One mini puppuccino please.
That’s what Bolt, the yellow Labrador retriever, orders with his owner, Missy Davis, when they go to Starbucks. And since Bolt is a local celebrity, the workers customize his drink cup by drawing on a lightning bolt.
Bolt has been a familiar sight at Tampa Bay Lightning games since September 2019. He was in the training program to become a guide dog for Southeastern Guide Dogs, and Davis, who works for the Lightning, volunteered to raise him until it was time for him to go off to his next round of training. Bolt frequented Lightning games as part of the socializing aspect of his development and became a favorite among fans, players and team CEO Steve Griggs.
Sadly, Bolt’s dreams of becoming a guide dog were cut short. He was over halfway done with the guide dog schooling when Southeastern learned he had early stages of cataracts that would disqualify him from becoming a guide dog.
“It’s not that he can’t see right now but it’s a very good possibility that it could worsen,” said Carrie Talamantes, Southeastern Guide Dogs’ regional manager for puppies. Getting the owner and guide dog in sync is a long process, not to mention it would be an issue if the owner constantly had to wonder if the dog they relied on was experiencing vision problems. So they had to move Bolt out of the program.
But Bolt is still living life to the fullest.
Talamantes called Davis once she learned Bolt could not finish the program and asked if she was interested in adopting. Davis experienced a mix of emotions: concern over his health, disappointment that he couldn’t do the program and guilt for being excited at getting to adopt.
“I fell in love if I’m being honest. I fell in love with him,” Davis said.
Bolt was back with Davis in February and by the last homestand of the regular season in April, he was back in Amalie Arena. He is once again a staple on Lightning game day, regardless of it being home or away. His barks sound throughout the stands at the end of every national anthem and during home games. He makes his rounds to suites and fan seats, letting superstitious folks pet him for good luck. Bolt particularly loves away games because he gets to run free on the ice during watch parties. He is part of the arena’s hype crew and plays fetch with the workers, and gets to do it with a puck on the ice in front of hundreds of melting hearts.
Bolt enjoys himself at Lightning games, but he also serves a greater role. Southeastern Guide Dogs made him a brand ambassador, so he sports one of their blue and white vests to publicize the organization’s services.
“Bolt is one of our very high profile ambassador dogs,” said Muffy Lavens, Southeastern Guide Dogs Media Relations Manager.
Talamantes said Bolt was passing through training with “flying colors” and even though he will never be a guide dog, he still carries the lessons he learned with him.
“Once he puts the coat on, just like he was down at Southeastern, his demeanor changes a bit and he knows he’s working,” Davis said.
Bolt is enjoying some of the perks that come with not being in training now. He has play dates with a neighbor dog almost every day (except on game days so he can rest up) and gets to have what Davis calls “civilian sleepovers” with more relaxed rules where he gets to spend the night at someone else’s house.
He’s settled in nicely to his new lifestyle.
Bolt will keep ordering his Starbucks, publicizing Southeast Guide Dogs and of course, cheering on his Lightning.
He is a good boy.