These Vet Students Have a Dream Job- Fostering Shelter Dogs

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Each year, 15 lucky pooches get their assigned student guardian who makes sure all their needs are met, from daily walks and wholesome meals to much-needed cuddle time.

At the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, students get a once in a lifetime chance, and it’s not just studying at the most renowned school of veterinary science in the world. The vets-to-be can earn money by doing something most animal lovers would consider their dream job: fostering shelter pups.

The Canine Enhancement Program, as the university’s initiative is called, allows students to learn more about the man’s best friend directly from the source (AKA helpful pooches) and gives homeless dogs a higher chance of getting a furever home. The teaching process in which the campus canines, mostly referred to as the “colony dogs,” are involved is entirely non-invasive. The four-legged helpers’ primary duty is to attend lab classes and help eager students learn a bit more about handling animals, how to do an ultrasound and an X-ray, or do a behavior examination. The dogs are in no way exploited or stressed!

In fact, these pampered pooches are living large on the campus. As the students and professors told The California Aggie, their top priority is the happiness of their furry colleagues. The dogs are living in different areas of the campus tailored to their needs and are cared for by a team of Gourley animal health technicians. And, of course, their designated student guardian, or, as they call it- enrichment walker.

The 15 dogs that are chosen from the shelter each year are handpicked because of their temperament and the behaviorist’s estimate that they would thrive in this type of environment. Then, each of the puppers is paired with a student who’s a personality match for them- e.g., energetic doggos get fitness enthusiasts and outdoorsy types, while couch potato canines are matched with, arm, Netflix-binging students, I guess? Either way, the school’s priority is to make sure that the dogs are being cared for and happy with their walker, and all of the matches up to now were a success.

After their year on campus is up, the colony dogs are put up for adoption: the socialization, veterinary care, and skills they pick up during the process significantly improve their chance of finding a furever family. Students get priority adoption, though, and considering the extensive process of matching and the time they spend together, they often end up being the ones who adopt their colony dog.

So, in a nutshell: not only that the select students are being paid to care for a dog that’s handpicked as their furry soulmate, they usually end up getting a best friend for life as soon as the program ends. And they say you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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