The University of Cincinnati welcomed two four-legged students to campus recently. Fergie and Dalek are service dogs in training, part of a partnership between the University of Cincinnati and 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit service dog agency in Xenia, Ohio.
Meghan King, president of the UC organization, is recruiting other students to foster dogs on campus. The senior psychology major is fostering Fergie, and another student is working with Dalek.
The idea of college students socializing puppies destined to become service dogs came about when 4 Paws was contacted by Wittenberg University in Springfield in 2008. A second program at the University of Kentucky was established in 2010. 4 Paws has expanded the College Foster Program to include 11 other Ohio universities. In all, approximately 400 students and over 130 dogs are involved, with five more programs in the works at other universities.
After undergoing basic obedience training, potty training and crate training either at one of the five Ohio prisons that 4 Paws works with or at a traditional foster home, at 5 months of age, a puppy will be placed with a student participating in the program. Usually, the puppy remains with a student for a semester. After that the dog is returned to the 4 Paws main facility where the dog learns service dog skills.
During the time a puppy is on campus, it lives with a student, who is expected to take the dogs out in public as much as possible, including classes, sporting events and anywhere it can socialize with people and experience new situations.