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Animal Planet series praises what it means to be living a dog's life

LOS ANGELES  You would never know by just looking at Kalani Cruetzburg how important a service dog is to him. The limitations that his dog, Bas, helps him deal with come from deep inside the veteran.

He immediately jumped at the opportunity believing this might be his only way to get a service dog and sent a message detailing his emotional and mental struggles. His response to the posting came from Nate Schoemer, a trainer who teaches canines rescued from shelters how to be service dogs.

The work Schoemer has done with Cruetzburg and Bas is featured in the new Animal Planet series "Rescue Dog to Super Dog" debuting Saturday, Aug. 12. The series looks at how there are millions of dogs living in shelters across the United States and there are tens of millions of people with physical, mental or neurological disabilities who could use some help.

In each episode of "Rescue Dog to Super Dog," dog trainers, Schoemer and Laura London, meet a potential owner in need of a companion dog to help them in their daily lives. The trainers then head to a shelter in search of dogs with the right attitude and aptitude to provide the specific service for the disability.

Cruetzburg was not aware that a TV show was being produced when he responded to the posting. All he wanted was a dog. After a few months of discussions with Schoemer, Cruetzburg wanted a canine companion so much he was willing to fight through his depression and share his story in hopes other veterans would understand the power of having a service dog.

Almost any breed of dog can become a service dog but some adapt quicker than others. It was up to Schoemer to find just the right dog for Cruetzburg. They ended up finding Bas, a Rottweiler mixed with a golden retriever.

Schoemer says, "In 'Rescue Dog to Super Dog,' we're training very specific tasks for each individual person. So we're trying to find out what services can Bas provide to Kalani that's really going to improve the quality of his life."

One area of training is for Bas to recognize when Cruetzburg has shut down so emotionally that he's blocking out the world. When the dog senses this, Bas will go and rest his head next to Cruetzburg until get gets up and takes the dog for a walk. If Cruetzburg shuts himself in his garage, Bas has been taught to retrieve his leash as if to say he needs to be taken for a walk. These kind of actions help improve the quality of life for Cruetzburg.

The series will show that the training process isn't a matter of a few easy steps but an ongoing process for both the dog and the person.

"It is most important to train the human," Schoemer says. "If you take, for example, a dog that's not that well-trained but you put that dog with somebody who really understands dogs and understands how to train them and how to communicate effectively with them, the dog's going to look amazing.

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