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PUPDATE: The PAALS pups are nearly 5 months old and somehow cuter in quarantine

Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think anyone misses the PAALS pups in quarantine more than I do.

That’s why I thought it absolutely necessary to let you know how the pups are doing and how they’re progressing in their training even in the midst of a global pandemic. Like many of our local nonprofit organizations, the closures have affected their staffing, their volunteer base and how they fundraise to make ends meet. The one thing it doesn’t affect? The need for service animals. Clients are still calling and pups are still working to hit the benchmarks.

We’ve been following this group of PAALS pups since late November 2019 when the litter was born on Black Friday. Since then, we have been inside the foster home before their eyes were open, inside the vet visits for their puppy vaccines and there for the behavior testing to see who would stay and who would go to another service organization. The last time we got together in person was for a story on how their exposure training was going – starting at a local Publix. Clearly, right now, our filming in person is hold. But the pups do not have any time to waste in their quest to become service dogs.

“These puppies are working hard on their basic obedience,” said Liz Anderson, the Assistant Director of PAALS. “They’re just learning those basics to get those down. They’re excelling. We’re also learning to behaviorally be calm when people come up to meet and greet them. That’s a hard challenge for these puppies but they’re excelling at that too.”

The puppies are also working on sound exposures, even in quarantine. While they have had to forgo their exposure training in places like the grocery store during this time, they’re able to recreate many aspects of that training at the PAALS facility in Columbia. Part of the reason they’re seeing a lot of success with that has to do with their ability to keep trainers on staff, even in the midst of cutbacks.

"It is a huge positive that we've been able to keep our instructors on,” Katie and Madi actually have more time to train which is great actually… when these instructors train them eight hours a day, it's amazing what you can accomplish and how the dogs advance so much faster."

With eight hours a day to focus on the pups, trainers are starting to see Sassy, Skip and Hayden begin to show their personalities. For those of you who followed Winston’s PAALS journey on Sunrise over the past couple years, you’ll remember his easygoing, laidback personality. Liz says Skip, the only male of the litter left at PAALS, is the most like Winston in terms of personality. Sassy – though her namesake would suggest a spitfire personality – has started to calm down. As a puppy, she was bouncing off the walls and always excitable. Now, she's focused and Liz says her training has really started to take flight. Hayden, the once watchful, quiet and sometimes fearful pup has blossomed, becoming more confident by the day.

On April 29th the pups will be 5 months old. As you could imagine, this has been a tough time for the organization that trains dogs for individuals with varying abilities. Like many other nonprofit organizations, they have had to furlough some employees.

They’re working to stay connected on Facebook with the PAALS joy campaign, updating volunteers, staff, and supporters of how the dogs are doing during quarantine and how their training is progressing.

With Midlands Gives just ahead, PAALS has set a fundraising goal of $50,000.

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