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What it's like to foster a service dog

Photo of service dog in front of store.

Service dogs aren’t made but raised - and it takes a village.   

West Virginia University and Hearts of Gold, a local nonprofit organization, have a long-standing partnership to raise and train service and emotional support dogs for placement with people who have disabilities, primarily veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The program wouldn’t be successful, however, without the individuals and families who help foster the dogs during their two-year training. The community foster program is a newer addition to the Hearts of Gold program and is an opportunity for people to be part of the training process without financial commitment. Hearts of Gold covers all necessary medical care, preventative medications, food and equipment for each dog.

Hearts of Gold trainers take calls and texts from new and veteran community fosters, most of whom began the program with little to no dog training or behavior knowledge. However, the less knowledge a foster has the more helpful to the trainers, so their research-based training does not conflict with an individual's previously learned techniques. 

A common concern among community fosters and those considering it is that they will get too attached to the foster dog; however, most first-time fosters decide to continue indefinitely. 

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design will be sharing stories of local community fosters over the next two weeks. For more information on how to become a short-term or long-term foster, email

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.



CONTACT: Leah Smith  
Public Relations Specialist
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design  


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