The newest addition to the Fox 7 news team is a playful puppy named Tommy.
Station employees are working to socialize the black lab as part of the Patriot PAWS program, which provides service dogs for veterans.
Tommy spends his days in the newsroom, where there’s no shortage of head pats and belly rubs, then heads home each night with one of a handful of specially trained handlers, vice president and news director Pam Vaught said.
“It’s a great project,” she said. “Corporate was very excited about it when we first approached them. Everybody loves it. Everybody wants to participate and help out in some way.”
Tommy is being featured in stories airing Tuesdays during the Fox 7 newscasts at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., during anchor Ann Wyatt Little’s Sunday morning newscast and during chief meteorologist Scott Fisher’s weathercasts weeknights at 9 p.m. The station even has a live webcam at fox7austin.com where viewers can keep an eye on the pup.
Already, he’s become a celebrity around town, Vaught said.
“We ran the first story Sept. 2,” she said. “The very next morning, I was at PetSmart and a woman recognized him. It was awesome.”
Fox 7 will have Tommy for about four months, then he’ll go off to a women’s prison in North Texas to continue his training, according to Vaught.
“We’re going to miss him when he’s gone,” Vaught said. “He’s a big, goofy puppy that’s highly intelligent. I think everybody’s blood pressure has gone down since he arrived.”
Training Tommy is just the latest in a long line of projects the station has undertaken in recent years to help area veterans. Earlier this year, anchor Rebecca Thomas intervened when a local veteran in need of an organ transplant was getting the run-around from doctors. The station plans to continue that advocacy, Vaught said.
“When our general manager Michael Lewis arrived, he felt this was a great niche for us to focus on,” she said. “It’s just grown from there.”