The Digital Journalism Blog

Paws Giving Independence: Striving to Make a Difference

Posted in Uncategorized by com360bu on December 9, 2012
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by Kelsey Budd

Paws Giving Independence is an organization in the Peoria area that trains service dogs and then provides them to disabled children and adults.  Despite what people may think, the process is very complex and requires a lot of hard work.  Recently, PGI has made its way on to Bradley’s campus.  Find out how the dogs have changed the lives of college students and how college students have helped PGI change the lives of those in need.    

A Pawsitive Influence at Bradley

Don’t be surprised if you see a few more four legged friends on Bradley University’s campus this year.

Paws Giving Independence, an organization that was originally created by two Bradley Students, is a local Peoria group that provides disabled children and adults with trained service dogs.

Recently, Paws Giving Independence created an extension of the organization through Bradley called Wags for Mags.

Wags for Mags is a group of students that volunteer as assistant trainers for Paws Giving Independence.  The participation in the student branch of the group has grown over the past year.  There are currently 12 student members along with several graduate students and alumni that volunteer.

Junior nursing student and current member of Wags for Mags, Jenny Lapke, found out about the opportunity to utilize her passion for animals at the activities fair on campus.  She immediately became involved and now the dogs are a part of her everyday life.

Lapke’s morning routine isn’t like most college students.  When she wakes up, she doesn’t watch television, serf the internet or go back to bed.  Instead, she goes to pick up a service dog and brings it to class or wherever else she goes throughout the day.

ADA law now allows service dogs to enter any public place that a person can.  Although this law makes her job easier, Lapke said it took some adjusting to add a dog to her daily routine.

The PGI trainers have a different dog each day of the week in order to help the canine adjust to different people in different environments.  Lapke’s dog of the day attends class with her, goes out to eat with her, and even grocery shop with her.

“People are usually really accepting and really nice when they see a service dog out in public.  If I go to class without a dog now, the teacher is usually upset because they enjoy having the dog there,” said Lapke.

The student trainers have taken their involvement in the organization a step further.  In attempt to make a larger impact, Wags for Mags has sponsored several events to raise money for Paws Giving Independence.  The students have hosted a dog show, Subway nights, bake sales and various other events in the community.

“I think it’s really important for Bradley to have something like this on campus.  It gets PGI’s name out, but more importantly it raises awareness about service dogs and disabilities on campus,” said Lapke.

As a trainer, Lapke is able to watch the dog grow from a puppy to a well-trained service dog that is able to eventually make life easier for someone else.  Even though it is a lot of hard work and consumes a lot of her time, Lapke said it is well worth it to see the impact the dogs have on the people they are given to.

Lapke plans to stay involved with Paws Giving Independence throughout college and into the future.  She enjoys the interaction with the dogs, but more importantly, she relishes the opportunity to make a difference in the local area.

“The service dogs are a great way for people to see our progress on campus and around the community,” said Lapke.

Earning a Red Vest

Have you ever seen a dog open a door?

Jenny Lapke, a student trainer at Bradley, talks about the many different skills PGI teaches the service dogs and the impact these dogs can have on people.  The dogs must master these skills before they are given to a new owner.  Check out the video for a close up look at Buddy, one of the service dogs, and the different skills he has learned.

Rescue Shelters Used By Paws Giving Independence

A  Google map is provided that charts out the many rescue shelters in the state of Illinois that work in coordination with PGI.  Not only does PGI change the lives of those in need, but it saves the lives of dogs by adopting them into the organization.  Click to find out where these shelters are and visit their websites for more information.

The Process of Getting a Service Dog

This is an interactive image that allows the viewer to find out more information about the various steps that must be taken to get a service dog and the steps that must be taken after receiving one.  When you hover your mouse over each shape, another box would pop up that would describe the step in more detail, give a link to the site for more information, or provide a picture.  Also, only one shape would pop up at a time and the viewer would click on the arrow to move from step to step.



Click these links to find out more information about Paws Giving Independence and Wags for Mags.

Also, check out how one service dog has made a difference in the life of a Peoria child.


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