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For ASU trainers, it's a dog day morning, afternoon and night

This semester, ASU students are teaching 11 dogs to become service animals.
Raising these puppies to be service dogs is hard but rewarding for ASU students.
It's a tail of 10 ASU students, 11 dogs working together to help others.
September 13, 2016

Students in Sparky's Service Dogs club perform 24/7 task, raising puppies to help people with disabilities such as PTSD

They’re the coolest ones on campus, and — even though they sleep through class — they’ll get to graduate in only two years.

Then, thanks to the dedication of a group of Arizona State University students, Sparky’s Service Dogs will spend the rest of their lives helping people in need.

This semester, 11 Labrador and golden retriever puppies are learning how to become assistance animals for people with diabetes, mobility issues or post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re being raised by 10 students, who are members of Sparky’s Service Dogs, a campus club.

“When we started this, we decided we really wanted to create a community on campus for these raisers,” said Taylor Randle, the president and one of the founders of the club, which, besides the raisers, includes more than 100 members who serve as “puppy sitters,” handlers and all-around helpers.

“We understand that it takes a lot of time and effort, and it does take a village to raise a dog. It’s not just one person so we really support each other.”

Taylor Randle is president of Sparkys Service Dogs and is raising Kristoff, a black Lab, who will move on to specialized training next spring. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Randle, a senior kinesiology major, was attending the Passport to ASU beginning-of-semester event two years ago when she saw two golden retriever puppies at one of the club booths. The Scottsdale-based nonprofit Power Paws Assistance Dogs was looking to get ASU students interested in starting a club.

Randle and some friends immediately decided to launch Sparky’s Service Dogs. It started with just a few raisers, including Randle, who took on Kristoff, a black Lab. The club partners with Power Paws, which breeds the puppies and provides the raisersFor now, the number of raisers is capped at 10. More raisers will be needed next year. and their animals with dog food, gear and basic veterinary care.


For raisers, the job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The dogs go everywhere with the students — to class, to the grocery store, on the bus. ASU’s housing department gives permission for the dogs to live in the dorms on a case-by-case basis, and three of the current service puppies have been dorm dwellers.

Emily Hopkins, a junior criminal justice major, lived in the dorms with her dog, Quantico, a 73-pound black Lab.

“A lot of people know who you are, and everyone wants to be your friend,” she said of dorm life with a dog. “But it was good because there are always people around who will watch him for me.”

Jordan Patterson, a junior mechanical engineering major, said her dog, Ulani, draws a lot of attention on campus. “It’s fun, but sometimes you have to tell people not to pet her because she’s working.”

Randle said that being among the crowds on campus is very stimulating for the dogs, but they settle quickly in the classroom.

“They lay under the desk or behind you, and they sleep through the whole class,” Randle said.

Several times a day, the raisers have to stop what they’re doing to spend 10 minutes or so training their puppies in basic obedience as well as behaviors such as opening and closing doors. The students also take the dogs to weekly and monthly trainings and evaluations.

After their time with the raisers, the dogs get specialized training according to aptitude and then are placed by Power Paws with a person who needs an assistance dog.

“Kristoff refuses to retrieve anything, but he uses his nose constantly. So he will become a diabetes alert dog,” Randle said. “He’ll go with a child with type 1 diabetes and, using his sense of scent, will alert them to high or low blood-sugar levels.”

She'll be sad when Kristoff moves on next spring, but gratified that she has trained him to help people. A few weeks ago, Randle took on 12-week-old Vail, a black Lab, who will follow Randle to grad school after she graduates from ASU next May.

Although it’s a big responsibility, raising the dogs has been enriching as well.

“I’ve learned a lot about responsibility, and about my time management and the amount of things I can juggle,” Randle said.

“I’ve grown a lot as a person.”



Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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10 things to know during Hispanic Heritage Month

Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start in the middle of the month? Read on.
Hispanic and Latino are not interchangeable, and other facts for heritage month.
September 14, 2016

ASU — where nearly a fifth of students identify as Hispanic/Latino — to host festivals, food events, films and more

Sept. 15 marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time to honor the contributions that Hispanics and Latinos have made to science, the arts, social justice and more.

It’s also time to notice the unusual timing — a midmonth start — for a heritage month. (Want to know why? Keep reading.)

Hispanics/Latinos represent nearly one-fifth of the United States’ population — and of Arizona State University’s students. In the last 10 years their enrollment has more than doubled, from 7,300 in 2005 to nearly 17,000 in 2015. At ASU, the heritage month is being celebrated with a number of events, including festivals, traditional foods, film screenings, discussions and dance.

The history of nationally observing Hispanic/Latino heritage dates back to President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Week, to include Sept. 15 and 16 to honor the independence days of several Latin American neighbors. However, it was not until 1988 that Congress would pass a law establishing National Hispanic Heritage Month designating a “31-day period beginning Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15.”

10 things to know as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

1. Why the mid-month start? Sept. 15 (1821) is an important date because it honors the day of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

2. Sept. 16 is also a key date: Mexico's day of independence (1810). Many mistake Cinco de Mayo for our southern neighbor's independence day, but the widely celebrated May 5 holiday commemorates the victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 where Mexican forces defeated the French invaders.

3. Hispanics/Latinos are considered the largest ethnic or racial minority in the United States at more than 56 million, more than 17 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census.

4. At ASU, there were 13,208 students during fall 2015 who identified as Hispanic/Latino — more than 18 percent of the student population.

5. ASU is No. 1 among Pac-12 universities for the number of Latino graduates.

6. ASU was ranked 13th in Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine’s 2015 rankings of U.S. higher-education institutions for the number of undergraduate degrees conferred to Hispanics in several key areas.

7. Oct. 12 is often celebrated as Columbus Day. However, in many Latin American countries and in various U.S. communities, it is celebrated as Día de la Raza — among other names — to honor the discovery of the Americas as well as mixed Indigenous and European heritages.

8. Hispanic and Latino are not the same thing. The term “Hispanic” once represented a relationship to the people of ancient Hispania — the Iberian Peninsula, principally divided by modern Spain and Portugal. Currently, it is widely regarded as a term that signifies the cultural resonance to contemporary Spain and to countries once colonized by Spain (thus, those living in Brazil would not be included). Latino generally refers to someone from Latin American origin or ancestry.

9. The term Hispanic was adopted by the U.S. government in the early 1970s after Grace Flores-Hughes and what was then known as an U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare interdepartmental committee convened to develop a comprehensive term to describe people of Spanish, Mexican, Central and South American or Caribbean (Spanish speaking) descent.

10. Prior to 1970, Spanish and Latin American immigrants were classified as “white” and grouped with European Americans. It was not until 1970 when a separate question on origin or descent was asked on the census. However, this question appeared to only 5 percent of the population. In June 1976, Congress passed a law mandating the collection and analysis of data for “Americans of Spanish origin or descent.” A separate question on Hispanic origin or descent appeared on the 1980 census. Seventeen years later, revised standards on race classifications resulted in Hispanic becoming “Hispanic or Latino.” The term “Latino” would later appear in the 2000 census and further amended in the 2010 census.

The events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at ASU are part of the broader cultural engagement at the university. Culture @ ASU aims to create a community that values, appreciates and accepts others through a variety of events and activities, while introducing students to the rich cultural fiber at ASU.


The Hispanic Heritage Month Planning Committee contributed to this story. Top photo from the ASU Chicano/a Research Collection and University Archives.