Bridget Evans is a volunteer trainer for the MidAmerica Service Dogs’ Foundation and started the University of Illinois Service Dog Project. Together with her service dog Coal, she has helped train more than 15 service dogs. Today, she shares why being a volunteer with a service-dog organization is special to her.
I am a student with a disability at the University of Illinois, and thanks to my service dog, Coal, I lead the independent, fast-paced life of a typical college student.
Coal is an 11-year-old black Labrador retriever who knows more than 35 commands. He inspired me to start the U of I Service Dog Project, a partnership between the MidAmerica Service Dog Foundation and the Applied Health Sciences Student Council at the University of Illinois, where students now have the opportunity to foster and train service dogs on campus.
Right now is a great time to get involved with your local service-dog organization. Here are the top five reasons you should:
1. You love dogs!
Volunteers come from all walks of life, but the one thing they have in common is their love of dogs. This is the only requirement to get involved. Your local service-dog organization will teach you how to train a dog, how to interact with people with all types of disabilities, and even what a service-dog organization does.
2. You will help people with disabilities.
Every day, service dogs help people with a variety of disabilities lead happy and independent lives. Service dogs help people who are blind or hearing-impaired, people who use wheelchairs, and people with intellectual disabilities. Volunteering with a service-dog organization allows you to get involved with the community in an exciting and impactful way.
3. You can donate as much or as little time as you want.
There are numerous ways to get involved. You can become a foster parent and train a service dog from a puppy to an adult, or volunteer a few hours a week as a secondary trainer working on a range of commands with a dog. Local organizations also need donations such as toys, food and leashes. Every little bit helps!
4. You’ll meet new people.
Volunteering with a service-dog organization means you are joining a team. You’ll bond with other volunteers over new tricks or funny mishaps. You’ll also have opportunities to go on social outings with the trainers and dogs in order to practice in public places.
5. You will make a lasting impact.
Service dogs are life-changing for people with disabilities. My service dog not only helps me with day-to-day tasks, he has greatly improved my quality of life, allowing me to pursue my dreams unhindered by my disability.