The Transformation of Optimus Prime

Training makes a happier fellow

Optimus Prime was a playful, high-energy puppy when Sergeant Gregory ‘GJ’ Tomas Jr. received orders deploying him to Afghanistan for a second tour with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
    “We’re a military family,” says Tomas’ grandmother, Claudia Toone of Tracys Landing. Grandson GJ followed in the footsteps of his father — also stationed at Fort Bragg — who recently retired after 21 years with the Army. “Because GJ’s wife Alison works long hours and a puppy needs lots of attention, we offered to keep Optimus until his return.”
    At Claudia and Al Toone’s pocket-sized Toonerville Farm, Optimus lived up to his name. After a week of professional obedience training at No Problem Dog Training in Lothian, he came back transformed, “a much happier and confident dog,” Claudia Toone says.
    Optimus has a wide support network. Shirley Miller of Aunt Shirley’s Pet Care gives military discounts for grooming and pet sitting. Fourteen-year-old neighbor Haley Rowe bicycles over almost daily to help with all the animals, especially Optimus. She walks him and reinforces his training, also taking him to swim in the Bay. “At first he hated and was afraid of the water, but now he is enjoying it,” Toone says.
    “He gets along well with our golden doodle, Dixie. However, our goats, chickens and barn cats will probably rejoice when Optimus leaves.”
    Optimus Prime’s soldier GJ celebrated his 24th birthday in Afghanistan on July 31.