Puppy Raiser – Kaitlyn Schmerge

By | 4 Paws University, Sinclair Community College, Volunteer

16996449_1478699785496489_2085850773081472853_n (2)Meet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Kaitlyn Schmerge 
School:  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!

Puppy Raiser – Melanie Repella

By | 4 Paws University, Ohio State University, Volunteer

16684054_10206496556212374_2312957724070379013_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Melanie Repella
School:  The Ohio State University
Campus Program Role:  President
Dogs fostered:  I’ve fostered six dogs throughout my time with 4 Paws. Atlantis. Amar. Shrek. Raguel. Gally. Saul. Each dog has left with a piece of my heart and knowing that they belong with someone who needs them more than I do is what gets me through those heart-breaking giveback days. 

Being the President of 4 Paws at Ohio State has taught me leadership and strength. I am able to leave Ohio State knowing that I played a part in the lives of every service dog here at OSU and the families that they touch.  This semester I took on one of my biggest challenges yet – raising a puppy. I picked Saul up at eight weeks of age. Now he is fourteen weeks and is already doing so well with training. 4 Paws for Ability has been my passion here at Ohio State. It is what made my experience unique and helped me to make a difference on such a large campus.

On a personal level, I have grown as a leader and more importantly, a human. It has made me reflect on acceptance for not only people with disabilities, but all people who are different for any reason. On a larger scale, 4 Paws has allowed me to educate the public on service dogs and change the lives of families all over the country and the world. So as I spend my final semester as the president of 4 Paws for Ability. I hope that I am able to solidify my message of acceptance, passion, and empathy amongst our club here on campus and throughout all members of the 4 Paws community. If you have been a foster, puppy sitter, or supported this organization while on campus then I cannot thank you enough from the bottom of my heart for seeing the beauty in what we do; I hope that you feel I have led you well and are able to see my love for this program. I will be attending veterinary school next year outside the state of Ohio (possibly in Ireland!) so it seems my 4 Paws journey is coming to a close. While it may be time to move on, I know that I will struggle to let go. 4 Paws for Ability – both my dogs and the people I have met – have changed me as a person and for that I am forever grateful. As I move on from this organization, I know that every soul – animal and human – I’ve encountered will travel with me on my future adventures and throughout life.

Puppy Raiser – Amanda Prater

By | 4 Paws University, University of Dayton, University of Kentucky, Volunteer

16649271_10154340045619632_4133566186851507595_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Amanda Prater 
School/Degree:  University of Kentucky, B.A. Psychology 
School/Degree:  University of Dayton, School Psychology Graduate Program
Dogs fostered:  8

My experience as a college foster for 4 Paws for Ability has been invaluable. I began fostering for 4 Paws during my undergraduate career as a junior at UK. While at UK, I fostered 4 dogs: Josta, Chewbacca (Chewie), Robin, and Beyoncé. Each dog taught me a different life lesson, but all-encompassing, I learned the importance of time management, flexibility, consistency, routine, patience, persistence, love and companionship. 

After graduating from UK with a degree in Psychology, I was thrilled when I was accepted to the School Psychology Program at the University of Dayton for graduate school. When I moved to Dayton, OH and started attending graduate classes at UD, I learned that they did not have a 4 Paws College Program on campus despite its close proximity to Xenia, OH (where 4 Paws is located). Thus, it quickly became my goal to bring a ‘4 Paws college program’ to UD. After several meetings and emails, I was approved to foster the first 4 Paws dog on UD’s campus, and his name was Crash! Since then, I have fostered Lotus, Ziva, and now Ponyta. I am so excited to say that UD now has an official 4 Paws College Program; we had eight dogs on campus during Fall 2016, and we currently have six dogs on campus this semester (Spring 2017). 

Overall, I have fostered eight dogs, and each one will forever hold a special place in my heart. These dogs brighten other’s days each and every time they are out socializing, but nothing compares to the joy I feel, as a foster, when I attend graduation ceremonies at 4 Paws for Ability. When I see the smile on the child’s face when they meet their service dog (the dog that I helped raise), I cry, and feel so proud and overjoyed! Being a part of this process has been an absolute gift. I will cherish this experience and all the memories for the rest of my life.

Puppy Raiser – Heidi Vollrath

By | 4 Paws University, University of Kentucky, Volunteer

16700570_10155109217203313_6781668479785990429_oMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Heidi Vollrath 
School:  University of Kentucky 
Major:  Business Management 
Dogs fostered:  8 Dogs 

The impact 4 Paws has had on my life is difficult to put into words. I can truly say I would not be the person I am today without 4 Paws for Ability at the University of Kentucky. What started as a love for dogs blossomed into a passion for the service dog industry and ultimately, my career. Slider, Delmar, Paris, Necco, Nikolai, Cajun, Selvig and Samoset each hold a special place in my heart. As they grew so did I, each one teaching me something special. But 4 Paws is so much more than the dogs, its about Arielle, Israel, Ben, Austin, AJ, Mark, Seth and all the other kids past and present that have received a new best friend. It’s about all of the moms, dads, grandparents and siblings that worked so hard in the hope their lives could be changed for the better. It’s about all of the trainers and staff members that work long countless hours, the puppy raisers and the breeder host homes that give away pieces of their hearts. From each of these parties I learned about unconditional love, selflessness and the importance for helping one another. These are not things that I could have learned in a classroom. My experiences in the college program led me to begin my career as an Apprentice Guide Dog Mobility Instructor working to train and place guide dogs. I cannot thank the families who received my puppies enough for welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to witness the impact the dog had on their family or 4 Paws for the opportunity to be a small part of this unique program and helping me find my passion.

Puppy Raiser – Gabrielle Bowers

By | 4 Paws University, Traditional Puppy Raiser, University of Kentucky, Volunteer

16602876_4582189510347_1405691429164421900_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Gabrielle Bowers
School:  University of Kentucky// Traditional Foster
Degree:  BA in Learning & Behavior Disorders in Dec 2014, Masters in Behavioral Psychology from Ball State in May 2016.
Dogs fostered:  I fostered 5 dogs through the UK program & 2 through the traditional fostering program, bringing my total to 7 dogs.

The university program helped me to find a path and a purpose at a large university. It helped me to make friendships that I still have today. It connected me with special needs families near & far and enabled me to be an even bigger crazy dog lady. I gave up 7 chunks of my heart, but when I get to see the impact that they each have had on their person’s life, it makes it all worth it to me. 

Pictured: top to bottom, left to right:
Nonie, Bunny, Bilbo,
Monroe (non-4 Paws forever dog), Zuri, Poseidon
Nome, Dodie

Puppy Raiser – Bennett Baber

By | 4 Paws University, Traditional Puppy Raiser, University of Kentucky, Volunteer

16603080_10211842896728471_4521127315591357440_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Bennett Baber
School:  University of Kentucky
Degree:  BA in Health Communication, May 2015
Dogs fostered:  I fostered 6 dogs through the university program and 3 dogs as a traditional foster for a grand total of 9!

The university program benefited me in more ways than I can count. Not only did it help me find my niche at a huge school, but it also allowed me to make an impact that I never thought I would be able to. To see my dogs go from potty training, playdates, and snoring through classes to behavior disruptions, medical alert, and changing lives is so rewarding. Although they all took a piece of my heart and I miss them dearly, hearing from the families they went to, whether they became a service dog or a pet, about how much they care for them and the influence they’ve had makes it all worth it. I would definitely go back and do it all over again. I can’t imagine my time at UK without my sweet sidekicks.

Puppy Raiser – Rachel Mathys

By | 4 Paws University, University of Kentucky, Volunteer

16640869_1320154654695099_259947397544426847_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Rachel Mathys
School:  University of Kentucky 
Major:  Psychology Major 
Dogs fostered: Lamborghini

Although Lambo is my first foster, I have been involved with the program for a few years now and I cannot even explain how much it has changed my life. I have spent 8 years working with children with disabilities and plan to continue that work as a therapeutic recreation specialist. 4 Paws brought my passion for helping people with disabilities and love for animals together. Lambo has taught me so many things already in the time I have had him and has shown his AMAZING potential as a service dog in training. His little successes are my major triumphs. Each new skill he learns and every silly fear he overcomes brings him one step closer to him changing the life of a child, just has he has changed mine. Instead of the “see you later” being completely heart wrenching and sad like most outside people think it is, I know it will only be bittersweet because he will make such a difference in someone’s life. He will go do good and I will be one proud 4 Paws foster.

Puppy Raiser – Celene Steele

By | 4 Paws University, University of Kentucky, Volunteer

16602650_10210663763783628_5129427909625073756_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Celene Steele 
School:  University of Kentucky
Major:  Human Health Sciences-Pre Dental
Dogs fostered:  Currently fostering my 3rd dog

When I first started puppy sitting my freshman year, words can’t describe how 4 Paws influenced my life in a positive way. Coming from a not so great start to my college career my first semester, I was showered with love and affection from the pups and everyone involved in the program. Fostering my first dog was a blessing in disguise. I truly believe in 4 Paws magic and if it wasn’t for this program at UK, I don’t think I would be where I am right now. I may have taught the pups I’ve fostered a thing or too about being a great service dog, but all of these dogs have taught me so much about myself that I will be forever grateful for. Patience, time management, social skills, and caring are just a few qualities I can think of to thank 4 Paws for helping me grow as a person. Three amazing dogs and so many wonderful friendships later, and I can’t say enough good things about this program!

Puppy Raiser – Elizabeth Coy

By | 4 Paws University, Cedarville, Volunteer

16602718_1219859898091755_8754691117974288873_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name:  Elizabeth Coy
School:  Cedarville University
Major:  Applied Communication and International Studies
Dogs fostered:  Currently fostering my 5th dog

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite part of being in college is, I always talk about 4 Paws for Ability and the awesome college fostering program. I have volunteered with 4 Paws for the past three years, and each year I learn more and more about the wonderful work 4 Paws does every day to train their dogs so that they can help people. I’ve made good friends, worked with wonderful dogs, and have heard and seen the amazing testimonies from families who have benefited from a 4 Paws dog. These dogs touch the lives of everyone they meet, and have certainly made an impact at Cedarville University. I am so glad to have had the incredible opportunity of being able to foster a service dog in training, and to know that one day they may help or even save the life of their human!
(Photo with Toad from Maze Runner litter)

Puppy Raiser – Abigail DeWitt

By | 4 Paws University, Cedarville, Volunteer

16473834_1493980330662793_3692325426761217496_nMeet a Puppy Raiser

Name: Abigail DeWitt
School: 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!