When I moved away from my comfort zone, after losing everything I thought I had: My first real love, someone who I thought was my best friend, and my first puppy I was ever able to call my own at the young age of two and a half, I was nothing but lost. On the largest campus in the state of Ohio, only knowing a hand full of people. Lonely, homesick, and depressed.
One day, sitting in Thompson Library “studying” for a midterm, I saw a German Shepherd peacefully laying underneath the table. His leash connected to a blind man’s hand. I couldn’t focus. I stared impolitely until I snapped myself out of it and that’s when I realized I needed dogs back in my life, I needed to make a change. And what better way to not only help myself but to help others. So I turned to the every so amazing…Google. “Service Dog Agencies in Ohio” I searched, “4 Paws for Ability” I found.
Two and a half years ago, I stumbled upon the 4 Paws for Ability website and noticed they had a University Program. I emailed the address given and soon there after began my journey. A few days later I got a call from the former University Program Coordinator, Jessa, had a short phone interview and scheduled my orientation. Where I would learn more about the organization and what all being a college foster would entail. Little did I know after the hours of information and supply pick up, I would be given my first 4 Paws puppy to raise.
Rambler. A four month old Golden Retriever puppy from the Cell Phone Litter. My Ramblin’ Man, my Rambler Eugene. My new best friend. Those tiny paws and sweet puppy dog eyes soon wiggled their way into my heart and I fell completely in love. Not only with his perfection, but with what I had come across, what I was doing with my life. All because of him. I was attending THE Ohio State University (something I never ever ever thought I would ever do), I was raising a puppy and taking him everywhere I went, and I was coming out of my darkness. My life which was sad, depressing, and at the time lacked meaning, changed tremendously after Rambler became mine. And even though he was and never will be officially mine; to me and my heart, my one true puppy love, will forever be mine. After three very short months with him on campus, he went back to 4 Paws to start his advanced training. There he trained to become a mobility and multipurpose service dog for a little boy who lives in Minnesota with Cerebral Palsy. On July 31st, 2015 I got to attend Rambler’s graduation and meet his forever boy and family. It was by far, the greatest day of my entire life.
Since then I fostered two more dogs while still enrolled at OSU and in the University Program. Bloom (short for Bloomingdales), a black lab/golden mix from the Stores Litter and Tadashi, a goldendoodle from the Big Hero 6 Litter. During that time I also recruited more students to become college fosters and started a new student organization on campus: 4 Paws for Ability at The Ohio State University. It started off with just Rambler and I on campus but in two short years there are now 20+ dogs on campus and hundreds of people involved with the organization. Never would I have ever thought I could leave something so amazing behind at the place, my new home, that changed my life forever.
After graduating with a Bachelors degree in Psychology in December of 2015, being the first student to walk at graduation with a 4 Paws pup, I just knew my journey with 4 Paws for Ability wasn’t complete.
In January of 2016, I got a job at 4 Paws for Ability as a socializer. Where I took the dogs that were housed at our kennel in between fosters and training out and about in public for more socialization and new experiences. But I couldn’t stop there. Two months later, I was pulled up to the training department where I was a training assistant. Working under some of the most educated and amazing dog trainers I’ve ever met. Learning more and more each day and living a life I never thought I would, having such a rewarding job, I still couldn’t stop there.
This month I will celebrate my one year anniversary as an official member of the 4 Paws for Ability staff while working in my new position, University Program Coordinator. My trainer, my mentor, but most importantly my friend, Jessa, has stepped down from UP Coordinator and is letting me take the reins. And let me tell you, what an honor it’s been. This college program is my life, my love, and my passion. If it was able to get me out of my darkness the way that it did, I know it can do the same for so many other students.
In the past year I have also fostered two more dogs through the Traditional Fostering Program. Butch, an English Creme Golden Retriever from the Good Dinosaur Litter and Van Halen, a papillon from the Dream Team 2 Litter.
For those of you who took the time to read my story, thank you. Each and every person interested and/or involved in the college program, especially the chapter at OSU, has a special place in my heart. I truly hope that 4 Paws for Ability changes your life in the amazing way it has changed mine.