What is the 4 Paws for Ability University Program?
4 Paws for Ability University Program brings together local colleges, universities, volunteerism, and service puppies in training. Students foster 4 Paws puppies to enhance their socialization and basic obedience training, just like in our Traditional Puppy Raiser program. However, puppies enrolled in 4 Paws University attend class, activities, meetings, events, and outings both on and off campus with their student handlers!
4 Paws University Makes a Difference
4 Paws University averages more than 100 service puppies in training on college campuses per semester, among 14 partnering university student organizations and additional placements at other campuses throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The college students often undertake fundraising efforts in support of their campus programs or to donate back to 4 Paws for Ability. Students report learning and improving their own important skills, such as communication, public speaking, and time management skills. Service puppies in training get irreplaceable opportunity for socialization to a wide variety of people, places, sights and sounds. At 4 Paws University, everyone learns something new!
The 14 Partnering University Student Organizations are:
Founding Campus Program
Kent State University
Morehead State University
Ohio State University
University of Cincinnati
University of Kentucky
University of Illinois
Ohio Northern University
University of Dayton
Wright State University
Additional schools that have hosted 4 Paws University Program service dogs in training:
Case Western Reserve University
Eastern Kentucky University
Sinclair Community College
University of Toledo
Lynn Agee joined the 4 Paws for Ability staff after graduating college. She has worked in a few roles including on the socialization and training teams. Surely she didn’t know that in such a short time she would lead the program that brought her to 4 Paws in the first place, as she took on the role of 4 Paws University Program Coordinator.
Lynn Agee | 4 Paws for Ability University Program Coordinator
School: The Ohio State University, Ohio State Campus Program Founder
Degree: Bachelors Degree in Psychology
The University Program at 4 Paws for Ability has literally changed my life in more ways than I am able to describe. I went from being a not so confident, lost, depressed, college student – to being a confident, happy person and forever dog mom in such a short amount of time. This organization has taught me so much about myself, other people, dogs and their purpose, and life in general. Helping people while doing something I love, how could I not absolutely adore 4 Paws!? It’s solid mission and goals are what makes this program strive for greatness. Each dog I have fostered has challenged me in different ways and have loved me all the same. Every one of them left paw prints on my heart and made my life better. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my experiences and opportunities I have been given because of 4 Paws for Ability. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing your fur babies all grown up and changing someone else’s lives in such a stronger capacity than the way they changed yours. It truly is magical and I am lucky to be a part of the 4 Paws family and now staff.
4 Paws University Students
We asked the 4 Paws University Students what this program meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.
Kaitlyn Schmerge | Sinclair Community College
Major: Veterinary Technology
Dogs fostered: Fostered 5 dogs(4 long term fosters and one short term foster) – Cinderella, Cragen, BelleStarr, Gibbs, Deeks
To fully put into words what 4 Paws for Ability has done in my life is nearly impossible. Starting college, I didn’t know where it would take me. They always say in college is where you will truly find yourself. That statement is exactly what 4 Paws has done in my life. This organization has shown me so many things to be thankful for. Not only has it taught me more responsibility, but it has taught me so much compassion for others as well. Giving back the puppy you’ve had for several months and put all your hard work into is no easy task, however, seeing them with their child on graduation day makes every tear worth it. 4 Paws has helped me pursue my passion and find my niche in life as I want to pursue a career in training service animals. I am forever grateful for the wonderful College program at 4 Paws for Ability!
Abigail DeWitt | Cedarville University
Major: Social Work
Dogs: I am currently fostering my third dog along with my fellow handlers.
Several years ago, my family was going through the process of trying to get a service dog for my brother with Autism. There were so many struggles along the way and things seemed really hopeless. 4 Paws heard our story and decided to provide my brother with his service dog, Lugnut free of charge. Fostering service dogs allows me to give back to 4 Paws and be a part of providing families with the same joy that they provided us. Having a dog at college is a lot of hard work, but I love knowing that I am a part of providing individuals with service dogs who can be there best friends and life savers. There is such a great community that comes along with 4 Paws and I have been able to make so many great friends through fostering. 4 Paws has also given me the opportunity to advocate for individuals with disabilities, which I hope to do someday in my future career. Fostering service dogs has been such a wonderful experience and has given me something to be passionate about. I’m so thankful to 4 Paws for everything they do and for giving me the chance to be a part of it. Pictured is Viola!
Jenna Falldorf | Wright State University
Major: Early Childhood Education
Dogs: I’ve fostered 9 dogs through 4 Paws for Ability.
Fostering through 4 Paws has truly changed my life. Before 4 Paws I didn’t realize how much of an impact I could have on someone else’s life. Being a foster is more than just volunteer work, it really is a life-changing experience. Each dog comes with their own strengths and weaknesses and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to find the best ways to help them succeed. My favorite piece of the 4 Paws puzzle is graduation day. Getting to meet the new family of my precious foster puppy and seeing how much they needed a dog in their life is humbling. Each of my fosters will always have a special place in my heart, but I think more than anything the relationships I’ve built through handling on a team, working with the 4 Paws employees, and meeting the 4 Paws families is what will really stick with me for the rest of my life.
For more stories from student handlers and articles about 4 Paws University, click here.