Back to School: College Students Raise Puppies
Kathy Saunders’ graduate school classes brought her face-to-face with inspiration. Why not recruit puppy raisers from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP)? Kathy is the volunteer area coordinator for the South West Pinellas Puppy Raisers. She knew that Southeastern Guide Dogs welcomes new raisers for the approximately 250 puppies born each year.
After much research, Kathy secured a faculty advisor, and in the fall of 2016, the USFSP Puppy Raisers Club introduced itself during the university’s annual “Get on Board Day.” “Several of my puppy raisers came with their program pups and we enrolled 91 members that day,” Kathy says. To begin, members elected officers. They designed a logo and t-shirt. The officers trained with Kathy and with John Bauer, area coordinator for the South East Pinellas puppy raisers. Club meetings were held to train students to handle dogs, resulting in 52 puppy-ready members. The USFSP Puppy Raisers Club now operates with three types of members: puppy raisers, puppy sitters, and general members. After the initial launch year, we checked in with Kathy to find out what’s happening in the 2017 – 2018 school year at USFSP. Here’s her report:
“We are very excited about the happenings at USF St. Petersburg (USFSP). So far, we have three Southeastern Guide Dogs dogs on campus. Howie is being raised by student Michael Oravits. We also have Jennings, being raised by student Anthony Loffler. And, faculty member Stephanie Fuhr, an instructional designer working in the campus library, is raising a puppy named Conway. All three live off campus, but near the school. The three puppies are active on campus and attend classes and meetings with the students and Stephanie. They are a very visual presence on campus.
Meanwhile, we have been meeting with the campus housing administrators. We picked a dorm and were able to secure the first floor of the building for our Puppy Love LLC (Living Learning Community). We have 20 students signed up to live on the floor and either raise or assist in raising puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs.
We have another 50 or so students active in the USFSP Puppy Club, which will continue to exist along with the LLC. Currently, the club members puppy sit for the raisers in the West and East Pinellas Puppy Raiser groups.
All of the students living on the Puppy Love floor in the LLC are required to register for a one-credit course called Human-Canine Connection, to be taught by our club faculty advisor, guide dog user Dr. Deni Elliott, who is the Eleanor Poynter Chair in Media Ethics & Press Policy and Department Chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and the Campus Ombuds. Director of Puppy Raising Services Leslie Shepard and I may attend the class as well.
Most of the officers of the Puppy Club are members of the LLC and will be living in the dorm. They will be assisting the freshman students who are joining the LLC. They will arrive a day earlier than other students, and I intend to help with that process and place a couple of crates and puppy supplies in their suites. I am gathering things from Puppy Raising Services to decorate their dorm doors and make things as welcoming and fun as possible for the new students in the LLC.
The Puppy Club is going to meet on campus on Aug. 19 to get acquainted and kick off the new school year. We also will be participating in an LLC social the first night of move-in to the dorms.”
Southeastern Guide Dogs and our puppy raising community are excited about this venture of pairing puppies with college students. There are so many benefits to this type of program, including instilling volunteerism in young adults, creating a sense of community around a shared purpose, lowering stress among students by the presence of a joyful puppy, and of course, raising our puppies in a real-world environment. We appreciate Kathy Saunders and all of the USFSP puppy raising community!