Raising Jettie – My Life as a College Student Raiser

September 14, 2023

By Jennifer Girardin, NEADS College Raiser Instructor and former NEADS College Puppy Raiser

I started my puppy-raising journey as a college junior alongside Jettie, an adorable black lab and NEADS Service Dog in Training. At the beginning, I had little idea what it would be like to have a pup by my side on campus. But after a few short weeks, it became abundantly clear that this was one of the best things I had ever done.

We lived in off-campus housing. Mornings began with a routine—taking Jettie outside for her to “better go now,” followed by practicing “take it” during breakfast. We would then head to campus, where I gave her “free time” on a 30-ft leash so she could get out any excess energy and have another chance to “better go now.”

Then it was time for classes. Jettie attended every class and lecture with me. I would position her beside my desk with a Nylabone or Benebone to keep her content. I repeatedly heard from people – professors and fellow students alike – how just knowing that a dog was in the room made those lectures less stressful.

Chemistry and biology labs were exceptions due to safety concerns. My backup raiser and sitters stepped in, ensuring Jettie was well cared for during these times.

Between classes, we’d exercise in open spaces or empty classrooms by practicing “get it” with a toy. This allowed her to release physical and mental energy. Study groups were held either in a room at the campus library or in someone’s dorm room. Jettie came with me, and we always spent the first few minutes letting her greet everyone – it made focusing on studying a lot easier!

NEADS Instructors held weekly obedience classes on campus for me and my fellow puppy raisers, and every other week we would practice what we learned in public – visiting a library, grocery store, or other location.

I had a part-time job on campus several afternoons a week, and Jettie would stay in the office with my supervisor or in a crate when the supervisor wasn’t in her office. This was a good time to practice alone time in the crate; a peanut-butter-filled Kong kept her occupied.

At the end of the day, I would go back to my apartment, feed her dinner, and either get ready to go out for the evening or have her settle by my side as I studied and did my homework.

Jettie usually came with me to social events on campus. (If it wasn’t practical, she would stay with a sitter.) When I first had her, everyone wanted to meet her, pet her, play with her. It took some time and effort, but I was able to teach people the appropriate way to interact with a Service Dog. Having her around really brighten everyone’s day.

Each day concluded with a final “better go now” and settling in her crate for the night.

I was Jettie’s puppy raiser for 8 months. Through her, I built connections, made new friends, and spread awareness about Service Dogs. I was part of a special community that was doing something to help others in a profound way. Raising Jettie solidified my passion for dog training and led me to a fulfilling career at NEADS, making it one of the most memorable experiences of my college journey.

A Glossary of NEADS terms used in this article:

  • “Better go now” is the command used to give permission for the puppy go to the bathroom.
  • “Take It” is the command used to give the dog permission to take food, or water (while the dog is working). Every time the dog is given a meal he must sit, make eye contact, and be given the command “take it.”
  • “Free time” is the dog’s release from work to play. The dog does not have any gear on besides a flat collar and a long line if not in a fenced-in area.
  • “Get it” means “Go get the toy and place the toy in my hand.” This is used to exercise the dog.