Normally, it's against the rules to have pets in college dorms and classrooms, but there are some special dogs that are getting a hall pass.
That's because some local students have signed up to be 'teachers' as well.
There are some new students on the Tulane campus this year, studying how to sit, stay, and speak. They live in the dorms and go to class and have campus rules to follow.
"I think it's a great program. It allows us to have the responsibility, but it also allows us to be doing something that will eventually impact someone's life a lot larger than I could ever think of," said Tulane sophomore Alexandra Lahn who is Bryce's trainer. She is from the Philippines and majoring in political science and homeland security.
The four-legged 'students' are Labrador and Golden Retriever mixes from Canine Companions for Independence in Orlando. From the age of eight weeks to 19 months, they each live with a personal volunteer puppy raiser, who trains them in 30 commands before they go off to 'dog college,' which is back at CCI for advanced training. Then they are off to be the eyes, ears, legs or arms for a disabled person.
"It definitely will be worth it, seeing that if he can pass that advanced training, that he'll be able to go to someone who needs him more than I do," said Bryce Montalbano, a Tulane sophomore from New Orleans, majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and is training 'Woodstock.'
It's rewarding, but it's work.
"It's almost like raising a child. Like, they don't sleep through the night at first. You got to come home from class, feed them, especially at the beginning, it's definitely a lot of work. said Tulane junior Kiersten Rankel, an ecology and evolution major from Long Island, New York who is also President of TUSTEP, Tulane University Service Dog Training and Education Program.
Volunteers pay for all their food and flea and heart worm prevention. Tulane helps with the veterinary bills, like vaccines and spay and neuter surgery. And after all that bonding and unconditional love, saying good-bye is heart breaking, but also heart warming.
"To be able to see him go on and do great things, and to just like, be a dog with a job and help someone change their life, is completely worth it to me," said Tulane junior Claudia Barnett from Potomac, Maryland, who is majoring in dance and homeland security and pre med.
She is training Penzey and is thinking about going to veterinary school.
You can help the trainers by mailing a donation to Tulane TUSTEP, Tulane University, 6823 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118. For more on getting a service dog from CCI, http://www.cci.org/
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