Service dogs can help a wide variety of people with disabilities, from seizures to diabetes to autism to blindness or PTSD. It’s absolutely stunning what dogs can be trained to do. Ever wonder what fostering a service dog in-training is like? For me, this is what I’ve found to be true:
1. You get to enjoy a companion that loves you unconditionally.
2. You can take the puppy nearly anywhere that you go once he or she is appropriately trained, whether it’s school, work, restaurants, department stores or a friend’s house — which means you don’t have to worry about getting home to let the dog out.
3. Most 20-somethings don’t know where they will be in a year or 10-years, so adopting a permanent dog is a BIG commitment. Fostering is a great alternative.
4. Puppies are sure to make you laugh…and laugh…and laugh.
5. Most service dog organizations will reimburse you for the puppy’s food and vet expenses. This is great, because sometimes money can be tight during college or when you’re getting started in your career.
6. Taking a puppy out in public instantly helps your social life. Everyone will want to talk to you, ask questions or ask to pet your puppy (which some organizations allow and others do not).
7. Your social media accounts are full of puppy pictures, and your friends and family members are always commenting about how precious your puppy is.
8. It’s great preparation if you ever plan on having kids — whether it’s 3 a.m. potty breaks, puking because they ate grass, or bath time because they ran around in the freshly cut grass. A puppy teaches you to be selfless and patient.
9. You might even have the CEO and COO stop by your desk several times during the day to simply see the “employee of the month” (my foster puppies), and it’s great stress relief / therapy for the office.
10. Sure, it’s tough to give them back. But it absolutely melts your heart to see the difference a service dog makes in a child’s or adult’s life. And you know that without puppy fosters, the process wouldn’t be possible.
Heather Wilson has fostered several service dogs in-training for 4 Paws for Ability, located in Xenia, Ohio. Her love for training dogs started in 4-H when she was just 8 years old. She trained and showed dogs for 10 years and fostered her first service dog for Pilot Dogs, Inc., located in Columbus, Ohio, when she was in high school.