KOKOMO, Ind. – It would generally be frowned upon to fall asleep in class. But when Ray decides it’s time to take a nap, all he gets is approval.
Going to Indiana Kokomo University is a big job for a 14 week old puppy, after all.
Ray experiences campus life with Brittney Morton, who volunteers as a puppy starter for the Indiana Canine Assistance Network (ICAN), raising and socializing dogs aged 8-16 weeks through that they are assigned to a training program in prison at 20 weeks.
“It gives me a goal,” said Morton of Indianapolis. “Putting effort into something and knowing that it will do good for others and for dogs, it feels good. It’s nice to know that I am helping to train a dog that will change someone’s life.
The friendly yellow lab is her fifth puppy.
Morton became a volunteer after his freshman year at another campus, where one of his teachers had a service dog in classroom training. By the time she transferred to IU Kokomo in second year, she was ready to attend with a puppy in tow.
Staff at the Campus Accessibility Center helped her ease her transition to bringing puppies to campus with her, and as a volunteer qualified assistance dog, she is legally allowed to have the puppies wherever she goes. .
This has been a positive response from faculty, staff and students, Morton said, adding that she also benefits from his services.
“I’m not a very social person, and because I have a puppy with me, people come to me all the time to ask me questions,” she said. “They tell me about their dogs and ask me about ICAN. It takes me out of my comfort zone. “
Ray has been a good student this semester, regularly earning treats to be quiet while Morton is in class. She noted that some of her former puppies barked or whimpered in class on occasion, but everyone was kind enough to ignore her. One teacher even joked that “the dog agrees” in response.
He’s old enough now that he can’t sleep the whole lesson, but he usually chews a toy in silence.
“He just looks around, listens and takes in everything,” she said.
In just a few weeks, it will be time for Ray to move on to the next phase of his training, and possibly get a new name chosen by his sponsor. This part is never easier.
“I cry like a baby every time,” she said. “Even with older dogs, when I’m only a few weeks old, it’s difficult. And when I have had puppies for two months, I am moved every time.
“We are allowed to collect the puppies once because we raised them,” she said, but the people in charge of the program want them to go through different situations. Living with a family that includes children, or on a farm to learn how to deal with livestock, prepares them for where their final placement is.
Morton hopes to have his next canine companion soon after Ray takes his next step.
“I almost don’t know how to get to campus without a dog,” she said.
Education is KEY at Indiana Kokomo University.