Associates Help Teen and His Service Dog Celebrate their First Holiday Season Together

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A teen and his service dog have touched the hearts of PetSmart associates in their hometown of Missoula, Montana. So, this holiday season, the PetSmart team gave them an unforgettable experience to help celebrate their first Christmas together.

Recently, Robbie and his service dog, Marnie, were welcomed into the PetSmart store for an unforgettable VIP Santa Photo Day experience. Both opened gifts and snapped photos with Santa Claus. The experience was such a hit that Robbie took his presents to school the following Monday to show all his friends, while Marnie tried to fit several of her new toys in her mouth all at once, according to Robbie’s mom.

For years, Robbie had always dreamed of having a service dog to help him manage the symptoms of cerebral palsy, Gorlin’s syndrome and epilepsy. In 2017, his family applied to 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs for children with disabilities worldwide. Word quickly spread in Robbie’s hometown of Missoula and the community came together, raising $17,000 in just three months, to make his dreams a reality.

After 18 months of training, Robbie finally met his service dog, Marnie in July of 2019. Marnie has been specially trained to help Robbie manage his symptoms. Not only does she alert someone if Robbie has a seizure and help track him down if he gets lost or wanders away, she also provides comfort and emotional support.

When PetSmart associates in Missoula first learned about Robbie and Marnie, they decided to help Marnie get settled in her new home. Associates organized an in-store shopping spree for Robbie and his family over the summer. Logan, a PetSmart accredited pet trainer helped Robbie and his mom shop for pet essentials and toys for Marnie.

Logan followed Robbie’s story on Facebook and was moved by the outpouring of community support. “It’s really amazing how the entire community came together, and now he can have a sense of stability and have this dog that is going to help him live his life,” she said.

Robbie’s family expressed their appreciation on Facebook. “We were contacted by PetSmart asking if they could help in the transition of having Marnie and offered us a shopping spree,” they said in a post. “We are so thankful!”

Robbie’s family took to Facebook once again after the VIP Santa photo event to express their thanks, writing “PetSmart invited Robbie and Marnie to see Santa. They have been soo generous.”