By Mikayla Silcox
On Sept. 18 Washington College’s service dog training club, Fetching Freedom, welcomed their newest service dog, Mabry, on campus.
“Mabry is a nine-week-old male black lab from Project 2 Heal, being raised for Fido’s for Freedom,” club president senior Grace Paquin said.
The club works with Fido’s for Freedom, a nonprofit organization that uses service dogs to help those in the Baltimore and D.C. areas.
Max, the club’s service dog for the 2022-23 school year, whom many students witnessed grow from an eight-year-old puppy to a well-trained year-old dog, is moving on to further training through Fido’s for Freedom.
Sophomore Erin Helgerman, one of Fetching Freedom’s puppy raisers, is continuing to work with Max on loose leash until his departure on Oct. 14.
“Max will be leaving in the middle of October to complete the rest of his training at prison, which sounds kind of daunting, but he’s going to be professionally trained by prisoners who have gone through training themselves for the next year or two before he’s paired with a new family,” sophomore Erin Helgerman said.
Helgerman is also in charge of introducing Mabry to the campus. At this early stage, Mabry is learning basic commands like sitting, potty training, and campus acclimation.
In his time here, Mabry will learn to behave in public, perform basic skills, and eventually, acquire advanced training in opening doors and pushing buttons.
Students are welcome to say hello to Mabry as he learns to get used to people.
“Students can ask to pet Mabry as long as he is not wearing his vest!” Paquin said.
When the service dogs are wearing their vest, they are in strict training mode. Handlers may also request that students wait to pet Mabry until he is sitting or paying attention to them to get Mabry used to proper manners around greetings.
After around a year, Mabry will return to Fido’s for Freedom for more advanced training and then, based on client need, he will work on specific training to become a PTSD service dog, a hearing alert dog, or a mobility dog.
“The whole process takes around two to three years,” Vice President sophomore Skylar Fairbee said.
Fetching Freedom trained their first service dog, Autumn, in 2019, and she is now matched with a client, and their second service dog Jeffery is matched as well.
Through Fido’s for Freedom, the club can see the progression of the dogs they worked to train, whilst taking in new ones. For students looking to help train Mabry, they should try and get involved as soon as possible.
There are weekly club meetings on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. in Daly 106, where students can get information about becoming a puppy sitter, as well as participate in mock training classes.
After members work with Mabry as puppy sitters, they can become puppy raisers with the next service dog.
“The outcome and fulfillment that you get from working with incredible dogs and seeing the impact they are going to have on other people’s lives outweighs the ‘hardness’ of puppy raising,” Fairbee said.
Whether you are looking to become a puppy sitter or looking to see a cute new pup on campus, Mabry will be out all year.
Photo courtesy of Erin Helgerman
Photo Caption: Mabry is the newest member of the WC community and of the Fetching Freedom club.