The University of Central Florida has opened its doors to guide dogs in training.
Students training future guide dogs
Morgan Bell is one of the students training a future guide dog at UCF. The 19-year-old student takes 4-month-old Golden Retriever–Labrador Retriever mix, Robin, wherever she goes. The sophomore is raising the puppy on campus through Canine Companions for Independence.
“It was love at first sight,” Bell said.
Someday, Robin could end up fetching bottled water from the refrigerator or turning on a light switch with her nose – helping her future owner who might be person in a wheelchair or a nursing-home resident.
Despite the support for raising future puppy heroes, the university has put in effort to ensure the health and safety of students. The university housing officials made sure Bell’s three other roommates weren’t allergic and are totally fine with sharing their apartment-style dorm with a furry roomie.
Bell also made sure that her professors are okay with having Robin in the class room. The pup is welcome, except in lab classes.
Robin is only a pup and has disrupted classes. One time in Bell’s statistic classRobin snored so loud she caught the teacher’s attention.
Students who meet Robin can’t help but pet the pup!
“It’s really cute,” said Judy Yang, a resident of the dorm Bell lives in. “I love animals.”
Robin’s crate is under Bell’s loft-style bed and the dog’s polka-dotted bed lies in the corner of the living room. There is also a courtyard for Robin to use as her bathroom. So far, the puppy hasn’t eaten Bell’s shoes.
“She’s really good,” said Johnna Hauck, Bell’s roommate. “She’s a cuddle bug.”
Robin is growing bigger each day and Bell estimates she spends about $40 every six weeks on dog food.
The college student loves Robin so much, but she knows she can’t have her forever. She will have to say goodbye to Robin in November 2016 so the dog can move on to more-advanced training.
“She’s given me a lot of love,” Bell said. “I want her to give that to somebody else.”
More guide dogs in training on campus
The UCF is the first public university in Florida to allow Canine Companion dogs in training to live inside its dorms.
LeAnn Siefferman, Canine Companion’s puppy-program manager, is also in talks with the University of Miami and Stetson University to start similar programs.
She notes that college students are full of energy and have flexible schedules. The young students also like getting involved in the community. Why couldn’t they help raise the puppies for 18 months on their journey to becoming assistance dogs?
The program has the support of UCF officials, including the university’s President John Hitt
Sieffermanis hoping to create a student organization at UCF and recruit more students like Bell.
“I want to see this program grow,” said Kait McConomy, the UCF housing coordinator where Bell lives.
The program is modeled after one at Tulane University in New Orleans, where dogs also live on campus through a student club.
Source: Orlando Sentinel