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The Ins and Outs of Raising Service Dogs in College

When I first came to St. Ambrose University, I would have never imagined having a dog as a roommate. Fast forward four years later, becoming vice president of STEP at SAU, I was comfortable training potential service dogs, and advocating for those with disabilities in need of assistance.

STEP at SAU is a Service dog Training and Education Program at St. Ambrose University. Founded in 2014 and formerly known as Pawsitive Hearts, STEP aims to educate students about the vital role that service, therapy, and emotional support animals can play in people’s well-being. 


We are most well-known for granting students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to experience working and interacting with therapy, emotional support, and service animals.  Our first dog, Magpie, is currently in professional hearing dog training in Orlando, Florida. Our second, Image, is still on campus, and on track to matriculate in Ohio in November. Our newest puppy, Finton, joined our club in June. 


Our pups are very popular around campus, and have made their way to various education, biology, accounting classes, and so many more. They can be seen prancing around in their little yellow vests, working hard for a greater outcome. 


Here on campus, we have puppy raisers and puppy handlers to help train these dogs socialization and basic obedience. Along with this, we also offer a puppysitting position to those wanting some puppy love and play time. We host our dogs for 18 months, until they are ready to progress to professional training.


Our puppies are trained through Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that provide service dogs to help enrich the lives of those with disabilities free of charge. Service dogs can cost upwards of $50,000. These puppies are provided at no cost, to people who need them to survive. 


STEP at SAU is a program that has allowed the university to dive deeply into the important world of service dog advocacy.  Service dogs act as crutches to someone with a broken ankle, or a wheelchair to someone who cannot walk. They are a need that college students are helping provide to a greater community.  


College life is tough, and we commend our puppy trainers for their time, dedication, and all they do for our dogs. Though the school days are busy, and homework can be tough, coming home to Finton smiling ear to ear puts everything into perspective. While our time training together may be short, the difference he will make in someone’s life makes it all worth it. We at STEP encourage everyone to consider giving a dog a job, because you just never know the lasting impact you may have. 
Hi friends! I'm a senior Secondary Ed English Major at SAU. You can find me with my dogs, cooking yummy vegetarian meals, or nose in a good book Professional magic maker
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