Photos by Dani Massey.
Subculture on Main strives to raise awareness of the diversity of people and important issues on the Lawrence University campus. Care is taken to give equal platform to unique individuals and to listen to their stories with an open mind. Interviews are reflective only of the interviewee on not of their whole group.
Lawrence is made up of many different types of groups under its larger, overarching culture. Some of these smaller groups are formed through nature (you were born that way) or by choice (you choose to be a part of some common cause, shared experience or support). Sophomore biology and Russian major Anna White fits group membership by choice through her volunteer occupation as a puppy raiser (PR) for Custom Canines Service Dog Academy. She is currently training Willard, whose title is service dog in training (SDIT).
White herself identified as being a part of the puppy raiser culture. She reflected her impression of group membership and how a person is affected by one’s birth identities and those that are chosen.
“[W]hat’s cool about subcultures is that even though they are a specific group of people, they affect everyone that surrounds them, and I feel like being a PR is a really good example of that,” White said. “All the puppy raisers have our Facebook group chat, our training classes, and so we all have our own jokes. Something that we all have is a ‘poop story’ where are dogs will inevitably poop in a public place because they’re puppies being brought into public places.” She laughed. “We get to seriously affect other people’s lives in such a positive way because we are puppy raisers. Then, once we’re done raising our puppy, [the puppy] gets to move on to a new person and change their life in a positive way.”
Beyond her obvious identity as a PR, White also talked about her love of animals in general.
“I want to be a veterinarian one day, and I’m a part of PAW [People for Animal Welfare] on campus,” White said. “We do a lot of fun fundraising events. We [hosted] cat café, and we’re all about going to shelters and volunteering. People who love animals are good people. [They] are just kind. Also, on campus I am part of the McCarthy co-op, which is a sustainable, green meal plan and living space. We try really hard to make our co-op a sustainable place to live so we can save the planet.”
White went on to explain a little bit about what the dogs she helps train do.
“A lot of our dogs go to veterans and they are perfect for PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder],” White said. “I [and other raisers] call them heroes in the making. They go to their future handlers for free. I feel like we are slowly helping change the country by helping the people who help our country. They are like medical equipment.”
White wanted to identify an issue that her group faces as well as the people with disabilities who receive the puppy after she has completed the training.
“There’re a lot of problems in our community right now with “fake” service dogs,” White said. “People will buy a vest on Amazon and put it on their pet animal and bring them to wherever and that causes a huge problem, in the PR and disabled communities. […] They aren’t used to that and haven’t been trained. Most times, the owners are not trained in how to train [the dogs] to be in those situations. In states like Wisconsin, SDITs have just as many rights as full-fledged service dogs, so I can bring Willard anywhere. Now, because of all the “fake” service dogs, [trained] service dogs have gotten a bad reputation. [When] you go into a place, you’re more likely to get denied [and] treated badly. So I know when he’s fully grown and goes to a disabled handler, they’re going to get treated differently.”
When asked about the biggest benefits of being a puppy raiser, White said, “I think the most obvious thing [I gain is] a wonderful, adorable puppy who loves me, and I get to take with me everywhere,” White said. “It’s such a good feeling; it makes me feel like I’m making a difference and that I’m doing a good job. I feel like it’s teaching me a lot about myself, like how to keep my cool when I’m at my wit’s end with like everything [and] consistency and patience. I’m learning how to teach someone with love. It’s going to stick with me for like the rest of my life.”
White trains with her colleagues, senior Claire Zimmerman and sophomore Morgan Donahue. You can learn more about SDITs on Willard’s Instagram account @Willard_ the_sdit.
If you would like to represent your group, contact Dani Massey at email@example.com