The dog days are over: Service dogs leave for training

Dog house residents with Hugo, Basie, and Lance. (Courtesy of the Dog House Residents).

Although saying goodbye to the the Dog House service dogs this past Monday was difficult, the members of the LLC had an exciting year t0 look back on with their pups.

The dogs’ training takes two years, so they’ll be returning next semester after doing various prison training programs across the state.

Mike Astor ’17 won’t be able to see the dogs when they come back for the fall semester, because he’s graduating this May, but he is proud of the dogs’ progress since last October.

“Giving the dogs back to the organization for the summer was difficult for all of us, as we have all bonded with the dogs throughout the past few semesters of raising and training them,” Astor wrote in an email. “However, we all feel proud of how far the dogs have come in their training process and are happy to see them move on to their temporary housing for the summer.”

Astor, Sydney Crowe ’19 and their friend Grace Veghte ’19 came up with the idea of living with dogs to train them to become service dogs last semester. They cared for three dogs named Hugo, Lance and Basie. The dogs come from Canine Partners for Life (CPL). This non-profit organization trains dogs in order for them to assist others with disabilities. Training the dogs comes with a ton of patience, but members of the Dog House have had no trouble.

Overall, CPL makes it very easy and understandable to train the puppies,” Crowe wrote in an email. “Coming into this, none of us had any experience training dogs other than our own pets, but we have learned so much from the experience. Each puppy has a binder with step by step instructions on how to teach each command. We use these daily to run through a couple commands every day.”

The Dog House is not just run by students. They have an advisor, English professor Bianca Falbo, who helps organize the trainings for the dogs and was struck by how well this year went.

“As the advisor and trainer for the group, I was so impressed with what was accomplished,” Falbo wrote in an email. “As I think the students learned, raising a puppy is a great deal of work and requires not just good training skills but patience, empathy and a sense of humor.”

Once the dogs complete their next semester at Lafayette in the fall, they will act in some capacity as alert dogs and service dogs.

“As alert dogs, these dogs will be trained to alert their human companion with disabilities that the dogs can detect before an attack comes about,” Astor said. “As service dogs, the dogs will help people with physical disabilities such as walking stability, those that are wheelchair bound, or other physical disabilities that hinder their everyday life.”

Alexandra Bishop ’19, who lived in the house all year but won’t return next year, thought that raising the dogs was “the most incredible experience [she] could have been a part of during this semester.”

“The three dogs have had such a positive impact in my life, and I can’t wait to see them next semester even though I won’t be living in the house,” she wrote in an email. “I’ll continue to help out when they need and definitely visit the dogs often.”

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