Art by Madeline Duvall
When people think of volunteer work, they might imagine helping clean trash from the sides of highways or working in soup kitchens. But another fun, exciting way to help the community is to bring in a puppy and help train it to be a service dog for people with disabilities. Even though Pepperdine has not forged a connection with a service dog group, students should look into working with one of these programs. Opportunities like this can benefit not only the atmosphere of the campus but also the individuals who will be helped by these dogs in the future.
What does it mean to raise a future service dog? Different programs have some different requirements, but they have certain things in common. To raise a puppy, people over the age of 18 are given puppies that they must bring with them as much as they possibly can, train to obey basic commands, teach manners and take to special service training meetings and veterinarian checkups. Most programs provide the funds to pay for the dogs’ medical bills, and some might even give puppy raisers free startup kits that provide items such as food or leashes and collars.
Training a puppy is no easy task. It requires a lot of time and effort, and candidates who apply for these programs are properly vetted to make sure that they are ready for the responsibility. If such a program were to work on Pepperdine’s campus, rules would have to be put in place to account for it.
Students could register the service dogs in training with the Office of Student Accessibility in order for the university to keep track of them. If Pepperdine were to allow students living on campus to participate, they could limit it so that only those in apartment style dorms can train these puppies, as the students would be completely responsible for cleaning, feeding and training the dogs.
Raising a service dog can not only help a person receive a service dog, but it can also help students interact with people with disabilities. In watching the puppies go through their training, students can come to understand why another person would need a service dog to help them. Raising a puppy creates empathy for the animal’s future owner.
Places like universities can offer friendly places to socialize the dogs-in-training. One of the requirements of becoming a Puppy Raiser with Canine Companions for Independence is to be able to “provide the puppy with age-appropriate socialization opportunities such as public outings and medical appointments.” University campuses are great places for these puppies to meet people.
4 Paws and paws4people are two groups that give students the opportunity to raise service dogs and give the animals basic training until they are ready to be paired with a partner. 4 Paws coordinates with 14 universities and other campuses around the Midwest and Ohio Valley area, according to its website. Paws4people and the University of North Carolina Wilmington have come together and have organized a four-course Assistance Dog Certificate Program. Other puppy-raising programs exist in Southern California, but they have not associated themselves with any universities in the area.
Students can reach out to programs like this and see if this type of service is right for them or to donate to this worthy cause. The university can look into connecting with some of the programs in this area or allowing individual students to participate on campus. Service dogs help people to live better lives, so if Pepperdine helps in this endeavor by letting students train the dogs or by donating to these programs, the university can allow those people to “freely receive” so they have the ability to “freely give.”
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