of the Chargers family.

Paws for Life is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing and training dogs, including service animals for veterans.

River is currently undergoing training at CMF to be certified as a PTSD service dog. He is set to complete his training in November 2023. Then he will be ready to be paired with a veteran in need. The Chargers introduced River to the world during the Chargers-Raiders game October 2 at Sofi Stadium. Fans had the chance to learn more about River, CDCR, and the life-changing work of Paws For Life.

The kickoff of Paws For Life

Paws For Life initiated the first dog rehabilitation program in a men’s maximum-security prison in April 2014. This groundbreaking program began at the California State Prison-Los Angeles County (LAC) “Honor Yard” in Lancaster. There, incarcerated people dedicated 10 weeks to caring for, training, and socializing dogs from high-kill Los Angeles shelters.

They worked in collaboration with professional trainers who shared their skills and expertise. The first iteration of the program led to all 15 dogs earning their “Canine Good Citizen” (CGC) certification through the American Kennel Club. Then the incarcerated trainers introduced the dogs to their new families.

Paws for Life’s mission extends to saving shelter animals. The dogs are trained within California’s prison system to become adoptable family pets. They are also trained as service animals for military veterans suffering from PTSD. As of 2023, the organization has expanded to California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

CDCR plays a pivotal role in supporting the Paws For Life Program. CDCR’s involvement includes grant funding and collaborative efforts to ensure proper training, with a significant contribution from the incarcerated population. Staff and other incarcerated people get the benefit of seeing these pups in training, brightening everyone’s day.

Visiting California Medical Facility

The Chargers’ support for Paws For Life extends beyond financial contributions. They actively raise awareness through their platforms, ensuring the organization’s mission reaches a broader audience and generates substantial support.

The Chargers’ involvement in this heartwarming story began when representatives from the team, including Co-Owner Alexis Spanos Ruhl, visited the CMF dog program.

“I recently visited California Medical Facility to observe River’s training and meet with the prison administrators and Paws for Life trainers,” said Alexis Spanos Ruhl. “I’m amazed by the work of the program and the care and expertise that goes into the training of each animal. We are grateful that programs like Paws for Life exist to save local animals and give opportunities for incarcerated people to make a profound difference for military veterans and our communities.”

She met with incarcerated trainers and witnessed firsthand the impact the program has on dogs and humans.  

Chargers representatives were so moved they decided to help spread the message of Paws for Life’s mission, taking a special interest in River, who is named after former Chargers player Philip Rivers.

Touchdown of support

The Chargers’ decision to feature Paws For Life and River during a home game was a game-changer for the organization. Paws For Life’s Chief Operating Officer Jon Grobman attended the event and was welcomed by enthusiastic fans who recognized River from the Chargers’ social media sites.

This has been a great experience,” Grobman shared. “The amount of support we were able to receive with the Chargers sharing our cause on their platform is amazing.”

The impact

Beyond the excitement of a football game, this collaboration shows the positive influence sports teams can have within their communities. Shining a spotlight on Paws For Life and River’s journey, the Chargers are raising awareness and highlighting the power of compassion and teamwork.

Learn more about the partnership between the Chargers and Paws for Life on their website.

Story by David Maldonado, (A) Chief, Strategic Communications & External Affairs
Office of Public and Employee Communications

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