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Ruff at Roesch: Student Staffer Training 4 Paws Pup

By Matt McKinley

This fall while you’re checking out Roesch Library’s makeover, you may notice one of our furriest, fluffiest, four-legged team members on duty. Nutella is a 5-month-old golden retriever who is training to become a service animal with 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit based in Xenia, Ohio.

With library student worker Cristin Bushnell as her companion, Nutella is continuing her basic obedience training. She has learned skills such as sitting, staying, lying down, kenneling and shaking hands. Bushnell, a junior middle childhood education/intervention specialist major, is also in the process of teaching Nutella new skills like not jumping on people, playing dead, and learning how to close and open push-button doors.

What's 4 Paws for Ability?

The 4 Paws for Ability organization trains service dogs for placement with children with disabilities; recent combat veterans with hearing and mobility difficulties; Alzheimer’s and dementia patients; and others. Nutella and her littermates were initially trained by inmates at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex as part of a prison enrichment program before being assigned to college students and other volunteers for long-term training. The goal of socializing the service dogs is to establish a wealth of positive experiences and associations through meeting many different types of people in a variety of social settings. 

If you are in Roesch Library and happen to see Nutella around, don't be afraid to say hello. If you’re not a dog person, don’t worry. Even though Nutella does in fact love people, she is quickly learning not to approach people unprompted while on the job. Nutella is very friendly, and Bushnell says she enjoys talking about Nutella and the 4 Paws for Ability program. 

Pet with Permission

If you find Nutella so cute that you would like to pet her, please ask Bushnell beforehand. Nutella may be in the process of training, and petting her could disrupt the exercise.

Further reading

  • More information about 4 Paws for Ability.
  • The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love, a 2016 book by Melissa Fay Greene, tells the stories of 4 Paws for Ability founder Karen Shirk and several families whose lives have changed for the better. It’s available in Roesch Library and the Learning Teaching Center.

― Matt McKinley is a research services assistant in the University Libraries.

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