From prison to pedagogy, puppy becomes Miami U. “student”

pedagogy

Winks learned to stay close to his puppy raiser, student Lauren DuVall, whose sister, Taylor DuVall, left, serves as a puppy sitter.

OXFORD, Ohio –Even with no dog treats in sight, Winks behaved beautifully while attending English class here at Miami University.

The seven-month-old, Golden-Labrador Retriever lay patiently at the foot of her puppy raiser, Lauren DuVall, of Eaton, Ohio, a middle childhood education major involved in the “4 Paws University” program.

Professor Mark Bernheim

Professor Mark Bernheim

“I love having her reclining in the class for 80 minutes looking up at me from the corner of her eyes,” said Professor Mark Bernheim, who welcomed Winks into his Children’s Literature class.  Bernheim recently retired after 45 years.

Thanks to a Xenia, Ohio-based organization, 4pawsforability.org., trained dogs, such as Winks, are placed worldwide with children suffering disabilities that include seizures, diabetes and autism.  The program also serves certain veterans.

For example, to assist children with seizures, dogs are trained to notice the seizures before the outward signs are available, according to the website. Diabetic-alert dogs are trained to smell the chemical body changes that occur as insulin levels increase or drop.

A prison was Winks’ first training ground in the segment of the training program called “Mission Pawsible.” There specially qualified inmates at Ohio prisons in Warren, Lebanon, Pickaway and London give the puppies their first months of foundation training, according to the website.

After that, Winks arrived for her semester at tree-lined Miami, described by the poet Robert Frost as “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.”

Winks was DuVall’s constant companion, attending class, activities, meetings, shopping and events while DuVall integrated the training she received to help mold the puppy. DuVall’s roommate was co-puppy raiser.

DuVall, 22, who has graduated and plans to student teach in the fall, served as vice president of Miami’s 4 Paws University chapter and puppy raised two more dogs after Winks.

“I have high hopes of teaching sixth grade,” said DuVall.  “4 Paws was the other half of me in college, next to teaching.  It gave me an additional passion and allowed me to make the most of my college experience.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Separating from Winks and the other three dogs I helped raise was never easy.  It was heartbreaking.  But I know that no matter where I go, I will always carry a little piece of each one of them with me.”

Other universities participating in “4 Paws University” include Wittenberg; Kentucky; Wright State; Ohio State; Cedarville; the College of Wooster; Ohio Northern; and Manchester.