After his 16-year-old son, Joshua Devon Biggles, tragically drowned, Michael Biggles purchased Rambo, a male Rottweiler puppy. Biggles fell head-over-paws with the brawny working breed. So much so, that he went back the next day and bought Retro, the male littermate he didn’t select. Six months later, Biggles and his girlfriend, Mariama Myers, added Rascal, another male Rottie pup, to the household.
“The three dogs helped me get through the loss, and continue to give me emotional support,” says Biggles, a veteran who suffered a traumatic brain and back injury while serving in the Navy.
Rising Star Rotties
Knowing that large, powerful dogs need positive ways to exercise their minds and bodies, Biggles made sure to train Rambo, Retro, and Rascal and keep them active. The dogs earned their Canine Good Citizen and Canine Urban Good Citizen titles, competed in dog shows, and visited veterans.
While working with the dogs outside a shopping mall, a dog trainer from A Veteran’s Objective, a nonprofit dog training organization, approached Biggles and asked if he was interested in training the dogs as service dogs to help him with specific tasks due to his injuries and therapy dogs to help other veterans.
After completing the training, Biggles, Myers, and the Rottie trio began twice-monthly visits to the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California.
Spending time with retired and elderly veterans and the children of active duty, showed Biggles what the dogs could bring to others and himself.
“When people on the base see Rambo, Retro, and Rascal, they open up to us and began talking about their dogs who had long since passed away.”
Other veterans that Biggles, Myers, and the Rottweilers met with had recently returned from Vietnam or Iraq and shared stories about the military dogs they worked alongside.
“I never imagined the power that dogs have on bringing people together,” says Biggles. “I learned from these veterans that you could have a bad day, but once you see these massive dogs and feel how soothing they are—not growling and barking at people, it makes a big difference in lifting your spirits.”
After veterans with PTSD interacted with this working canine trio, they usually told Biggles how they made their day. Rambo, Retro, and Rascal never fail to do the same for Biggles.
Why does this Navy vet spend so much time taking his dogs to visit with other vets? Aside from enjoying the camaraderie of military personnel, Biggles likes hearing their stories.
“When I think I’ve heard everything, there’s a different story, and it brings me joy in so many ways. I know that petting and playing with the dogs is therapeutic, and I’m blessed to have them,” says Biggles. “I want those blessings to go out to others, too.”
Beginning With Big Dogs
Prepping the 100-pound plus Rottweilers to remain calm and not jump on anyone began early when Biggles of Bellflower, California, enrolled them as youngsters in puppy classes.
“After being stationed in Japan for two years, I became fluent in Japanese, so I like talking to the dogs in Japanese,” says Biggles, who now works for the Social Security Administration.
Taking the dogs to different places gave them a chance to feel comfortable around strangers without overpowering them and enjoy new experiences.
“Pre-COVID-19, we took the pups with us to restaurants with patios,” remembers Biggles. “Three Rotties never fail to draw attention, and other diners always want to take the dogs’ pictures and talk to them.
The dogs’ show careers took off after the couple scheduled movie night at home and saw Best In Show, the comedy about show dogs and their owners. Looking at Rambo, Rascal, and Retro lying at their feet, Biggles and Myers couldn’t help but think the dogs had blue ribbons in their future.
“We loved the movie and thought our puppies could win awards like those dogs,” says Biggles.
To get a feel for showing and the preparation involved, the couple watched Rotties at a conformation show in Orange County, California. After talking to exhibitors and a breeder, Biggles and Myers began attending handling classes with the dogs on Wednesday evenings after work.
Feeling empowered, the veteran entered the dogs in two dog shows in the Puppy and the Amateur-Owner-Handler Classes before COVID-19 halted the events.
“Other exhibitors and the professional handlers were helpful and supportive,” says Biggles. “
Planning to become more involved in dog shows with their three males, the couple joined the Golden State Rottweiler Club and the Santa Ana Kennel Club.
“We’re all out there together in the ring to have fun and to show off our dogs,” he says. “It doesn’t get better than this.”