Charlie Annenberg’s life changed when he adopted four-year-old Lucky, an abandoned golden retriever in 2001. He is from a wealthy family known for their philanthropy, but having Lucky around has helped change the world.
Part sidekick, part soul mate, Lucky goes where Charlie goes. From impromptu nursing home visits to chefs at the White House to coal miners 100 feet below the West Virginia ground, everyone giving an to Charlie interview is more comfortable with Lucky around.
“It doesn’t matter what color your skin, man or woman, fat or thin. He loves them all, every day. His name is Lucky and he’s my friend,” croons Charlie, as he freestyles a harmonica tribute to his pal.
Lucky is even the ambassador for Explore.org, a website dedicated to showing how happiness can be brought to people by animals.
Together they explore the world, meeting new and interesting people. Charlie began a travel journal on Facebook called Dog Bless You after the pair shared a sandwich with a homeless man in San Francisco who said as they were leaving, “Dog bless you.”
But this page is much more than a photo journal – with over 510,000 fans worldwide, Charlie and Lucky are able to reach out to many more than they will ever be able to meet. When the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 devastated Japan, Charlie used the page to send six search dogs to help locate the missing.
Depending on what kind of training they need, service dogs can go from $2,000 to $50,000. But Charlie is the vice president of the Annenberg Foundation, and donates about $8 million every year to worthy causes. In the past three years, he has donated 170 guide and search-and-rescue dogs, and service dogs to veterans. The wait-list for a specially trained dog is long, but Charlie hopes to speed up the dog grant program.
He works with Warrior Canine Connection, where dogs are trained by and for vets. Many are even named in honor of the veterans.
“It’s a good way to say, ‘We are not forgetting about your sacrifices.’ And they (the namesakes) get to spend time with the puppies and get therapy themselves,” said Rick Yount, executive director of the organization.
Trained vets teach the puppies for the first eight to twelve weeks, and then they live with foster military families.
“By the time a dog is fully trained, over 500 vets and service members have been involved in getting it ready,” Yount said.
“Hearing the stories of how these dogs help bring their humans out of the darkness is incredible. In some instances, having the companionship of a dog is what motivates them to keep going — it gives them a purpose and reason to get up in the morning,” said Dog Bless You fan Rachel Nelken of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Lucky has helped many folks, and more than he could ever know. He is getting on in years, and Dog Bless You became more of a tribute site than a traveling one when he began slowing down. Now he is retired, and spends his days relaxing. But Charlie misses him.
“He was my partner on all these trips,” he said. “It’s not the same. He would open the door and make me look good. People always stopped and petted him. Everyone wanted to keep Lucky, especially the coal miners. Isn’t it interesting that every day was a new day for Lucky? And he just wanted to be petted? It’s been a great ride.”
Sounds like Lucky needs a puppy of his own to train.