Meet Rolo, the new service dog in-training at Laurier’s Waterloo campus

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Wilfrid Laurier University is committed to providing accessible services and welcomes regulated service animals to all facilities on campus.

The university supports the presence of service animals-in-training with policies and requirements that the owner must abide by.

Rolo, an 11-month-old yellow Labrador retriever mix, is a service puppy-in-training being raised by Carly Zeller, a first-year Bachelor of Education student at Laurier. 

Zeller is a volunteer raiser for National Service Dogs (NSD), an organization that provides service animals for children with autism and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She has been training him since December 2020 when he was in kindergarten. This time  consisted of him learning house manners online and socializing with other dogs at training.

He was transitioned to grade school in February and transferred to high school in the summer.

“All the high school classes are out in public…they’re out at stores where we’re able to practice his public training abilities of staying calm in busier environments, being around closer proximity to dogs, that kind of thing,” Zeller said.

Rolo spends most of his time with Zeller, including the time she spends on campus. 

“Going to Laurier is good for him to be in a busier environment and learn to settle and it helps him basically have more access to being outside in the public world … it broadens his experiences and helps him have a well-rounded training.”

Her family are also involved with Rolo’s development, as they help take him to vet appointments. In addition, Zeller is constantly connecting with the NSD staff about this training.

When lockdown ended, it was difficult for Rolo to get used to the increased cars going past the road and  people coming to the door. However, he is adjusting..

Zeller said that bringing Rolo to campus also benefits the students in her program. 

“I come from a Bachelor of Education program so I also think it’s important for my classmates, we have no idea maybe one of our students will have a service dog.”

It is important for future educators to see service animals before teaching, because their future students could require accessibility in the form of a service animal.

“[Being on campus] helps him practice settling … but I also think it could benefit the students as well, especially for our [future] teaching,” Zeller said.

Seeing a dog attracts attention but students should remain calm around him for his training.

“[People crowding him] throws him off because he’s so concentrated, and then he gets excited. He builds off your energy, so if you’re crazy excited, he better be crazy excited, so I think it’s good that people are just calm around him.”

“’When we do practice petting the dog, we try not to actually look at the dog they’re about to pet,” she said.

This keeps Rolo calm and prevents him from getting distracted during his training.

In January, Rolo will be moving onto an adult raiser to teach him more advanced skills and brush up on what he has learned so far. 

“Our next couple steps from now until then is really just brushing up with skills so that he is ready for his adult raiser and getting all those things crisper.”

After the adult raiser, he could go to NSD university or to special advanced training to be placed in a forever home.

“For me, I would hope to continue on, either as a puppy raiser again, or try a new role and be an adult raiser.”

Rolo has an Instagram account run by Zeller where his progress can be followed by anyone interested.

“People are always welcome to come up to us and talk to us. We love to share more about the organization.”

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