Fox 7 news team training pup to help disabled vets

Tommy (Jennifer Kendall photo/Fox 7)
Tommy (Jennifer Kendall photo/Fox 7)

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 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.”

Central Texan appears on Monday’s ‘The Price Is Right’

Amanda Ferrino (Photo courtesy of Fremantle Media North America)
Amanda Ferrino (Photo courtesy of Fremantle Media North America)

Look for a Central Texan today on “The Price Is Right.”

Leander resident Amanda Ferrino is set to appear on the long-running game show, which airs at 10 a.m. on CBS Austin.

Ferrino, who works as a vet tech at Austin Vet Care at Metric, was chosen from hundreds in the studio audience to join host Drew Carey for a chance to win cash and prizes.

How’d she do? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Longtime KUT radio host retires

Bob Branson / KUT photo)
Bob Branson (KUT photo)

Longtime 90.5 KUT-FM radio host Bob Branson announced his official retirement Monday.

A fixture at the city’s NPR affiliate for 30 years, Branson hung up his headphones a few weeks ago.

Branson is currently battling cancer, the station said, and retirement will enable the former afternoon host to spend time traveling and biking with his wife, Fran.

“His short-term prognosis is good and his good humor is very much intact,” the station said in a message to listeners.

Branson first joined KUT in 1986 as a volunteer, taking on a number of new responsibilities over the years. Before departing, he most recently had hosting duties from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays.

“We will miss his sharp wit and word play, including his delivery of, “‘BBC Newshour’ is coming up after ‘The World’ ends at 3,’” with a sly grin you could almost hear,” the station said in its listener message.

A search is underway for a new afternoon host, KUT said.


Former UT football player joins Fox 7 morning team

A former University of Texas football player is joining the Fox 7 morning team.

Linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2012, will appear on “Good Day Austin” each Monday this football season.

Emmanuel Acho (Rodolfo Gonzalez photo /American-Statesman)
Emmanuel Acho (Rodolfo Gonzalez photo /American-Statesman)

“After spending a few minutes with Emmanuel, you cannot help but feel energized,” Fox 7 vice president and news director Pam Vaught said. “He’s intelligent, quick-witted and ready to tackle live TV.”

Look for Acho, who is currently a free agent, to pop up during the 9 a.m. hour of “Good Day Austin.”

In addition to the Fox 7 gig, Acho also appears on the Longhorn Network’s “Texas Game Day” program.

“It’s always given me great pride to have the support of my Texas family, especially while in the NFL,” he said. “Coming back home was a dream of mine and joining Fox is an exciting opportunity to broaden my skills as a television personality and bring unique stories to the audience.”