Paws with a Cause is an incredible organization that brings assistance dogs of all kinds with people with disabilities who would benefit from them. And despite the time, effort, and money put into training and housing the dogs, the organization donates them to their ultimate human companions for free.
This is their mission statement:
Paws With A CauseÂ® improves the independence and quality of life of people with disabilities at the national level through specially trained assistance dogs. PAWSÂ® raises awareness of the rights and roles of assistance dog teams through education and advocacy.
Talk about a nice mission! When I heard about this organization, I wanted to know more.
What does “Paws do with a thing”?
There are four types of assistance dogs Paws with a Cause trains and offers:
- Service dogs to help with physical disabilities
- Listening to dogs to alert them to common sounds around them
- Seizure response dogs to provide support during or after seizures
- Service dogs for children with autism
Because training is so precise and important, PAWS does not train dogs that humans already have; they train them as puppies up to the age of two to three years. In fact, they only use a few specific breeds: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and a mix of both, as well as poodles, which are usually reserved for allergy sufferers.
The organization helpfully explains exactly what their dogs can and cannot do on their website. Impressively, the dogs can be trained by PAWS to perform over 40 tasks, including opening doors, turning lights on and off, and sounding an alarm.
The dogs already have a wide range of skills when paired with their human, but there is more learning – and endless potential – once the dogs arrive at their eternal home and bond with their humans.
The Paws with a Cause website is informative, fascinating, and full of adorable photos.
Meet Cara Conway from Paws With A Cause
Cara Conway, PR and social media coordinator for Paws with a Cause, was kind enough to give DogTime an interview even though she got married a few days later – congratulations, Cara! Her passion for getting the word out about this important organization, despite major life events happening for her at the same time, speaks volumes for her commitment.
AMANDA: Cara, thank you very much for taking the time to share more information about Paws with a Cause with DogTime!
CARA: You’re welcome – gladly!
AMANDA: How and why did you get involved personally?
CARA: Oh, I love this story … I was actually a college graduate majoring in nonprofit management and advertising / public relations when I took a class with a blind professor who used a guide dog. âWith CHAD, I come to work every day and use public transport,â she said.
I will never forget hearing these words on the first day of their class and thinking to myself, âWow, I think I complain about these two things every day!â It was a very humbling experience.
After class that day, I googled local assistance dog organizations and found PAWS. They hired a development intern. Even though I had already completed my compulsory internship for school, I decided to drop out of my ballroom dancing class – too bad, I know – to apply for the internship at PAWS that I eventually got!
After my four-month internship, PAWS actually created my position to fill me full-time. I’ve been with the club for three and a half years now. I love that I do a small part every day to give our customers the opportunity to live in confidence, dignity and camaraderie.
Training & matching the dogs
AMANDA: How do you train dogs for special needs? Who does that? Is it in a specific location or do you have coaches across the country? It’s really impressive that you have certain categories of trained dogs: service dogs, hearing dogs, seizure response dogs, dogs for children with autism, and even facility dogs. Is the workout very different for each of these types?
CARA: At PAWS we have a number of accredited trainers who are responsible for the further training of our assistance dogs. All of these training courses are held at our Wayland, MI headquarters.
The training differs depending on which career path a dog is taking and what the respective customer needs. All of our dogs are trained individually for their customers! Our trainers really get to know the dog and its preferences and then build on these skills.
AMANDA: That’s so impressive! How do you match people with specific dogs within their training class? Is it difficult to find a human / auxiliary dog ââpersonality match when your focus is mainly on functional needs?
CARA: All of our dogs are trained individually for their customers. A big part of what we pride ourselves on is finding the perfect match. I like to explain it this way, I love my fiancÃ©, but he may not be the one for you! We take a lot of time to get to know our customers, especially their lifestyle and personality. Our customer service team works with our training team to find a match between the customer and the dog.
Bringing dogs to the people who need them
AMANDA: Great! Are you usually contacted in person or through doctors, hospitals, and other organizations?
CARA: People usually contact us one by one. The application is available on our website during our open enrollment period!
AMANDA: How many dogs would you donate per year to people and institutions with special needs?
CARA: On average, we place between 60 and 80 dogs with disabilities each year.
AMANDA: That’s a lot! Any dog ââwith the training and everything it takes to prepare them for the assistant is such a generous gift. How can you hold out? It’s hard?
CARA: We estimate it costs $ 35,000 to breed, raise, train, and place a single assistance dog. We are 89 percent financed by individual donors. The rest of our money comes from grants and small family foundations, but we don’t get any government or insurance grants.
AMANDA: Wow! That is very generous and impressive. Do you only send dogs to people within the US, or have you ever sent dogs abroad?
CARA: We are currently only placing dogs in the U.S. We will only be placing dogs in areas where we have field workers that are currently east of the Mississippi and Arizona. For more information on sales representatives, please visit our website.
How can you get involved?
AMANDA: How can other people get involved in your organization, even if they live far away?
CARA: People who do not live locally can get involved by liking us on Facebook or Instagram, spreading the message or running a fundraising campaign for third parties! Please visit our website for more information on donation options.
If you live more locally, in Michigan or Chicago, you can even volunteer by hosting parent dogs and their newborn pups, or raising puppies from 12 to 18 months old until they’re ready to join our training program.
AMANDA: That’s great. Cara, thank you very much for your time and again for everything Paws with a Cause is doing.
CARA: You are very welcome!
Follow up with ‘paws with a thing’
For an insight into the relationships between people and their paws with a Cause helper dogs, from both perspectives of people and the dogs, please watch the adorable interview above.
To follow Paws with a Cause on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, please visit their pages.
For more information on what Paws with a Cause is doing, how to donate or volunteer, please visit their website.
What do you think of ‘Paws with a Cause’ and their mission to provide assistance dogs for people with disabilities? Will you help spread the word and support them? Let us know in the comments below!