Puppy love: Why these college students are in the Dog House

EASTON  — Members of the Lafayette College community looking for a pick-me-up know they can get it from Sydney Crowe’s three lovable roommates.

Lance, Basie and Hugo are black labrador puppies being trained to become service dogs.

They live with Crowe, who started the Dog House at the college in Easton along with Grace Veghte and Michael Astor.

“I’ve always had a passion for animals,” Veghte said. “It’s always been my hobby to volunteer at a shelter or just have them as part of my life in some way.”

The seven members of the house care for the dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the first year of the dogs’ lives. Then the dogs go back to Canine Partners for Life for more training before they are paired with folks who need them.

In their second year, the dogs will learn how to help people with diabetes or cardiac issues or difficulty walking. (None of them will become seeing-eye dogs, though.)

For now, the important thing is for them to get used to being in stores, restaurants or even classrooms without causing a disruption.

“It helps socialize them a lot and that’s the biggest goal of the first year of their lives,” Veghte said.

Colleges are a great place for them to grow up around lots of people. The Dog House in the 600 block of Monroe Street is part of a growing trend, with similar student housing arrangements at Dickinson College, the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University, according to the trio.

Each dog comes with a binder of instructions, commands the dog needs to learn and when the students will teach those commands.

“We have some pretty intense training,” Crowe said.

The first two weeks, the dogs were up every two hours. They arrived on a Friday before a long weekend.

“We didn’t have class Monday or Tuesday, which was a godsend,” Veghte said.

They’re more sound sleepers now and learning rapidly. As more community members see them around, they’re drawing more attention.

“One thing that’s rewarding about raising these dogs is bringing them out into the Lafayette community and seeing how excited people get when they see dogs, especially when they learn about service dogs and what they do,” said Astor, who hopes to become a veterinarian.

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After the recent death of Lafayette College junior Joseph Towers, members of the Dog House brought their puppies to Towers’ fraternity. The visit went so well the fraternity is looking into adopting a therapy dog.

The students don’t look forward to having to give back Lance, Hugo and Basie. But they’ll be allowed to keep track of the dogs once they leave.

“CPL lets us go to the graduation of the dogs and check in on them and have communication with the person who’s going to actually need the dogs. It’s a good program,” Astor said.