Dogs teach and serve

Guide dog
University junior Amanda Parks said her interest in training guide dogs began just after graduation from high school when she watched a friend who was a trainer meet the person who received the dog he had trained.

“I saw the impact it made for that person and the freedom it allowed.”

Now Amanda not only trains guide dogs, she has started an organization on campus to help other students become trainers too.

Amanda is training Redmond—an eight-month-old black Labrador. Redmond came to her in June when he was two months old through Guide Dogs for the Blind, and is the third dog Amanda has trained since the fall of 2008. She trained two dogs while living in on-campus dorms, and now lives with Redmond in an off-campus apartment.

Guide Dogs for the Blind aims to partner visually impaired people with a guide dog trained to help them increase their mobility and freedom. The organization sends dogs to live for one year with volunteer trainers who help prepare them for intensive therapy dog training, or “college,” when the dog is about 18 months old.

Redmond’s training is going well, Amanda said. He goes where she goes, and the campus community has been supportive of her work.

“Students love seeing Redmond. Community Service Learning loves it. All of my professors love it.”
Redmond is getting over his fear of skateboarders and bicyclists, she said, but still wants to eat everything off the ground including acorns that fall from the trees in the Quad.

The University campus, Amanda said is the perfect place for dog training since it is imperative the puppy learns how to behave around people. “The more social environments he is put in, the better,” she said.

This semester, Amanda started the Helping Paws Organization to collaborate with the Office of Community Service Learning to teach students how to train and work with guide dogs. The group has taken the dogs on seasonal outings to Oak Glen and the Pumpkin Patch so the dogs get more experience in social environments.

Beginning next semester, guide dogs in training will be utilized so students can complete community service requirements by training the dogs and the dogs can serve the community at hospitals to comfort the sick, at Jasper’s Corner and Big Buddies programs to meet the children, and at therapy sessions in the library to reduce the stress of University students.

“Students who live away from home miss their dogs so much. It is great therapy for people who are depressed and homesick to be able to pet a dog.”

The Helping Paws Organization will train any student interested in working with dogs. The group, which now has only three other members, hopes to grow in numbers to more fully realize an impact on campus and in the community.

For more information about Helping Paws, contact or the Community Service Learning office.

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