Puppies give students purpose

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COLUMBIA – Puppies with Purpose, a CHAMP Assistance Dogs, Inc. program gives puppies the opportunity to train to become assistance or service dogs. However, before they can be sent off to training, they need to be raised, socialized and housebroken.  

That’s where the student volunteers behind the program come in. PWP Volunteer Kaylynn Bumphis is currently raising her second pup, Gemma.

Some people ask Bumphis why she doesn't just get a dog she can keep.

“Outside of the financial benefits the program offers like helping pay for the dog’s necessities and things, it just a better cause,” Bumphis said.

Gemma’s half brother, JC is also in the program. He is being raised by PWP Volunteer Abbey Cumnock.

Cumnock says she has an aunt who uses a wheelchair and has looked into getting a service dog. However, since there is already a shortage it’s been a tough process for her.

“There’s a very small amount of dogs that are able to do this service, so if me raising this dog could help someone like my aunt get a service dog, it makes being upset about losing the dog worth it,” said Cumnock.

Both volunteers admitted they didn’t realize how much of a commitment raising a puppy was. Cumnock compares it to raising a child. She said the puppies teach you a lot of responsibility and time management skills.

Bumphis said she’s never done anything harder.

“Every time you see a service dog, you don’t think about where they come from… and there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into raising them," Bumphis said. "I’ve never worked so hard for something, and become so passionate about something."

Bumphis said watching her puppy grow is a feeling of pride.  

“It’s almost like a mom with her kids in college. You want the kids to graduate, even though you’re sad that they want to leave you… in your head you are like ‘Ok this is so worth it, go ahead and go, grow up and go into the world.’”

When the puppies leave their raisers they still need to complete training before they can officially become a service or assitance dog. Once official, they try to pair the dog up with its best match. 

DVM and Director of Puppies with Purpose, A CHAMP Assistance Dogs, Inc Program, TerriAnn Tucker-Warhover clarified. CHAMP places their assistance dogs with many individuals who have disabilities that have limited incomes. PWP provide assistance dogs to anyone who qualifies.