Fostering future service dogs
The organization Paws with a Cause raises and trains puppies that will become future service dogs. Paws with a Cause “provides dogs to clients that will be trained as service dogs, seizure-response dogs, hearing dogs or trained to work with a child with autism,” said Megan Kempa, a junior at Michigan State University. Kempa has been volunteering to foster Fifer, an 11-month-old golden retriever.
For Kempa, it was hard to find a way to have a dog while being a student and pursuing a career that would cause her not to be at home often.
“As a pre-med student, I can’t justify taking on a long-term dog into my life. … By taking on a Paws with a Cause puppy, I know my commitment is going to be 12 months,” Kempa said. “So I get all the fun and mentally therapeutic benefits of having a dog in college, without the uncertainty of wondering how it’s going to fit into my life at a later time … I’m giving someone a dog who will have a profound impact on their life for a decade. The fact that I can give that to someone is amazing.”
You don’t need any previous experience with raising dogs to foster a future service dog. The organization only asks that volunteers take the puppies to weekly obedience classes.
“For the most part, it’s just like owning a normal dog. You love them, play fetch, have cuddle sessions. I think the biggest difference comes down to the exposure. It’s super important to take the puppies on outings: to the store, to class, to the movies … When the puppies are full-fledged service dogs, they need to be prepared to go anywhere with their partner and be focused on their job,” Kempa stated.
Not only are you surrounded by puppies all the time, but you also are able to meet new people. At the weekly training meetings, Kempa was able to meet many new people and make new friends. With their support and knowledge, Kempa was able to learn about new ways to take care of Fifer and prepare him to be a great service dog.
There aren’t enough people offering to foster these dogs and many people are in need of them.
“During the last open enrollment period, Paws with a Cause received 1,360 applications for an assistance dog, but Paws is only able to place dogs with about 75 applicants in a year. The only way to be able to help more clients is by having more puppy raisers!” Kempa noted. Who doesn’t want to constantly have puppies around?
This could be the most fun volunteering experience you will ever have. Kempa said, “[I] would 100 percent recommend raising a future service dog. I feel it has been the most impactful volunteering I’ve ever done.”
Embrace puppy love while having fun helping people in need.
To apply to become a volunteer, go to pawswithacause.org/i-can-help/paws-dog-volunteer. If you are in need of a service dog, go to pawswithacause.org/application.