Kirby & Kevin 


Houston Texans pup Kirby has officially been matched with his veteran, U.S. Army Sergeant Major (Ret.) Kevin Bittenbender. The two were introduced in an unforgettable moment on the field at NRG stadium in December of 2022.  Kirby still has a few more months to ago in his formal training to sharpen his skills. In March 2023, Kevin will attend a class on campus at America's VetDogs in Smithtown, New York to be formally paired with Kirby. Check out Kevin and Kirby's first meeting below.


About Kevin: 
Sergeant Major Kevin Bittenbender has served with the U.S. Army for 34 years and retired from the United States Army in September, 2018.  He has been deployed several times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  His combat deployments have been to Afghanistan.  His military service branches include, Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery, Infantry and Military Intelligence.  He has served with the Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts and Texas Army National Guard Units, the 82nd Airborne and 173rd Airborne Divisions, the 10th Mountain Division and 3rd Group Special Forces.   

Sergeant Major Bittenbender was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Combat Action Badge for his combat tour in Afghanistan.   His service awards include:  the Legion of Merit Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (7 awards), the Army Achievement Medal (6 awards), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Service Reserve Medal, the Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, the NATO Ribbon, The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Octavius Catto Medal and the Army Service Ribbon. He has also been awarded the Air Assault Badge, Chief’s 50 Weapons Medal and Excellence in Competition Medals for both Rifle and Pistol and the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge.

As the result of his combat deployments and burn pit exposures, Sergeant Major Bittenbender had to have his left leg amputated. He is a founding member of Joint Task Force 22 to Zero which is a non-profit organization geared at helping Veterans and First Responders in dealing with PTSD,  Traumatic Brain Injury and suicide prevention. The goal of this organization is to Educate, Unite and Conquer the stigma of Post Traumatic Stress and the idealization and prevention of suicide.   He has retired from the United States Department of Justice where he held positions as a Canine Enforcement Officer and Special Operation Response Team Leader.   He assisted with the development of the Bureau Battle Buddy program which is designed to assist Veterans returning to the workforce from being deployed.

Kevin has been coaching with the U.S. Paralympic Nordic/Biathlon team since 2010 and has attended the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia as a coach in 2014.  Since 2010, the athletes he has worked with have won 10 Gold, 14 Silver and 7 Bronze Medals combined in Nordic Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon events.  He is married to his wife, Molly and has a daughter, Kaitlyn.   


Kirby takes home MVP at the 2022 Puppy Bowl XVII for Team Fluff


Houston Texans Puppy With a Purpose, Kirby featured in the 2022 Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl aired on February 13, 2022, on Animal Planet and streamed on Discovery+. Kirby was recruited by Team Fluff, “coached” by legendary rapper star Snoop Dogg. Kirby took home the title of “MVP” (most valuable pup) during a live vote after scoring a ‘double touchdown.’

America's VetDogs Partners with Houston Texans and Kroger to Raise Future Service Dog

Trained puppy will be placed with a disabled veteran or first-responder with disabilities

HOUSTON – The Houston Texans, in partnership with Kroger, today announced a joint collaboration with America’s VetDogs to name and train a future service dog that will be placed with a veteran or first-responder with disabilities. 

The Texans’ pup is a 10-week old male, yellow Labrador Retriever, who will undergo basic training and socialization with Texans staff, players and fans during the next 16-18 months. The Texans and Kroger will host the puppy at community events, meet and greets, and select home games to assist in raising and socializing him to become a future service dog. Fans will be able to follow the pup on Instagram at @TexansPup, on Twitter at @TexansPup, and on TikTok at @TexansPup to stay up-to-date on his training and scheduled local appearances.
Texans fans will have a chance to help name the new puppy by submitting a suggested new name for the Labrador Retriever starting July 23. Those who do so will have an opportunity to win a Texans Pup prize pack, courtesy of the Texans and Kroger. Voting will run until July 29 with a final fan vote taking place Friday, July 30. Contest details are available at

Following his early training, the puppy will be returned back to the America’s VetDogs campus in Smithtown, N.Y. to begin his formal service-dog training. At the conclusion of his training, the Labrador Retriever will be matched, at no cost, with a veteran or first-responder with disabilities. VetDogs’ assistance dog programs were created to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence to veterans, active-duty service members, and first-responders with disabilities. 

America’s VetDogs, a New York-based nonprofit, provides service dogs to veterans and first-responders who have experienced physical injuries, PTSD, hearing and vision loss, and seizures. It is the same organization that trained and placed service dog Sully H.W. Bush with President George H.W. Bush.

Typically, it costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise, train and place an assistance dog, however, all of America’s VetDogs services are provided at no charge to the individual.  Funding comes from the generosity of individual donors, corporations, and service and fraternal clubs.

Outlets interested in coordinating media appearances with the puppy should contact Sam Fristachi of the Texans’ PR department at

About VetDogs 
Since 2003, America’s VetDogs ( has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, VetDogs opened its programs to first-responders, including fire, police and emergency medical personnel. America's VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation, and it serves clients from across the United States. VetDogs relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs and foundations to fund its mission to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence. It costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise, train and place an assistance dog, but America’s VetDogs provides its services completely free of charge to the individual. America’s VetDogs has been accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. 

About the Houston Texans
The Houston Texans were introduced as the NFL’s 32nd franchise on Oct. 6, 1999 thanks to a city-wide effort spearheaded by franchise founder and late owner Robert C. McNair, and current Co-Founder and Senior Chair Janice McNair. The Texans have since evolved into Forbes Magazine’s 19th-most valuable professional sports franchise in the world, with an estimated value of $2.8 billion, and are annually ranked among the Houston Chronicle’s “Top 100 Places to Work in the City.” The Houston Texans are the only expansion team to have won their first game, defeating Dallas, 19-10, on Sept. 8, 2002. The team has sold out every preseason, regular season and postseason game in franchise history, and donated more than $35 million back to the community through the Houston Texans Foundation. The team won AFC South division titles in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. NRG Stadium, the NFL’s first retractable-roof stadium, is the home of the Texans.

About Kroger Houston
The Kroger Houston Division operates more than 100 stores in SE Texas and Louisiana and employs over 18,000 associates. Last year, Kroger Houston donated $1.9M to local non-profit organizations and schools, and donated 2.6M pounds of food to local food banks. We are committed to creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025. To learn more about us, visit our newsroom and investor relations site.

Howdy Texans fans!  I'm Kirby, the Texans Pup.

Howdy y'all. I’m so excited to spend the next 14-16 months with everyone in the Texans community.  I’ll be working hard, sometimes even doing two-a-days, learning more than you can shake a stick at to become an awesome service dog; and one day be paired with a veteran or first responder with disabilities. I can’t wait to strut my stuff at practices, home games, and other special team events.  I've already made a great friend with Toro! Be sure to catch me on my InstagramTwitter, and TikTok accounts.  I'm ready raring to go - see you soon. 

Birthday: May 2, 2021
Mom: Barbara (Black Labrador)
Dad: Gordon (Yellow Labrador)
Siblings: Four sisters also being raised as special assistance dogs.
Traits: This little yellow Labrador Retriever is confident, calm, and cool, but has a spunky personality and loves his toys and hanging out in his new custom Texans dog house! 

Meet MacKenzie Carroll

MacKenzie Carroll grew up in and around Sacramento County California, with both dogs and cats as family pets. In 2013, she left for college in Nebraska while the rest of her family relocated to Houston, Texas. After finishing her undergrad program in 2017, MacKenzie entered the Historic Preservation and Nonprofit Management graduate program at the University of Georgia.

It was at UGA that she was introduced puppy raising.  The school is home to one of the largest populations of volunteer puppy raisers for the Guide Dog Foundation (sister organization of America’s VetDogs); seeing puppies on campus and in classrooms as a part of their campus hosted volunteer puppy program. MacKenzie researched the organization and immediately signed up to become a volunteer puppy raiser. By March 2018, she was handed her first puppy, a female yellow Labrador retriever, who now lives in New York as a “dam” for the organization’s breeding program. “Puppy raising is like nothing I have experienced before, and I have every intention to continue being a volunteer for as long as I am able.”

As she was finishing her graduate program, MacKenzie made the decision to move to Houston to be closer to family. Despite the fact that her family has lived in the Houston area for eight years, she is new to the area and is excited for the opportunity to explore and bond with the community. She volunteered to be the Texans Pup raiser because she believe in America’s VetDogs’ mission and because she saw through their actions that the Houston Texans love their community. “It’s a once and a lifetime opportunity to help unite the missions of America’s VetDogs’, the Texans’, and Kroger into a program designed to help a  veteran or first responder and I am both humbled and honored to be the part of the program.”