A Las Vegas dog is finding an unusual way to beat the heat.
Benny the rescue pooch loves to skate, and as far as his owner Cheryl Del Sangro knows, he is the only canine who has mastered ice skating.
A retired professional ice skater herself, Del Sangro turned her attention to Benny’s talents after adopting the dog.
“He had spent six months in a kill shelter in Utah and eventually was put on the euthanasia list. A local Las Vegas rescue had pulled him on his last day and transported him to Las Vegas but nobody had put in to adopt him,” Del Sangro tells PEOPLE. “But as soon as I saw his eyes in the photo I knew he was meant for me. I filled out the forms, finally got to meet him and it was instant love.”
The 6-year-old Labrador retriever has a lot of energy, making him a great friend for Del Sangro’s two other playful pups — and a perfect candidate for training.
After teaching him more than 50 tricks and trying some agility training, Del Sangro decided to see if Benny would like the ice.
“A photographer friend of mine, Rick Vierkandt from Bark Gallery, suggested we make a Vegas Golden Knights video after the team made it to the Stanley Cup to show support. We were able to get ice time from the Las Vegas Ice Center and we made a video with Benny running on the ice carrying a hockey stick and puck and doing some tricks but without really skating,” Del Sangro says.
Even without skates the video got thousands of views on social media and Benny had a blast filming it, so Del Sangro worked on getting the dog more ice time.
“After doing the video I thought, ‘Why can’t I reach Benny to skate?’ I taught skating in Cleveland, Ohio, for over 20 years. I taught our daughter Britany to skate when she was 17 months old,” Del Sangro explains. “I made him a pair of skates that I thought would be good for a dog to wear and we went and tried it.”
Like the tricks and agility training, Benny took to skating quickly. After being carefully led on to the ice the first time, he started skating on his custom blades with little trouble.
“I just started teaching him the same as teaching a small toddler and incredibly he took right to it. He was able to stand and skate on his own the first day we tried it,” his owner recalls. “He continues to improve all the time.”
For now, Benny only wears skates on his front paws so he can control his movements with his back legs. He also hits the ice without skates, enjoying the opportunity to cool down, chase pucks and run free.
Del Sangro hopes that her canine’s unique skills catch the attention of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. She and Benny’s many fans think the dog would be a great addition to game nights, and that he could show the country the amazing things adoptable animals can do.
“When people see Benny on the ice they immediately smile and say they can’t believe how happy he is doing it,” Del Sangro says. “His tail wags the entire time. And they always ask have I ever have seen another dog actually ice skate. The answer is ‘No.’ “