Collar Scholars program connects student volunteers with future service dogs

Canine Companions puppy Phil.jpg
Posted at 10:21 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 13:08:56-05

HELENA — College can be lonely at times, especially for students who moved far away from family and friends, but a new club at Carrol College is giving students a chance to have man’s best friend by their side while helping those with disabilities.

Ashley Wilt and Alyson Galow are co-leaders of the Collar Scholars Club at Carroll College.

“We are volunteers of Canine Companions for Independence which is a national non-profit organization, and they place service dogs free of charge to people with disabilities. As puppy raisers, our role is to receive an 8-week puppy, like Phil, and we raise them for about a year and a half and during that time we train over 30 commands,” Ashley says.

Ashley Wilt and Canine Companions puppy Phil.jpg

Phil is about a year and a half old lab retriever mix, and he has been in training since he was just a little guy.

As part of Canine Companions, Ashley trains Phil to do many commands that range from sit, stay, kennel, and rollover. All the commands Phil learns he will need to use daily when he is placed with an owner who has disabilities. There are 15 people in the Collar Scholars Club at Carroll, but they are not all raising puppies.

“There are so many opportunities in our club, you can be a puppy raiser like we are, you can be a puppy sitter, to give temporary leave to those puppy raisers, we have opportunities for people to work in fundraising, social media, and disability etiquette training, so really people can get involved even if they are not ready to make the commitment of having a dog of their own,” says Wilt

Ashley and Alyson have fulfilled their one and a half years of training, and have returned Phil to Canine Companions for Independence. Now they wait for a phone call.

Alyson Galow and Canine Companions puppy Lorelai.jpg

“6 months from now I am hoping to get that call that he has been matched and I get to go an meet that person and officially pass his leash over which is really cool to know that as a college student you can make such a big difference in someone’s life, so definitely worth it," says Wilt

Ashley and Alyson have made a big difference in the lives of several people, the girls have raised a combined 7 puppies for canine companions, and they’re already looking forward to the next puppy they receive for training.

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