Arguably the best part of walking through campus is the occasional sighting of a service dog in training (SDIT). The University of Dayton is home to a handful of dogs bred and trained through 4 Paws for Ability, located only a short drive from campus in Xenia, Ohio. Students at numerous universities in the area serve as fosters, teaching the dogs the basic commands and skills they will need to change lives. Handlers and sitters are also tasked with exposing the dogs to as many new situations and environments as possible to help them build confidence in any setting imaginable. College students can socialize the dogs in areas that members of the general public might not have consistent access to, including classrooms and sporting events. Since most 4 Paws dogs are placed with children, confidence in these types of locations is key.
Over the years, countless SDITs have walked the halls of UD. Some have gone on to become official service dogs, some breeders of future SDITs and others have become loving pets. No matter their current role, these dogs have left lasting impacts on the UD community, especially with the handlers and sitters that made the pups who they are now.
Senior Bridget Spolar has fostered Foxtrot (graduated service dog) and Joshua (current SDIT) during her time at UD. She describes being a handler as "one of the most incredibly rewarding experiences imaginable." Spolar said that saying goodbye to Foxtrot was extremely difficult because of the bond they shared over the months spent together, but knowing that he would go on to make life easier for his new family was well worth the pain.
Club member Izzy Riboni loves that she is able to help others live fulfilling lives while doing something she enjoys. Rachel Banks, a senior on the club's executive board, shares this sentiment, adding that she loves seeing people's reactions to the dogs when she walks them around campus. She said hearing updates from the dogs' new families is another highlight for her.
The 4 Paws student club and organization make a huge impact on the lives of children and their families. According to the mission of the organization, those who receive these service dogs gain a new lease on life because they no longer have to bear the weight of a medical condition alone. In addition, they now have a loving 4-legged companion for years into the future.
The dogs are all very friendly and would love to say hello if you see them on campus. But, please — ask to pet first!