Collar Scholars at Carroll College

Thursday, March 4, 2021

PuppyIf you noticed a large presence of well-behaved puppies on Carroll’s campus for an extended weekend in February, it is because Carroll has a new club on campus that is doing amazing work in their service to others.

Collar Scholars at Carroll College is comprised of students who assist in raising puppies who will eventually become assistance dogs through Canine Companions for Independence, a nationally affiliated, non-profit organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities, free of charge. 

Carroll’s club, the first-of-its-kind in Montana, was started this fall by senior Anthrozoology majors Ashley Wilt and Alyson Galow. Although the club is new to Carroll, Ashley and Alyson have been participating in Canine Companions for the past five to six years having raised seven puppies between them, with another one on the way. In fact, in mid-February Ashley was in California dropping off her latest puppy Phil to complete the next stage of his journey to becoming a full-fledged service dog.

“The good-bye is definitely the hardest part of the process, but all of the amazing moments that come before and after the good-bye really make it worth it. I am saying good-bye to my fifth puppy that I have raised, Phil, this weekend. It will be emotional when he leaves my side after being my constant companion for almost two years now, but knowing that six months from now I will likely get to pass his leash to his partner is so fulfilling,” shared Ashley.

The Collar Scholars receive 8-week-old puppies that they train in over 30 different commands and behaviors over the course of 18 months. Once they complete their 18-month training, the dogs return to Canine Companions in California, where they complete their professional training to be an assistance dog. 

Phil has been the only full-time puppy-in-training on Carroll’s campus this year, but in February, the club welcomed seven additional puppies in training on campus for a long weekend. This opportunity gave new student puppy raisers a chance to gain the skills necessary for raising their own puppy soon. Those seven came from raisers all over the state of Montana and were willing to let the club borrow them for the training opportunity. Additionally, the student raisers interested in being assigned their own puppy in training from Canine Companions are working on filling out their puppy raising applications to send in and secure a place on the national waitlist. 

PhilHaving an established Anthrozoology program makes Carroll particularly well-suited to having this club on campus. “The Carroll campus has been an excellent place to begin this club since it is already so receptive to dogs from multiple different groups and programs. A huge part of this welcoming is due to the Anthrozoology program fostering a sense of curiosity for the human and animal relationship among campus members. Additionally, it has been wonderful to be offered access to the PCCC Training Room as well as spaces like the Cube when needing a space for practicing skills and commands with the dogs,” said Alyson.

The club consists of puppy raisers, puppy sitters, and general members who all work together to raise the puppies. The club currently has 19 active members, with over a dozen students expressing interest in joining. All majors are welcome! Learn more about the club by checking out their Facebook page, website, or emailing Ashley awilt@carroll.edu or Alyson agalow@carroll.edu.

The club has also gotten some good press lately with a front-page story in the Helena IR and television interviews on ABC Fox Montana and KTVH.

Also, the club has its first "Paint-A-Paw" Fundraiser which began March 1st. They are selling paint kits for you and your four-legged companion to work on together. These kits will be $5.00 and all proceeds are going towards the club fund to support student puppy raisers and the costs associated with raising puppies. This can include veterinary care, food, toys, crates, training tools, and travel. You will be able to find these kits at the Saints Shoppe and at Montana Book Co. in downtown Helena.


Alyson Galow
Alyson Galow
Ashley Wilt
Ashley Wilt

Q & A with co-founders and co-presidents Ashley Wilt and Alyson Galow

Ashley Wilt is a senior, majoring in Anthrozoology and Disability Studies from Parker, Colorado. Alyson Galow is a senior with a major in Anthrozoology and a minor in Spanish from Spokane, Washington

How long have you been involved with Canine Companions? How many puppies have you raised?

Ashley: I began puppy raising in 2015. I received my first puppy when I was 15 years old and have since raised five puppies for Canine Companions for Independence.

Alyson: I started puppy raising in 2016 and have raised two puppies so far. I am hoping to get my third soon!

How are the good-byes?

Ashley: The good-bye is definitely the hardest part of the process, but all of the amazing moments that come before and after the good-bye really make it worth it. I am saying good-bye to my 5th puppy that I have raised, Phil, this weekend. It will be emotional when he leaves my side after being my constant companion for almost two years now, but knowing that 6 months from now I will likely get to pass his leash to his partner is so fulfilling. 

Alyson: The good-bye is the hardest part out of the entire experience. I like to describe puppy-raising as living life with a leash in your hand. When you turn-in your puppy for professional training and the opportunity to become an assistance dog, suddenly the leash that was so present is no longer there. However, that leash is also being passed to hands that will professionally train your puppy to be the assistance dog they were born to be. The final hands that leash may be held by belong to the person your puppy is giving independence to. The prospect of changing a life through raising a puppy is what gets me through the good-bye.

How many students and puppies are currently involved with the club?

Alyson: Right now, we have a total of 19 student members who are active in the club and a list of 12 that are interested in joining!

Did all the puppies arrive this semester or were there some last semester? Are they all labs? When can we expect more puppies on campus?

Alyson: There has been one puppy in training on campus until this semester. This February we were able to welcome 7 additional puppies in training on campus for a long weekend. This opportunity gave new student puppy raisers a chance to gain the skills necessary for raising their own puppy soon. We hope that our prospective student handlers receive their first puppies as soon as time allows!

While there are no puppies currently on campus, we anticipate that student raisers will receive their first puppy before the next semester begins. As much as we would love to have new puppies on campus for the puppy raisers, the waitlist to receive them from Canine Companions for Independence is quite long (everybody wants to raise a puppy in quarantine). We also need to work through permanently establishing them on campus with the housing department. In the meantime, we will likely be organizing another "intensive training" opportunity as we have called it. This will likely include the same seven as before but for a hopefully longer length of time. Those seven came from raisers all over the state of Montana who were willing to let us borrow them for the training opportunity. Additionally, the student raisers interested in being assigned their own puppy in training from Canine Companions are working on filling out their puppy raising applications to send in and secure a place on the national waitlist.

Ashley: Canine Companions for Independence utilizes labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and mixes of the two breeds. They have found that these breeds have the perfect qualities to make an exceptionally-trained assistance dog.

How has Carroll with its Anthrozoology program been particularly well-suited to having this club on campus

Alyson: The Carroll campus has been an excellent place to begin this club since it is already so receptive to dogs from multiple different groups and programs. A huge part of this welcoming is due to the Anthrozoology program fostering a sense of curiosity for the human and animal relationship among campus members. Additionally, it has been wonderful to be offered access to the PCCC Training Room as well as spaces like the cube when needing a space for practicing skills and commands with the dogs.

Ashley: I have raised three of my Canine Companion puppies on Carroll’s campus. Raising each of them on campus has offered them invaluable training opportunities, from settling at my feet for hours while I study in the library to practicing proper public behavior in the STAC. I think a large part of my dogs’ success in preparing for their career in service work is thanks to the support of our campus, professors, and students.

How long do you train the puppies? How long do they typically go through professional training before they are placed with someone in need?

Alyson: A puppy raiser will typically have their puppy in training for 18 months starting from when the dog is 8-weeks-old. Once the dog is turned in for professional training at our region's headquarters in Santa Rosa, CA they will learn even more over 6-9 months before graduating and being placed.

Do you have a fundraiser coming up? If so, details?

Alyson: We do! Our "Paint-A-Paw" Fundraiser begins on March 1st. We will be selling paint kits for you and your four-legged companion to work on together. These kits will be $5.00 and all proceeds are going towards the club fund to support student puppy raisers and the costs associated with raising puppies. This can include veterinary care, food, toys, crates, training tools, and travel. You will be able to find these kits at the Saints Shoppe and at Montana Book Co. in downtown Helena.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Ashley: This club is open to students of all majors! Each member can depict their own role as not everyone needs to be a puppy raiser to join. We have opportunities to work on social media, public outreach, fundraising, networking, and more.