UMN students foster service dogs in Living Learning Community

The FETCH program offers University of Minnesota students the opportunity to train and handle service dogs on campus.

Service-dog-in-training Uno demonstrates holding a hairbrush at Can Do Canines on Dec. 10, 2015.

Joe Sulik

Service-dog-in-training Uno demonstrates holding a hairbrush at Can Do Canines on Dec. 10, 2015.

by Olivia Hines

Fostering Education and Training Canines in Housing (FETCH), a Living Learning Community (LLC) at the University of Minnesota’s Bailey residential hall that is offered every semester, was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic but is now back in full force, completing its first semester back after the pandemic. .

The University’s Housing and Residential Life collaborated with Can Do Canines, a non-profit organization that connects people with disabilities with free, fully-trained assistance dogs, to create the FETCH program in 2016.

The program was put on hold between 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions but has started again this year. There are currently 12 students involved, Kristie Feist, the University’s assistant director of residential life, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

Second-year student Jennifer Wood said she joined FETCH last year because she wanted to experience having a dog since she never had one growing up.

Wood has worked with three dogs over the last two years through the program and said she has enjoyed her experience so far.

“I love working with the dogs and trainers from Can Do Canines,” Wood said in an email to the Daily. “The dogs are amazing, and I have made a few friends during my time in the program.”

Typically, two students will live together and work as a team to care for and train one service dog for a portion of the spring or fall semester, Feist said.

The program provides all supplies, food and veterinary care, so there is no additional cost for students. Students are, however, required to attend several bi-monthly training sessions.

Morgan Nemeck, a fourth-year student, was a part of the program from fall 2019 to spring 2020. Nemeck said she had a great experience with FETCH and enjoyed being able to handle dogs around campus.

“We were trained to keep the dogs in kennels during the night, work or school,” Nemeck said. “We would take the dogs to our classes so long as they weren’t labs.”

The FETCH Program allows students who are interested in working with animals in their careers the opportunity to learn more about the service animal industry and gain hands-on experience, Feist said.

Students can join the FETCH program by applying online through the LLC website. Applicants can join at the beginning of the fall semester, though rare exceptions are made for students who join at the beginning of the spring semester, Feist said.

“I would highly recommend students join the FETCH program,” Wood said. “It is a great way to learn about training service animals, and these dogs literally change people’s lives in the best ways.”