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Furry friends lend independence to people with disabilities

The newest students at Bradley will have four legs and fur.
Paws Giving Independence is a club that will help train dogs to assist people with disabilities.
Seniors Brandi Arnold, Michelle Kosner and Eric Swanson started the new club.
“We were involved with an organization in Chicago called Morris Service Dogs and we decided that we wanted to start something like that here at Bradley,” Kosner said.
The group adopts dogs from shelters. For a dog to be eligible for the program, it must have a certain temperament and meet other criteria. Once approved, the dogs are placed into foster homes.
Students living in off-campus housing provide foster homes, where the dogs will live for three to six months.
“While they are in the homes, their foster families will take them to weekly training classes with us,” Kosner said.
They train the dogs to deal with people in wheelchairs and people with braces. Tasks trained dogs can do include picking things up off the ground, opening doors, turning on and off light switches and providing stability, Kosner said.
Trainers also take the dogs to public places.
“We take them on buses, into restaurants and into stores,” Arnold said. “We just want to make sure that they are prepared to handle a variety of situations.”
Once the dogs are trained, they are placed into homes for free, Kosner said.
“It really helps people with disabilities feel like they are regaining some of their independence back,” Arnold said.
Freshman nursing major Ryan Murphy said she thinks the program is beneficial to have on campus.
“It is a win-win situation,” Murphy said. “On the one hand you are saving a dog’s life, along with helping people to become more active whether they have disabilities or not.”
Freshman physical therapy major Olivia Johnson said she thinks the program is a great idea because it will be a good opportunity for people to help better other people’s lives.
Freshman finance major Anna Amato said she thought the program was a good idea.
“It is a great volunteer project,” she said. “If I had an off-campus house I would definitely do it.”
Freshman elementary special education major Rebecca Turnoff said she agreed.
“It’s a really remarkable thing for people to give back to the community,” she said. “It is a respectful thing people are doing to help out.”
Paws Giving Independence hosted its first meeting last Wednesday, and Kosner said the turnout was great.
“We had more people than we thought we would show up to get involved,” Kosner said. “There were about 50 people there ready to take a dog into their home.”
Arnold said though the first meeting’s turnout was great, the group still has work to do.
“We are still at the very beginning. There are still things that we need, and we still have a long way to go,” she said.
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