Skip to main content

A service dog foster story: Arya

Photo of service dog laying in office chair

Michelle Paden, a WVU staff member, fostered Arya, her fifth long-term placement. She fostered her first dog, Miley, almost three years ago. 

“I still cry when they leave me, but if they’re going to another foster, I’ll probably see them again,” she said. “You get attached to them. Even though you know that they’re going to leave you, it’s completely worth it.”

With many family members who are veterans, the brief heartache is worth it for Paden. 

"[The dogs] get attached to you, but Hearts of Gold always told me how amazing it is when they match with someone,” she said. “And when my first foster Miley did finally match with someone, I was no longer her person. She now loved that person! It’s helpful to see the bond they create. She still loves me, but that individual is her new person.”

As Paden said, sometimes the dog she is fostering will go to another foster. She said it’s important the dogs experience different environments during training. 

Paden, program coordinator for first-generation initiatives in WVU’s Office of Student Success and a licensed handler, is allowed to take her foster dogs all over campus. They’ve gone to the office, class, doctors' appointments and coffee shops.

“Student Success sees some of the most at-risk students, so I wanted to have a dog in the office to try to ease their stress,” Paden said. 

Hearts of Gold currently has dogs aged eight months to two years old that need community fosters. There will be a new litter of puppies this summer that will also need community fosters. 

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  


Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.