It’s Raining (Wild)Cats and Dogs at the University of Kentucky

It’s Raining (Wild)Cats and Dogs at the University of Kentucky

A bond that will forever change both dog and human.
42
views

LEXINGTON, Ky.—An elite team of eight is making a difference on the campus of the University of Kentucky. As students walk to and from class, they stop and stare at the members of this group and often snap pictures.

At first glance, one may venture that the students are mesmerized by players from UK’s ever popular, eight-time NCAA championship men’s basketball team, but they would be wrong. These members of this team are of much shorter stature.

The Wildcat Service Dogs are an elite group of service dogs in training that are making a difference with helping hands, make that helping paws, on UK’s campus.

Founded by Katie Skarvan in 2014, Wildcat Service Dogs is an organization run completely by students. The program raises and trains service dogs for the first 10-12 months of their lives before they go on to specialized training with Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence.

Even more amazing than the fact that these dogs learn to pay cashiers with credit cards or open doors, is the unique relationship that develops between the trainer and dog over the course of their time in the program.

Upon receiving their puppy, trainers are responsible for socializing, teaching, housing, and financing their dogs. In addition to working with their puppy, trainers must attend weekly training sessions and once-a-month socialization outings, as well as completing progress reports to define their dog’s improvement for the week.

Molly Mathistad, current Vice President of WSD and a trainer of one-year-old Hudson who graduated the WSD program Oct 14, reflected on their close bond.

“I grew to love Hudson with all of my heart because of how goofy, happy, and loving he was” she said, “I knew that he would be there to make my day with that smile every time I looked at him, just like he knew that I'd always be smiling back.”

It is this special relationship between trainer and dog that make this program so successful and allows it to make such an impact on the campus.

Mathistad and Hudson’s emotional connection was reflected in their working relationship.

“Creating a bond with your training partner is one of the most important things to their training,” Mathistad says.

“A lot of training a service dog is just making everything that you possibly can into a positive experience, and when they know that nothing negative is going to happen because they look to you and you're excited about what's happening, they're much more open to it.”

The WSD program is set up to teach the dogs basic commands first, and mastering them is tantamount to their future success. They learn to sit, down, stay, and watch as their initial commands in addition to being potty-trained and taught to respond to their names.

Socialization is an imperative factor in their training as well. Service dogs must become acclimated to various scents, sounds, people, places, and environments.

The trainer is the key tool in accomplishing these goals. Their emotions in regards to training sessions have a heavy impact on the dog.

“If they [the dog] feel you getting frustrated, they shut down as well. If they see you acting scared, they can react to that too; and conversely, if they see that you're excited about something, they'll be more open to it as well,” says Mathistad.

Wildcat Service Dogs also gives members the chance to be “sitters”. These members are an incredible aid for trainers who need to work, study, or do something personal that their dog cannot be a part of. Sitters take the dog into their hands for the allotted time that the trainer needs covered. During this time they are responsible for ensuring that the dog continues to practice the skills that they are being trained to do.

Thus, sitters have an opportunity to form a relationship with the dogs in the program as well, a bond that makes an impact on their own lives just as much as the dogs.

“My favorite part of sitting the dogs in Wildcat Service Dogs is getting to work with each dog in the program, and getting to know each of their different personalities, said Kate Clowes, a trained sitter for WSD.

Clowes has been sitter with the program for a year now and loves every minute.

“I get a chance to be a part of something great, and I get to work with amazing dogs to do it,” she says, “I get to see firsthand the relationship that these animals have with their trainers, and I get to be a small part of that as well.”

Both Clowes’ and Mathistad’s work with WSD reflect the mission of the organization and their desire to touch the lives of the community through the dogs they work with.

Through developing numerous skills, socialization training and preparation for future advanced training, each dog from WSD are becoming the perfect aide and best friend for their future owners.

Each dog’s trainer is a piece of helping them accomplish that.

Mathistad explains that knowing she’s making a difference makes the experience so much more special.

“The dedication, time, patience, and selflessness which this process requires can take so much out of you by the end of the day, but that dog will change your whole world and most importantly, you'll get to see your best friend changing someone else's.”

Popular Right Now

I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

886763
views

Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Home Invader Suspected of Cleaning Up

In May 2019, a Massachusetts man is shocked to discover someone had broken into his house. But instead of stealing anything, they tidied up for him.

46
views

Imagine coming home after a longs days work to discover your door unlocked. This alone doesn't cause for immediate panic because often it's hard to remember if you even locked it that morning. As you warily enter the house, you are relieved to see your TV is still on the wall, and the computer is still sitting on your desk. When you take another step in, however, you start to feel this uneasy feeling, like someone had been in your house while you were gone.

You notice a smell of cleaning products in the air that you don't remember being there that morning, and to your shock, you see the bedroom door you always leave open, closed. Now is the time to panic. You search the house, calling out for the perpetrator to show themselves. Your children's rooms are immaculate: vacuumed, with clothes folded and beds made, and toilets scrubbed.

Someone has definitely been in your home for hours, pillaging through your intimate belongings, only they hadn't taken anything. The only thing they leave behind is eerie toilet paper origami roses, a staple of the US prison system.

Nate Roman's Facebook

Although this sounds like a funny sketch from a comedy show, this actually happened to Massachusetts man Nate Roman this May. Roman says in an interview with New York Post: "Growing up in the age we do, my first thought was a serial killer. My next thought was wondering if my son was safe, worrying if someone was still in the house."

Despite the ridiculousness of the crime, it is still a crime. The act of intruding upon someones home not to steal, but to acquaint oneself with the environment is almost creepier than a robbery. Just the thought of someone possibly getting off by touching your objects and lounging in your furniture is extremely off-putting.

The motive of this cleaning criminal is still unknown and he or she is at large. It's speculated it may have been a mistaken house tidied by a cleaning crew--but that seems less likely than a creep having a go in a home with an unlocked door.

Don't forget to lock your doors at night and when you leave in the morning and watch out for toilet paper roses.

Related Content

Facebook Comments