Reaching Out to Families in Need

Updated on June 23, 2013

Cedarville University Students Foster Service Dogs

Cedarville University students have many opportunities to serve in local churches and community organizations, learning lifelong leadership skills and developing hearts of service. This year one student has discovered a unique opportunity to serve the local community by fostering service dogs for individuals with disabilities.

Rebekah Hoesterey, a junior majoring in sport and exercise studies from La Quinta, Calif., is working with 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio, this year to launch a 4 Paws for Ability campus organization on Cedarville’s campus. 4 Paws is a service dog training center that was founded in 1998 by Karen Shirk.

After receiving permission from the University, Hoesterey received a four-month-old puppy, Fanta, from 4 Paws in August 2012. Hoesterey began the process of housebreaking Fanta and teaching her basic skills and commands.

“The training process is first about socializing and second about obedience,” Hoesterey said. “My job is to get her out into as many new environments and situations as possible. They want her to be used to being in busy, chaotic and strange places as well as having all sorts of people coming up to her so that when she is a service dog she maintains composure and does her job.”

Lori Huckaby, assistant professor of kinesiology, will serve as advisor of the program and said that its purpose will be to organize and facilitate students who desire to be a part of training puppies with the 4 Paws campus program.

“This organization will allow our students another opportunity to reach out to our community in a unique way that hasn’t been done before,” Huckaby said. “Our desire is to be a light to these families for Christ and to hopefully stay in touch as much as possible after they receive their dog.”

Since 2009 4 Paws has worked with local universities to give college students the opportunity to train service dogs. College students at universities including Wittenberg University, Miami University, Wright State University and the University of Kentucky have successfully trained over 150 service dogs since the organization launched its campus program over three years ago. Hoesterey is working to launch a campus program at Cedarville and encourage student involvement.

“By participating in the program, you become part of the miracle that occurs when you place a service dog with a child,” Shirk said.

Others from the University have also volunteered with 4 paws. Scott Huck, University photographer, and Monica Bowen, testing coordinator at the academic enrichment center, have each fostered dogs with their families. They said that the experience offered a unique way to make a difference in the community.

“It taught my family to serve in a way that is tangible,” Bowen said.

To learn more about 4 Paws and how to get involved, visit

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,400 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Celebrating 125 years of inspiring greatness, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at

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