I have never been one to be involved in extracurricular activities in high school and I was not planning on joining any in college. I thought I had my whole college career planned. I would study animal science and become a veterinarian in the future. Starting my junior year I had no clue on what or where I wanted my life to go. I guess you can say I felt lost. I eventually changed my major halfway through and shortly after that I met Melanie Repella’s dog, Shrek. I immediately fell in love with what she was doing. I started asking her questions about what she does and how to get involved. One question I did ask her was “what kind of dogs do they have?” And one of the ones she mentioned was a papillon. “A papillon?” I asked, I was a little confused on what a papillon was (I had never seen one in person) and to be honest I didn’t even think a small dog could be a service dog. A lot of people have this mindset that a service dog is supposed to be a big dog but in reality that is not the case. After looking up papillon pictures I immediately fell in love with those huge ears of theirs! At the end of my junior year I applied to become a handler and I was lucky to be one of the ones chosen.
I encourage anybody reading this to join something that you feel truly passionately about no matter what age or year you are. I thought it was too late for me to join anything since I was heading into my senior year but it isn’t. I have met some amazing people and this organization has opened my eyes and even my family’s eyes on people who need service dogs.
Calvin, my ornery Calvin was the first foster I received. He was a four month old papillon from the Dream Team litter. When I first saw him it was immediately love at first sight. This little dog was about to come home with me for a semester! I was so afraid that I was going to break him. That summer was the best summer I have ever had. He had a huge heart in such a tiny body and the biggest personality you will ever see in a dog.
I was able to teach him all of his basic commands, socialize him and take him to work with me. He got lots of love and attention from my co-workers. As summer came to a close I knew my time with him was also coming to an end but shortly before that day came I was told I could keep Calvin for fall semester! This semester is where I really started to get involved in the club. I was meeting some wonderful people and became the secretary for the club and eventually becoming the VP. Calvin was learning more commands and getting to experience more socializations with different people. I was able to keep Calvin until April 2016. I had him for 11 months and it was the best 11 months I could have ever asked for. Being able to see Calvin grow up into a fine little man, still ornery I might add, was the greatest thing I have ever seen.
Calvin was the only papillon on campus from May 2015 to January 2016. With him being on campus it made other people realize and see that small dogs can also be service animals and can be loved as much as the big dogs. This made other fosters want to have papillons for their next foster.
Next was Spud, Spud bud, potato chip, Tater Tot, Spud Muffin, and Spudster. He had a lot of nicknames! Spud was also a papillon and from the same litter as Calvin. Spud however was the runt of the litter so he was a few pounds smaller than Calvin. He also had the biggest personality I have ever seen in a dog. Even though I only had Spud from May to July he took a huge chunk of my heart with him. All he ever wanted to do was cuddle and sleep on my lap when we had to go to classes on campus. He would do this army crawl for me where he would lower his body and crawl to me. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen.
On September 23rd, I was able to go see Calvin and Spud graduate from advance training. There are no words on how I can describe what I felt on this day. Being able to meet Calvin and Spud's family was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Calvin is now a seizure alert dog to a young girl who lives out of state and Spud is a diabetic alert dog for a young girl who also lives out of state. It was a very emotional (happy) day for me but I kept it together the whole time. Hearing everyone's stories about how much of a struggle it is in their lives and knowing from that day forward those dogs will make there lives a little less stressful, happiness and reassurance that their children will be watched over by another pair of eyes who was trained for that specific child is amazing to see and hear.
A quote that my father has always told me and a quote I now live by is "Hurley's help people who can't help themselves.” This is why I am a part of this club. Knowing that I can help to make someone else's life easier is something I will never say no to. I still am able to see what Spud is up to via Social Media and I am proud of what he has accomplished and what he has become since I've seen him last. I am a very proud foster mommy!
I am so lucky to have been able to meet these two dogs and be able to say that I helped them in this process and were a part of my life for some time. I will never forget these two and I hope they have the best life a dog can have!
In July I was able to take a golden lab from the Cajun litter. His name is Whodi or sometimes called Whodi Monster (he's lengthy and tall)! I am glad I have had the pleasure to get to know this fine fella. His favorite things are chasing his tail, peanut butter and LOTS of cuddling! He is a big giant who does not know how big he is. A.k.a. He thinks he is a lap dog. I have also never seen a dog shed as much as Whodi, but I wouldn't change a hair on him. This is what makes him Whodi. Nothing like going from a seven pounder to a seventy pound dog. It was interesting to see how much of a difference it is raising a small dog versus a big dog. He can do things that the small dog could not do like touching the handicap buttons to open doors. Also wearing a gentle leader and not an easy walk. On January 30, 2017 I gave Whodi back to 4 Paws so he can start advance training. I am wishing him all the best and I hope he does great and one day I can attend his graduation. This was not an easy give back day and I will truly miss his cuddles but I know he will do great things with someone who needs him more than I.
I will be ending my 4 Paws Journey in May 2017 and I will be getting one more dog to end my experience on a great note. I loved my Whodi and how big he was but I started out in this club with a papillon and would love to be able to finish with one. So on that note I would like you all to meet Sky. She is a four month old Papillion. She will be helping me finish out this semester strong and be walking with me at graduation on May 7th, 2017!
I will be leaving this chapter in my life with lots of paw prints on my heart.