Puppy love spreads at GVSU

GVL / Gabriella Patti
Tucker, a 12 week old golden lab, is a Paws with a Cause puppy. He is being raised by Professor Bruce Ostrow and his wife.

GVL / Gabriella Patti Tucker, a 12 week old golden lab, is a Paws with a Cause puppy. He is being raised by Professor Bruce Ostrow and his wife.

gabriella patti

When professor Bruce Ostrow walks down the hallways in the Padnos Hall of Science at Grand Valley State University, he is used to being stopped or stared at by students. This is not necessarily because they have tons of probing science questions or because they are rude, but rather because of Ostrow’s companion, Tucker.

Tucker is a 12-week-old golden lab, a mix between a golden retriever and a labrador. He is being trained as a companion puppy for Paws With a Cause, a national organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities.

“I bring Tucker to work everyday, and he is very popular because he is so cute and well behaved,” Ostrow said. “All the students in Padnos Hall of Science know about Tucker.”

Ostrow is raising Tucker with his wife, professor Georgette Sass, who also teaches in the biology department. Tucker is their third Paws puppy; the first two have long since been given back to the organization and are with clients.

“People always ask us, ‘Isn’t it hard to give him up?’” Ostrow said. “It is hard, but it is for a good cause. We have high expectations that Tucker will make it through the program and be a service dog for someone with a disability who needs his assistance.”

According to the Paws With a Cause mission statement, the organization works to enhance the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. It also works to raise awareness of the rights and roles of assistance dog teams.

“We love dogs, and we love to support Paws,” Ostrow said. “It really is a great service organization. Our task is to socialize him and expose him to many different situations so he is comfortable with everything.”

Service dogs are well behaved because they begin training at a very young age.

“They know no other lifestyle except good behavior,” Ostrow said. “Tucker is owned by Paws so we have to follow their guidelines.”

Although Tucker is cute, raising him does have its challenges.

“It is not easy to raise a puppy; it is like having an infant,” Ostrow said. “At first, he did not sleep through the night. He is not yet house trained. Everything goes in his mouth, and we have had to pull some pretty nasty things out of it.”

The university has been supportive of Tucker and has allowed the puppy to accompany Ostrow and his wife to work every day.

Ostrow is not the only GVSU community member who is a supporter of Paws With a Cause. Dean of Students Bart Merkle and his wife, Anne, a staff member at the Mary Idema Pew Library, have been involved with the organization for more than 10 years.

The Merkles have trained several dogs and are responsible for one of the organization’s top dogs. Bart said that they believe in what the program is doing and are happy working with them.

“It is a wonderful program,” he said. “Dogs are well trained, are given a good home and are really going to help someone who could use their assistance.”