The Tulane Hullabaloo

Letter to the Editor: TUSTEP dogs not your toy

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Dear Puppy Love,

I’m sorry you got “utterly tenderized” by your Spanish exam, and I am also sorry that one of our pups was not able to offer you consolation following that. What I am not sorry for is sticking to my dog’s training in that moment. To clarify, the type of training we use with our dogs is called positive reinforcement, which you have no doubt learned about in PSYC 1000. We use petting as a reward for our dogs, so they know their behavior is correct. The problem is that someone other than their handler petting them whilst on cape can be detrimental to that learning process, especially when they are little puppies and still learning when they are and are not working.

Dogs can, and have, been released (service dog slang for honorably discharged) from the program for distractibility while working with a handler due to situations exactly like this. So I ask next time you want to pet one of our puppies and it is working, think about the people from whom you may be taking away a life-changing opportunity. The veteran with PTSD who fought for your rights, the deaf woman who can’t hear her children calling when they need her, the man with no control over his legs who can’t pick up his wallet when he drops it. These are the people we are working to help.

Our dogs serve a greater purpose than many people ever will, and that purpose is what we’re training for.

I understand also that it doesn’t seem too daunting to simply remove the puppy’s vest when we see someone who looks like they could use a pick-me-up, but our dogs thrive on consistency and need their training to be regimented.

Never mind that you can’t walk two feet on this campus without seeing someone who could use some puppy love. We have things to do too. It is early in their training, so the rules are far more rigid, but once they start to recognize their place in our society, asking to pet a dog may work out in your favor. Instead of dipping your shoulder down to stroke his back as if we won’t notice (we will), just ask the raiser, “Hey! I’m having a ruff day, can I pet your dog?” More often than not? The answer will be yes.

If you show respect for our process, we are more than willing to let you reap the benefits of our furry friends.

Where’s the chill? The chill is in changing someone’s life in a way few of us will ever understand. Trust me, we don’t hate you. In fact, we thank you for this opportunity to fulfill the education part of our mission.


Tulane University Service-Dog Training and Education Program member Kiersten Rankel 

Written on behalf of and with the contributions of all TUSTEP puppy raisers. 

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9 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: TUSTEP dogs not your toy”

  1. Anonymous on March 16th, 2017 10:12 am

    Maybe if you stopped treating your dogs as pets, they’ll start passing their program. One of my friends is a puppy raiser and I am continuously baffled by her lack of effort into training her dog. While it is evident that students on campus don’t respect the cape, I don’t think that it is fair to place the burden on anyone other than the raisers.

  2. Anonymous on March 16th, 2017 1:46 pm

    One my my friends is also a puppy raiser. Her life revolves around her dog – she wakes up at 6 to let him pee, spends countless hours teaching him commands, and spends her hard earned money feeding him the best food possible. While your friend may seem to put a “lack of effort” towards training, how much do you really know? Are you watching her 24/7 as she puts her dogs need in front of her own or are you only there for her breaks when she has time to socialize after training and homework? Service dogs get to be pets for a few hours a day, and that is when most people see them. Being a raiser is a lot more responsibility than people understand.

  3. Anonymous on March 16th, 2017 2:32 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. Although it does not diminish the responsibility of the public to respect the vest, I too am a friend of a few current raisers and as an uneducated layperson, still feel as though I could do a better job than them. You have big paws to fill with all the dogs and raisers that came before you. TU-STEP up your game.

  4. @Leo on March 16th, 2017 2:32 pm

    1) by saying “they’ll start passing their program,” you are insinuating that none of the TUSTEP dogs have passed training which is false 2) specifically, if you want to get technical, TUSTEP has an above average success rate (fact check) 3) if this raiser is your “friend,” you wouldn’t be anonymously slandering her on a platform that can be seen by anyone 4) you want some pepper with all that salt?

  5. Xiao on March 18th, 2017 1:58 pm

    What a rude thing to say. You seem to be extremely uneducated about the training that we do as raisers and can you really call this puppy raiser your “friend” if you’re anonymously bad-mouthing her on the internet? I don’t think so. For your information, we spend about 5-10 minute training sessions with our dogs at home and when you see us walking–that’s a form of training too, called socialization. We’ve raised these puppies at the start of 8 weeks, we woke up at 6am, fed them, trained them, took them to vet visits, made sure they had plenty of play time and so much more that you don’t get to see, so how is it fair for you to assume? Quite frankly, unless you’ve raised a dog yourself, you really don’t know what it’s like to be a college student taking on this responsibility. Yes, it is our burden, yes we signed up for this role but no, you don’t get to call us bad raisers when you don’t even know what it entails in the first place.

  6. Lexi on March 16th, 2017 1:45 pm

    Dear whoever wrote that rude comment,
    They are allowed to act as dogs normally would when they are not on cape. And to say that any one of the raisers doesn’t put effort into training their dog is ridiculous considering each of us trains our dogs daily, whether it be focusing more on socialization or commands. We put in countless hours for these dogs and they are our number one priority, so to say that any one of the puppy raisers lacks effort in training their dog is mind blowing. Also, until you have read the cci manual and trained a dog yourself you do not truly know what goes into it and/or how what it appears on the outside might be different from what’s going on. The current raisers were chosen for a reason and we always put our dogs first.

  7. Anon on March 16th, 2017 5:26 pm

    Why do TUSTEP people come off as so…. harsh? They all seem to be upset about something or complaining about something or someone. It’s ridiculous and makes others not want to be in the program.

  8. anonymous on March 16th, 2017 9:28 pm

    getting asked 1000 times a day “can I pet ur dog” isn’t really the greatest thing in the world and wouldn’t make me so friendly either. So I imagine that might be why they seem “harsh” per say. Maybe after lots of people asking to pet your dog it just gets annoying after a while.

  9. Sam F on March 16th, 2017 5:46 pm

    So, while you may think that the raiders are to blame, the service dogs are not here for tulane students amusement and happiness. Also honestly, the dog is a huge part of every raisers life, as I have seen, but they are also students first. So if they don’t always seem 100% involved in their dog 24/7, it might be because they have an Orgo test coming up, or a shift to go to for work. The raisers I know are some of the most hard working people I have the priveledge to know. On top of all of that, if you’re not involved in TUSTEP, is it really your place to be judging the raisers on their quality of training on the dogs? Cause while it might seem super easy and a breeze, I can honestly say from experience that it isn’t. I lived with one of the raisers for a week and was exhausted just from the dog always wanting attention. All in all, I think they are doing a fantastic job and if you’re butthurt cause they wouldn’t let u pet the dog, you need to realize you’re an entitled immature child that needs to grow up

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
Letter to the Editor: TUSTEP dogs not your toy