Four Things I've Learned From Fostering A SDIT

Four Things I've Learned From Fostering A SDIT

I know I'm supposed to be teaching him, but he's been doing most of the teaching.
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I have been given such an incredible opportunity to foster and socialize a service dog in training (SDIT) through 4 Paws for Ability. 4 Paws is a nonprofit which provides service dogs to children and veterans with disabilities. They have a university program, where college kids like me are able to foster their puppies and socialize them to anything we can think of -- fire trucks, malls, libraries and classrooms, and anything else you can think of.

My first foster is my current foster -- he is a ten-month golden doodle named Luther, and he has been the brightest spot in my life since my co-handler and I brought him home at the end of August. For all the things Maggie and I have taught him (he knows how to hit the handicapped buttons on doors!), being his mom has taught me so many things I never thought I could learn from a small horse.

1. Dogs are way smarter than we give them credit for

Maggie and I have had the easiest time teaching Luther his basic commands -- sit, down, hit it, leave it, roll over, nuzzle, etc. He picks things up so quickly and easily, I can't believe I ever thought that dogs weren't crazy smart. That being said, teaching a puppy commands does take a lot of hard work, both from us and from him, but Luther is always happy to learn new things, especially because he gets beef treats when he does something really well!!

2. They are crazy intuitive

Luther always knows when Maggie or I am having a bad day, and sometimes that means extra snuggles from our favorite small horse (if you can't tell, he is gigantic, and still getting bigger). He is intuitive even of people he has never met or barely knows. This is why dogs are such good therapy animals; they can tell how we're feeling. And it isn't even just sadness or frustration -- he knows when we're upset with him, or when we're really proud of him.

3. Dogs are just tiny people who can't talk

Luther goes through moods as often as I do, and he makes those moods abundantly clear. He has a very distinct personality -- he's silly, he's loving, and he's very attached to me and Maggie. He is very expressive with his facial expressions, something I never noticed on my dog at home. Maggie and I have learned his facial expressions and have nicknames for them. My favorite is the "dufus" face, which usually means he has to go potty.

4. Having him around has made me a better person

I am socializing this puppy to someday be the right-hand-man for a child with a disability. There is no way to do that massive job and not find yourself becoming better, albeit slowly. I have learned patience and love from this big bundle of fluff, and he reminds me every day of the blessing I've been given in helping him on his journey to being a service dog.

Cover Image Credit: Kate Marlette

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If You Left Your Pet Behind During Hurricane Florence, You Are Trash

There is never an excuse to leave your fur baby behind.

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Currently on various news sources, images and videos of pets abandoned in the flooding aftermath of Hurricane Florence are circulating.

How?

How can anyone leave behind their pets to essentially die? I don't care what your circumstances are, you do not leave behind a family member.

YOU are all that your pet has. And you chose to abandon them.

They have no way to evacuate on their own. They have no way to get their food into their bowl. They have no way to find dry land on their own.

They are left to die.

When you bring a pet into your household, you are promising that pet a forever and always. You are promising that animal happiness, love, and safety from the cruel outside world.

When you choose to leave an animal behind, you are choosing to leave them to die.

I get that money is tight. I get that most Americans don't have an emergency savings set aside in catastrophic events such as these. But if your money is THAT tight that you can't bring your pet along with you, you probably shouldn't have gotten an animal in the first place.

With Hurricane Florence, there were free Animal Hospitals and Shelters opening their doors to temporarily house animals. There were companies such as AirBnB offering free housing (some options included pets).

If I were in those pet owner's shoes, my fur baby would be the FIRST thing I packed up when it came time to evacuate. I don't care what the circumstances were. I would sleep in my car for weeks before I left my animals to die.

If you evacuated, but left your pet to die, you are the absolute worst of the worst.

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There Are Two Types Of People Who Have Dogs In College, One Right And One Wrong

Spoiler: some of you are doing great, others not so much.

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Having a dog in college is one of the best and worst decisions someone can make, depending on the amount of effort they're willing to put into their dog.

There are the people who keep their dog in a cage at a noisy house party and there are people who keep their dog in a cage in a nice quiet space if people are over. Don't be the person who lets their dog get stressed at a party, be the good dog owner.

If you are going to have a dog in college, make sure you have the time, means, and energy to have one.

There are a lot of people in college who have dogs who help them de-stress and relax, which is one of the many amazing things a dog can do for you. These people spend a lot of time with their dog and make sure it is taken care of. These people are good dog owners!

Having a dog to help you handle your anxiety or stress is a great reason to have a dog. If your dog is comforting you and taking care of you, just make sure you are doing the same for your dog. People who have their dogs for the right reasons tend to treat them better.

Then there are the people who just want a dog because they love dogs or just want something to do. Please don't do this. I love dogs just as much (if not more) as the next person!

If you are going to get a dog, you need to be prepared financially and mentally to take care of a dog.

I can't tell you how mad it makes me to see someone just leave their dog alone for hours, see a dog with its ears back at a party, watch someone feed their dog random human-food, or see someone who has made no effort to train their dog whatsoever.

If you can't spend hours working with your dog and make time each day to take them on a 30 minute to 2-hour walk, don't get a dog. If you want to go somewhere super fun on spring break and don't know what you'd do with an animal and will just "figure it out later," don't get a dog. If you don't want to spend the money to get your dog quality dog food, flea medicine, and heart medicine, don't get a dog.

Believe me, I get it. Figuring it out as you go is apart of life in college; however, you should not have a dog if that's how you are going to treat it.

Before you get a dog in college make sure you can buy all of the supplies, get it vaccinated, have time to train it each day, be able to set a routine for it and have plenty of time to get your pup lots of exercise! Getting a dog was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made, but it definitely comes with its compromises.

You will want to give a dog the best life you possibly can, so make sure you are able to do that before getting a dog.

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