November 2020

From Michele:

I received an update from PAWS about PROMISE!  Let me go back to where we left off on our adventure…

August 10, I turned PROMISE back into PAWS to begin her next stage of training.  I didn’t know what was in store for her… Assistance Dog Training, breeding, Purposeful Placements.  The options were so many!   What I knew is that she was definitely ready for her next stage, to learn, and to be more.

Unfortunately, because of COVID 19, the prison partner that PROMISE was scheduled to attend for four months shut down.  Our team went to Plan B, and PAWS Trainer Crystal decided to start her on her training string.   For the first about 30 days on a training string, the PAWS dog goes through a boot camp.  The trainer and dog are learning everything about each other.

I often get asked, since I’m at PAWS, do I still see PROMISE?  The answer is no.  In fact, the trainers go out of their way to ensure that I don’t see her.  I want her to thrive, and the best thing that we can do for her is for me NOT to have any interaction with her.  She needs to be focused on her training and her trainer right now.

That brings me to now, I received an official update email from the PAWS Volunteer Liaison, Mary,  PROMISE has been formally matched to a client!  She is being trained as a hearing dog.  I am so excited for her-  what a perfect job for PROMISE!

I asked her trainer Crystal to share what that training looks like.

From PAWS Trainer Crystal:

One of the first things that I noticed about PROMISE (besides her boundless energy) is that she loves to use her nose to get my attention.  Whenever she wants something, her nose is bumping my arm or leg, and she looks at me with those big black eyes.  She is such a good communicator and really loves to respond when I ask something of her.  She is especially treat motivated.  This means that she is FOCUSED on her work, when she knows that there is a sweet treat at the end.  Because of that, I pretty quickly thought that she might make a good hearing dog.

So I started a training technique called “shaping.”  Shaping is using something that the dog already does naturally and moving that inclination to a behavior that responds to a command.  In the case of PROMISE, I wanted to shape her behavior of using her nose bumping to communicate or “alert” me, when she heard a sound.  We want PROMISE to alert her client to sounds like knocking doors, phones ringing, sirens, her client’s name being called, etc.

One of my favorite things is watching a young dog light up and get so proud when they learn their new task and perform it well.  I am seeing that happen with PROMISE more and more!

Through this training, I am also getting to know PROMISE’S personality better.  She is a happy dog, always ready to jump into action and always on the move.  Thinking about her personality, I start thinking about our clients waiting for an Assistance Dog.  We look for that custom match-  the right dog and the right client for skills and temperament.   After we make the client match, we can move training from foundational skills to specific tasks that will help the new Client/Dog Team to thrive.  For example, a client that has a baby in the home, we will teach the dog to alert to a baby’s cry.

Matching PROMISE with her future client, I am now beginning the process to custom train her for the unique needs of her future home.  PROMISE will be in training for another four to five months.

Watch PROMISE practice her “touch” command!

That’s All Folks
August 2020

Like all good things, this blog has come to its end. My foster puppy journey with PROMISE has ended, and her journey to become a PAWS Working Dog has really just begun.

On Monday, August 10, my husband and I turned PROMISE back into Paws With A Cause to continue her training.   When we pulled into the parking lot, we were greeted with the smiling faces of Julie Thorington, PAWS Foster Puppy Coordinator, and Mary Blain, Volunteer Liaison.  They answered our questions and took a family photo.  Then it was a last hug, kiss, and belly rub, and PROMISE was off to her new adventure.  We released PROMISE into a play yard, and said good luck and goodbye.

The last 16 months have been a blast, and PROMISE and I learned so much together.  Thank you for sharing our adventures with us.

So what’s next for PROMISE?

PROMISE is in the awesome hands of our PAWS staff and right beside her siblings, PANDA, PALMER, and PAXTON. Over the next few weeks, she will be evaluated by our vet, trainers, and breeding program. From there, she will continue her journey and choose the path to her highest placement, which could include a career as an assistance dog, as a facility dog, a PAWS breeding dog, a detection dog- the amazing possibilities are almost endless!

As for me, of course, a few tears were shed. But it was honestly more of a celebration day. We celebrated all that she has already accomplished and all that she will achieve someday. Thank you for following along and rooting her on.

I look forward to sharing with you her final placement in a few months.  Thank you again for joining us on this journey!

Stay well,


The Letter!
July 2020

PROMISE and I received our official foster puppy turn-in letter from Paws With A Cause.   This means that our journey over the past 15 months is coming to an end.  PROMISE’s official return to PAWS date is Monday, August 10.

What is the letter?  At the end of the foster puppy’s year with her raiser, the raiser gets a letter and paperwork for returning the puppy to PAWS to continue their training.   The raiser is asked to answer several questions about our puppy that helps the PAWS staff to support the puppy’s future training.  The questionnaire asks things about PROMISE’s experiences, like:

  • Has she been around a cat? Yes, she has.  This question is important, because some of our clients have cats, and we want to make sure that a dog has had the exposure and gets along with cats, if needed.
  • Have you ever taking her to a parade or a festival? No, PROMISE and I haven’t been gone to a community event like this.
  • How about a doctor’s office or hair salon? Yes, PROMISE and I have done this together.  I have to give a huge shout-out and thanks to the staff of these places, who happily welcomed PROMISE and even forgave a couple of little puppy mistakes.

The questionnaire is five pages long!   But there is a lot to experience and talk about over a year.  And PROMISE and I have had an amazing year full of so many fun opportunities.  I have been so blessed to have her as my friend, companion, and PAWS DEO (Dog Executive Officer).

For some, I know that the letter day is sad, because it marks an ending.  But for me, I am excited.  PROMISE is definitely ready for the next steps in her journey and to learn new things.  Describing her personality, PROMISE is happy- and I mean, all the time happy.  She loves everything about life and approaches everything with boundless (and often physically bounding) energy.   She is responsive and loves to please. A scratch under the ear or, even better a belly rub, and PROMISE is in heaven.   Of course, she is a lab so never turns down a good treat either.  She’s curious and smart, and I want her to thrive.  In a working career, she will be able to achieve her potential and use all of that happy energy making the world a better place.

I am often asked, if I know what her career will be yet.  No, I don’t, and I won’t for several more months.  She could be an Assistance Dog, helping a person with a disability live a full life of dignity and confidence.  She could be a facility dog, providing companionship and support to a whole community of people.  Or she could be a detection dog, helping to keep our communities safe.  Wherever she ends up, I just know she is going to be AMAZING!

Here are some of my favorite photos of her from over the past 15 months!


PROMISE on Public Access
June 2020


We finally got to go and have some fun!! For the past three months, it has been nowhere besides PAWS and home. I was starting to get bored!

Mom took me to this super cool grocery store, The Community Food Club.  It is a special members-only nonprofit grocery store that ensures families have access to healthy food.  The store was open just for us and other PAWS trainers working on the finishing touches to their dogs before they go to their forever people!

I got to work on loose leash walking, being near a cart that made some strange sounds, and being around lots and lots of food that I couldn’t eat.

It was especially fun to watch my older friends working with their trainers.  WINGER, a great Papillon friend of mine, was doing one of her final tests as a hearing dog.  Mom put me in a down stay, and I watched her help test WINGER.  Mom took a grocery cart and walked by WINGER and PAWS Trainer, Maddison, acting like a customer.  (It was funny, because Mom isn’t a very good actor.)  WINGER had to stay alert and focused on her trainer even as mom tried to distract her.  WINGER passed her test with flying colors!  It has been a while since we got to practice stuff in public, I’m so happy that organizations like The Food Club are opening their spaces for us.













From Michele:

Since March 13th, Paws With A Cause trainers have not been able to train Assistance Dogs in public places, in compliance with suggestions from the government and the CDC.

We are fortunate to partner with other community organizations like the YWCA, The Food Club, GVSU, and Gipper’s Restaurant to allow our dogs in their final stages of training to get the public access they need to be able to serve a person with a disability.

Training the dogs at these various places helps them practice skills like opening commercial and auto-open doors, as well as navigating stairs, elevators, and ramps.

These partnerships have allowed us to continue training our dogs, while keeping our dogs, trainers, and the public, happy and healthy!

As our community starts to reopen, we are still operating with the highest amount of caution, including continued use of masks and social distancing. We are so thankful to these businesses for letting us use their space until we can get back to our new normal.

We truly are #InThisTogether.

My Friend Dandelion
May 2020

From Promise:

I made a new friend! I LOVE new friends! She looks a little different than the rest of my friends, but that’s okay! Ya know, I’m not quite sure why she was here for a couple of days, but it sure was fun.


From Michele:

PAWS never fails to keep me on my toes!

On the first Friday of May, I walk into work and notice a big bag at the front door. I bring it into the lobby and leave it there for Kevin, our Building Care Manager, to take care of when he gets to work. Fast forward to the afternoon, and there is a knock on the door. Hmm, this is weird, we are operating on a closed campus… no one should be here?

I answer it, and a woman says:  “Do you know that your pig is trying to dig out under the fence of the yard?”

My response:  “Um, pig?”

Yup, you read that right… a PIG! A pig was donated (or abandoned) to PAWS.

The PAWS Veterinarian, Doctor Jeanne gave her an exam, and then we gave her a kennel for the weekend. (Oh, I forgot to mention. That big bag I brought into PAWS? That was pig food!)  The PAWS trainers spoiled her, bringing her outside to play and even training her to sit. We named her Dandelion. Dandelion had a happy little weekend vacation at PAWS as her new human friends looked for a new home for her.  By Tuesday we found the perfect spot.

She now lives on a happy little farm with a goat named Henry.

Dandelion helped bring a smile to us when we needed it most!

Until next time, be well and #WashYourPAWS!

*PAWS is not a shelter and not generally equipped to house and find homes for pets. Please use your local humane society/other rescues if help is needed.

An Update From The DEO and CEO
April 2020


All the days are beginning to blur together, guys. Mom and I are still going into work every day, but there are A LOT fewer people here. Mom says they are working from home to do their part in keeping us all safe and healthy… whatever that means. All I know is that I miss my friends and I’m ready for them all to be back at work! Ugh… might as well go nap. Zzzzz.

From Michele:

Well friends, it is hard to believe that only a few weeks ago everything at PAWS was “business as usual”. Since then, our world has changed dramatically.

But two things remain true:

  1. The importance of a PAWS Dog in the lives of our clients
  2. The commitment of our staff and volunteers to PAWS, our dogs, and the people that we serve every day.

While our administrative team is working remotely, our dog care, enrichment, and training teams continue at our PAWS campus. They are providing the highest level of care and support to our PAWS Dogs.

Our Client Services team is reaching out to every single one of our Client/Dog Teams across the country, we are continuing to support our PAWS Dog Volunteers, the puppy training continues (PROMISE’s included!), and our team on campus is continuing the essential work of caring for and enriching our dogs!

Please stay safe and take good care during this uncertain time. And remember to always #WashYourPAWS.

X-Ray Day
February 2020


It’s morning.  I love morning!   Morning means Mom is up and, more importantly, Mom feeds me!  I LOVE morning.   OK, dash down the stairs and trip outside for a potty break.  Back in, breakfast… I’m so ready for breakfast!   I run to my crate, only seconds now and I’ll have breakfast.   Wait, Mom what are you doing.  You are shutting my crate door, but you forgot to give me breakfast.  Mom?  Mom!   MOM!!!

OK, Mom is back.  There must be something special going on.  I can be patient.  Really, I can.  Jump in the car, and we are off to work.  I wonder when I am going to get breakfast.  I’m really hungry…

Oh wait, we are visiting with Donna and Nicole.   This is great!  Maybe breakfast is going to be the orange gooey stuff they give me.  I love the orange gooey stuff.  It squirts out of a funny can.  They call it “cheese.”  Cheese is way better than my normal kibble.  Patience, I know it has to be almost time for breakfast.

OK, on the scale now- 61 pounds.  That sounds good and everyone is praising me for being such a strong, beautiful girl.   Breakfast next, right?

Wait, Mom where are you going?   Nicole, where is Mom going?   Who is going to feed me breakfast?   What is that in your hand?  Ouch, that pinched.  I’m so tired.   What’s happening?  I think I’ll just take a little nap now…

From Michele:

PROMISE is 1 year old!   Such a big milestone in any puppy’s life.  But for a PAWS puppy, the first birthday is particularly important.  It means the first major hurdle to the puppy’s future working career- hip and elbow X-rays.

Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket, that when severe, can cause severe arthritis in the joints or crippling lameness.  Elbow dysplasia causes malformation or degeneration of the elbow joint.  For pet dogs, these conditions can be limiting but controllable by limiting the dog’s activities.  For a working dog, dysplasia is devastating.  Common tasks for our dogs include “brace,” which has the dog stand steady as her client leans on the dog to return to a sitting or standing position after a fall or pulling a full laundry basket.  With dysplasia, a dog would never be able to perform these tasks safely for themselves or their humans.

That is why the first birthday for a PAWS puppy is so significant.  It is after the puppy is 12 months of age that we can see if the puppy has any indication of hip or elbow dysplasia.  In the case of mild dysplasia, the puppy’s possible placements will be limited; in severe cases, the puppy will be immediately released from consideration for training or breeding.

PROMISE’s X-rays were scheduled for February 13.  The first hurdle of the day, no breakfast.  The morning started out normally with a quick bathroom break for our dogs.  Then, on a regular day, breakfast.  I put PROMISE in her crate, and she looked at me with her hungry, puppy dog eyes- where’s my food bowl?   Such guilt!

When I released her from her crate to drive to PAWS, she still was looking at me with those eyes.  What’s going on Mom?  When is breakfast?  This isn’t normal!   Luckily for me, PROMISE is a happy dog and game for the adventure.  Which includes visiting all of her friends in the PAWS vet office.   (They bribe liberally with belly rubs and squeeze cheese.)   “PROMISE, be a good girl for Nicole, Donna and Doctor Jeanne.  I know you will do great!”  Turn over her leash and leave her with the vet team.  I am so nervous!  But I know that she is in good hands with our PAWS Staff Veterinarian Dr. Jeanne Klynsma, our vet technician Nicole and vet assistant Donna.  They are truly the best of the best.

After that, the waiting.   And waiting.  And waiting.   With the vet team, the morning starts with a quick check-up and weight check of the puppy.  Then anesthesia.  (OK, I’ll admit- it is funny when you pick up your dog later, as she is still coming out of the anesthesia and is a little loopy and a lot sleepy.)   PAWS is fortunate to have a digital X-ray machine, so the process is minimally invasive and pretty easy.   The anesthesia is really to ensure that the puppy lies perfectly still for the X-rays, so that we can get good films to read.  Doctor Jeanne will schedule multiple X-rays for a day, starting the morning with the procedures and then the afternoon or next day to read the films.

On my side, I know all of this, but the waiting is excruciating.   I’m in a meeting, when BING.  A text message!  From Doctor Jeanne!

“Hips, excellent; Elbows, normal.”

Woot, woot!  We are over the X-ray hurdle.  A couple of hours later, and PROMISE is cleared for pick-up.  She spends the rest of the day curled in the corner of my office sleeping off the final effects of the anesthesia.   Our PAWS journey continues.


PROMISE Becomes a Woman
January 2020

To paraphrase Judy Blume:  “Are you there God, it’s me….. PROMISE.”   Yes, PROMISE is a woman now.


I’m not sure what is going on.   I’m so tired.  I want to play with my friends, but Mom is only letting me see my girlfriends and then I get tired really fast.   I feel all bloated, and I just want to snuggle with Mommy all the time.  I think I will take a nap on Mom’s feet now.  Good night.


From Michele:

The day started out innocently enough.  Actually, it was New Year’s Day.  I started the day at the gym and was rockin’ the treadmill with my 80’s workout music playing in my earphones, when a text message binged through.

“There’s blood on the floor!  I think PROMISE went into season.  What do I do?”

For those of you that have raised female foster puppies for PAWS, I am sure you are smiling knowingly right now.   For the rest of us, well the education is about to begin.

I rushed home.  My husband John had the “fancy panties” out that I had brought home a couple of months previous.  PROMISES’ are pink and brown with a decorative pink lace accent.  A female dog in season will often wear these panties with menstruation pads, when in the house, to keep the house and dog reasonably clean during her period.  And fancy panties have a fashion of their own-  from pink lace to glittery thongs, each dog can have a style of her own.  Don’t believe me?  Just try a quick google search and check out the many images.

“I pulled out the panties and I couldn’t figure out what the extra hole was for.”     It took a few minutes for it to make sense, but PROMISE has a tail and so needs panties with an extra hole.  Of course, getting the panties on is the next step.  The tail is wagging- what is this new game!  Like the first time putting a diaper on a baby, practice is necessary.

Now, we are all pros at it.  PROMISE stands still as we stand over her with her body between our legs.  The tail goes through the panty hole and then the fabric up and under her body.  Two quick velcro attachments and the panties are on.

For me, I have decided to learn about female dogs in season on my own.  We put the panties on ourselves.  I can do this!  I dig out the Foster Puppy Raiser Toolkit that PAWS provides to all raisers.  This book is a master resource created by PAWS over the years to help answer many of the questions that raisers have during their year of raising a puppy.  Turning to the right page, one sentence stands out and all else fades to the background:  “A female dog will be in season for 21-28 days.”  Say, what?   Three to four weeks of a period?  Who’s idea of a joke is that?  That’s enough education for me.

Now that I am coming to the end of PROMISE’S first step into dog womanhood, I will say it wasn’t too bad.   She did want lots of extra attention and assurance and many times it felt like her brain went on vacation.  But we created a new routine together, including gaining mastery with putting on and taking off fancy panties, plenty of extra belly rub time and lots of additional naps.

Paws With A Cause has an organizational breeding program to ensure that PAWS has amazing working dogs that meet the physical and temperament needs to serve as assistance dogs for our clients.   PAWS  spays or neuters all of its dogs before final placement, but keeps our puppies intact for the first 18-24 months so that great dogs can be selected for our breeding program to build our future generations of service dogs.

Christmas at the Suchovsky Home
December 2019


What a strange weekend.  I woke up on Sunday morning and went outside to find something really weird.  The ground was covered in something cold and white.  It was awesome!  I ran around and around in circles.  I had to smell everything!   And my brother Freddy even came outside to play with me for a little bit.  (I don’t understand it, but Freddy doesn’t like the cold white stuff.  He just wants to sit inside under a blanket on Mom’s lap all day.  BORING!)

Then Mom called me inside to eat.  She was doing really weird things.  There were a bunch of boxes in the middle of the living room.  I think they are magic boxes!   She kept taking out all sorts of new things, and she said they were Christmas decorations.  I think my house exploded!  There were snowmen and Santas, strange little colorful lights and even a penguin. I kept an eye on my mom, because I wanted to make sure that she was ok.  Mom even hung up a stocking by the fireplace that said, “Good Dog,” which she said was for Freddy and me! (Not that I was allowed to play with it.)

Then we started to play a fun game.   Mom was at the rug that lies by the front door of the house.  It was lots of fun.  I would go sit on the rug, and Mom would tell me to move.  I would move, and she would go back to the rug, so I would go back to the rug.   We did this over and over!   But then she used her exasperated voice and called my dad over.  For some reason, Dad held on to me as Mom rolled the rug up and I wasn’t allowed to play anymore.  Sigh.

Mom and Dad then told Freddy and me that they were going to out for a bit, and we couldn’t come.  We both had to take a nap in our crates.  I like naps in my crate, but it felt like they were gone forever!   When they finally got back, the front door opened.   What were they doing?  Mom was in front and Dad behind her.  They were carrying something.   They brought a tree into the house!  I even went up and smelled it to make sure it was really a tree.  It was!  A real tree.  Can you believe it?  I thought trees were for outside?

I laid on the floor in front of the couch and watched Mom and Dad open another box.    This box had all sorts of small objects, which Mom and Dad put on the tree.  All the objects were bright and colorful.  When they were done, the tree was so beautiful!

After they were done, Mom and Dad turned off all the lights except the little colorful ones on the tree and fireplace.   They sat on the couch with Freddy, who of course was under a blanket on Mom’s lap, and I laid at their feet on my own blanket.  The best part of the day?  I got to spend the whole day with just Mom, Dad and Freddy.  I’m not sure what is going on, but I like it!

From Michele:

Thank you for following PROMISE and my adventures.  From our family to yours, we wish you all a safe and joyous holiday season.

PAWS To Be Thankful
November 2019


I am so excited, and I cannot hide it!  Last week I played in the first snowfall of the year.  And soon, I get to celebrate my first Thanksgiving!

And if that wasn’t enough- my first ever PAWS To Be Thankful campaign, to raise money for Paws With A Cause!

What is PAWS To Be Thankful?  From now through December 3, PAWS is asking our friends in the community to join them by making a gift online. December 3 is something called “Giving Tuesday,” which is a time where people stop and remember the charities that they care about.

Where does the money raised from PAWS To Be Thankful go?  It goes to help all of my puppy friends to grow up into strong, healthy and wonderful dogs who help the world.

Did you know that it costs approximately $225 for a smoke alert box that goes to our clients with Hearing Dogs?

It costs $100 for the special vests that our Service Dogs for Children with Autism wear.

And it costs $25 to microchip two Assitance Dogs.

And that doesn’t even cover the cost of our medicines, leashes, toys and kongs!

WOW, it takes a lot for a puppy to grow into a PAWS Dog!

But guess what-   I get to help!  Mom said that I can host a PAWS To Be Thankful page to support all my PAWS puppy friends.

And even better news, Mom and Dad said that they will personally match up to $1500 for people who give to PAWS on my page.  WOW- that is so amazing!!!

Will you join me in supporting PAWS and all of my PAWS friends?  Please… please… please!


From Michele:

Thank you for considering joining PROMISE and me in supporting PAWS this Thanksgiving Season.   As PROMISE said and in her honor, my husband and I will match all gifts up to $1500 given on our PAWS To Be Thankful page.   If you would like to join, you can find our page at:  https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/2488929


Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving! —  Michele

Sugar Bunny
October 2019

From Michele:

The first step for any recovery is to admit one has a problem.  So, I freely admit it to all of you- the faithful readers of this blog.

I have nicknames.  Yes, nicknames, those special terms of endearment and sometimes exasperation, for both dogs in my household.   Does anyone else?

My forever dog, Freddy, goes by The Fredman or The Fredster.  It’s totally appropriate because he reminds me of an 80s movie- full of color and sass.  He is always in motion and ready to play.  He’s a lot like Ducky from Pretty in Pink.

And PROMISE?  The other day, I called PROMISE by her nickname at the office.   My entire hallway by my office went eerily silent.  Finally, a tentative voice- what did you just call PROMISE?  And another voice, I don’t even think that this is a real thing!  The teasing went on and is an on-going source of laughter for my colleagues.

So, I am here to admit it proudly today- I have a nickname for the precious, princess and DEO (“Dog Executive Officer”) of Paws With A Cause!  And what is that nickname, you ask?

PROMISE Is my “sugar bunny.”

She is such a gentle soul and so sweet.  You think of her in the pastel colors of love.  PROMISE is just like the sugary goodness of bunny peeps or chocolate Easter bunnies.   Don’t believe me?  Sometimes one of the dogs that are in staff offices will bark.  (Yes, some of our dogs are more talkative than others…)  And sometimes there we be a questioning voice of incredulity, was that PROMISE barking?   The answer, my friends, is no.  PROMISE is a gentle pup.  She rarely complains or gets the crazy puppy zoomies.  She just happily watches the world go by from the front door of my office and rolls over for a belly rub, with a tail madly thumping on the floor, when someone stops by to give her a belly rub.   PROMISE is the personification of a sugar bunny.


I think my mom is crazy!   She keeps calling me “sugar bunny.”   Does she know that isn’t my name?  The first time she did it, I looked around- who was she talking to?  But there was no one there besides me.   I just looked at her, but she didn’t seem to understand that she forgot my name.

But when she calls me this weird name, she always pats my head and gives me a kiss.   So I guess it isn’t a bad thing, I just hope that she is OK.  Good thing that she has me to keep an eye on her.   So now when she calls me Sugar Bunny, I just humor her.  I lick her hand and then roll over so that she can give me a good belly rub.   My job is never done!

Sleepover at Uncle Tony’s
September 2019


Promise… Promise…

Huh? What’s up?

It’s time to go.

Time to go?  Home to eat, I hope!

Go with Tony.

Go with Tony? I thought you said it was time to go?

You’re going home with Tony today!

I’m so confused.  Which is it – going home or going with Tony? Okay, Tony’s taking me outside.  I love the feel of grass under my toes! OMG! What is that smell! (Sniff, sniff, sniff…) That smells so horribly wonderful!

Okay, let’s go.

We’re walking, walking, walking…

Load up!

Load up?  That’s not my car?  I’m not sure.  I mean I know “load up”, but I’ve never been asked to load up in a different car.  Here goes nothing…. Well, that wasn’t so bad.

Okay, Promise, you’re going to meet some new friends. 

Wow! This is a fun car ride. I’m getting so many smells from this window.  I’m not sure where we are going.  I don’t recognize anything.

Are you still back there?  You are awfully quiet.

Um, like where would I go?  I’m sitting in the back of a car.  Who wouldn’t be quiet – can’t you smell everything rolling in through these windows.  It’s very dog zen-y. Hmmmm, we are stopping.

We are here!  Time to get out.  Let’s walk over here. Break.

Nice grass!  It feels a little different.  And there are even more smells here.  Oh, there it is!  The perfect blade of grass to pee on.  Sometimes it takes me a while to find just the right one – but I’ve got this one!

Okay – let’s go meet the girls.

Hmmm… again no idea what he is talking about.

Oh, there they are!


Let’s go meet them!

Yes!  Wait a second…  Whoa, whoa whoa. There are stairs here.  Don’t get me wrong, I know stairs, but I’ve never seen these stairs before.

It’s okay.  Let go.

Hmmmm. Okay is feels like stairs I’ve done before.  There’s number one, number two, three – okay, I’ve got this.  Woot woot – I’m going downstairs! Oh my gosh, the doggies!  They smell good, I must smell good to them.  Sniff, sniff, sniff…

Okay – outside girls!

Outside?  I just got inside!  Wow, look at them go!  Can I go out with them?

Okay, PROMISE  -“free” go get them. 

You don’t have to tell me twice!  (Run, run, run)  – So many smells! (Run, run, run)  Tennis balls!  Whew, these girls are fast.  Missed that one.  Throw it! Throw it!  (Run, run, run) Got it! Weeeeee!  Here it is, I got it, I brought it back.  Can you throw it again?! Yeah! (Run, run, run)


So began, PROMISE’s overnight trip to Uncle Tony’s house.  She got to meet her new friends Maisy, Kyra, and C-Ann.  This was just the beginning of hours of playing and running and yes – plenty of inside toys.  But like all days, night eventually came and even the most energetic dogs realize that it is time to get some sleep.  Each dog had their own spot, and PROMISE found out that new friend C-Ann would share her bed.  So they curled up together and called it a night.  Not a bad day of new experiences, travels, and friends.

Novi Road Trip
August 2019


Road Trip!  Mom and I made a special trip to a town called Novi to visit my dog and human friends.  When we started out, I didn’t know where we were going but knew it was going to be special because we got to drive in a PAWS van.  The PAWS vans are so much bigger than Mom’s car and they have all sorts of dog smells.  After making a good sniffing inspection of my surroundings, I curled up behind the driver’s seat and listened to my Mom talk with Uncle Tony, who works with Mom at PAWS.

Whew, it felt like we were in the car for such a long time!  I was ready to get out and stretch.  Mom pulled out my PAWS cape and told me that I needed to be good and that she had a special surprise.  We were in Novi, because our PAWS dog volunteers had worked really hard all summer and were coming together to celebrate.  Mom and I were invited too!  So many of my PAWS friends and even my brother PANDA came out to visit!

While all the dogs greeted each other, all the humans had a special treat of ice cream.   Even though I begged her, Mom didn’t let me have any ice cream.  She did have lots of yummy dog treats for me though.

It was such a fun visit.  I was so tired, I barely was able to jump into the van to go home.  I immediately curled up and fell asleep for the trip home.  I sure do love our PAWS friends!

From Michele:

PROMISE and I love to travel and meet our PAWS friends outside of Wayland.  And at the end of July, we made a very special trip to Novi, Michigan.  Our amazing PAWS Dog Volunteers, who live in Southeast Michigan gathered at Stuart’s for an evening of fun, socializing and ice cream!

From treasure hunts in the local mall to Detroit Tigers baseball games, this fun group of dogs and humans are regularly out in the community.   And on July 24, the gathering was about ice cream and camaraderie.   For me, it was a wonderful chance to talk with other puppy raisers and to learn from their many adventures.   For me, as PROMISE is getting older and more confident, you can actually watch her little brain think:  “do I really have to listen to Mom and lie down or can I keep exploring and playing?”   I am so grateful for the family of raisers, who are so generous with their wisdom and their laughter and joy in raising our amazing PAWS dogs.

SEMI volunteers, thank you for being such wonderful hosts to PROMISE and me!  Did you know that SEMI has four puppy clubs- in Novi, Bellville, and Troy/Royal Oak. If you are interested in learning more, contact our SEMI coordinator Jen Hill at jhill@pawswithacause.org.



Adventures in Puppy Raising
July 2019


Adventures in raising a foster puppy.   That is a little how I feel today.  It was a beautiful summer Saturday.  The sun was shining; the errands were done.  Nothing to do, but to enjoy the day with PROMISE and Freddy, my forever dog.

In the center of my backyard, we have a majestic old oak tree.  About 15 feet from the trunk, we have PROMISE’S tie out, so that she can run the back yard and play.   I brought out a newspaper to read, a glass of freshly made sun iced tea and set up my favorite lawn chair under the tree.   Next came out the dogs with their favorite toys.   It’s a lot like watching families go to the beach- carrying out enough stuff that it looks like we are prepared for a two-week trek in the Alaskan wilderness!

I was all set for a relaxing couple of hours.  What could possibly go wrong?   I open my paper and start to read.

YIP! YIP! YIP!   Freddy’s favorite toy is the red ball.  He LOVES the red ball!  It is his life.  Mess with the red ball at your own peril.   Can you guess where this story is going?   Yep, PROMISE.   In the time-honored tradition of all cagey sibling machinations, she stole that red ball right from under Freddy’s nose.  She pranced away proudly; some might even use the word tauntingly, carrying her prize.   YIP! YIP! YIP!  Freddy started barking incessantly, and all heck was breaking loose.  I was afraid the neighbors might stage an intervention.

I did what any smart parent does-  if you can’t play with the toy nicely, no one gets to play with the toy.  I put down my paper, walked commandingly over to PROMISE, and tried to take the ball.  Tried, being the operative word.  Now both dogs thought we were playing a new, fun game.  It is so much more fun to keep the ball from Mom than from each other.   I finally resorted to the ultimate trump card-  doggie treats.   I pulled out my secret baggie, and both of those dogs were by me in an instant.  After rewarding my two little monsters, I walked the red ball back into the house.

I won, peace reigns!   I sat down again, opened my paper, and starting reading.  After a couple of minutes, I see PROMISE industriously scratching and digging away under a growing Easter Lilly.  Just as I was about to shout out, she stood up and walked away with a wood chip in her mouth.  I debated intervening, but then she just plopped down in the shade of the big tree and dropped the wood chip.  OK, all’s well… or is it?

PROMISE is smelling at the wood chip.  OH NO!  She’s now on the ground rolling on it.  Freddy is very interested in what is going on.    What is up with that wood chip?   I spring from my chair to check it out.

Uggh- a DEAD FROG!  PROMISE somehow found a dead frog and has now spent the last two minutes rolling over it, soaking up the rancid smell.   Why me?  It was so gross.  I quickly grabbed our pooper scooper and removed the offending dead animal.  But there went the end of my vision of a calm afternoon reading as the two dogs frolicked around me in well-behaved play.   Instead, my day ended getting soaked in a puppy bath to remove the smell of dead frog.  Truly adventures in puppy raising!


I found a dead frog!   I found a dead frog!  I found a dead frog!   Life is AWESOME!!!  (Baths are no fun…. Sigh)


A 40th Anniversary Open House Recap
June 2019

From Michele:

Jimmy Carter was president, a gallon of milk cost $1.50, and snowboards were invented.   The year was 1979, and Mike Sapp trained his first hearing dog.   That first hearing dog turned into a mission of transforming lives for thousands of individuals… one dog at a time!

On June 22, Paws With A Cause celebrated its 40th anniversary with an open house at our headquarters in Wayland, Michigan.   And PROMISE shined as the DEO- the Dog Executive Officer.  As the DEO, PROMISE started the day welcoming guests, with her tail wagging.   We used the opportunity to practice keeping PROMISE’S focus on me, even when surrounded by the adulation of her many admiring fans.

Together, PROMISE and I shared the story of PAWS.   From the families and communities, who learn and grow raising the PAWS puppies, to the almost 3,000 assistance dog teams impacted by our work over the years.  It has been a wild and amazing ride.   What started as a single hearing dog has evolved into an organization that also trains service dogs for people with mobility disabilities, seizure response dogs, and dogs for children with autism.  In fact, there are currently over 425 active PAWS assistance dog teams across the country!

June 22 was a day to reflect, and it was a day to start to look forward to our future.  At PAWS, we are starting to look at not only how we can continue our tradition of the highest quality custom trained assistance dogs, but also how we can continue to respond to the needs of our entire community and all of our dogs.    Is there a place for PAWS dogs to help our youngsters with autism as they grow up or to support schools helping their students develop emotional intelligence skills?  Or is there a place for PAWS dogs to help a community in need?    What can and does this look like for PAWS today and for our next 40 years?  PROMISE and all of our puppies today are that future.

For those of you who were able to join us for our Open House on June 22, thank you for coming.  I hope that you had fun and learned something new!  If you weren’t able to attend, we have two additional tours scheduled for September 14 and November 9.   You can RSVP here to join us.


The PAWS Open House was, well, PAWSome!  I had so much fun and worked really hard.   The day started early in the morning.   I’m not exactly sure what was happening, but Mom and all my PAWS human friends were scurrying around, moving tables and chairs and running back and forth.  I was tired just watching them.  Luckily for me as DEO, my job is to supervise the humans!

Then the fun began.   All these nice, new people came to visit me.   They were all smiling and talking, and of course, they all wanted to meet me.   I obliged and laid on my back so that they could give me plenty of belly rubs.

While I was greeting our guests, the PAWS humans were showing off the amazing place that we all work at.   We had a special history room that showed lots of our photos and stories and even some of our early assistance dog capes and specially designed equipment so that we can work with our forever teammates.  And the PAWS trainers and some of my older dog friends were showing off all of the things that they have learned at PAWS.    These dogs work super hard; it’s like college, where they are learning new, special tasks so that they can be the best help to their forever teammate.  Guests also learned about the PAWS dogs, who go on to other types of work. Did you know that some PAWS dogs could grow up to be firedogs and work in fire departments?   I didn’t- that is so cool (or should I say HOT!- get it “firedogs” “hot”- I crack myself up)!

But I didn’t just stick with Mom and greet friends.  I had another important job as a PAWS foster puppy ambassador.  Later in the day, I hung out in my favorite PAWS building- we call it Puppy Park.  A couple of my siblings came to visit for the day as well.  It was so fun because we were able to play together with all the nice people who wanted to learn about the PAWS foster puppy and breeding program.  The PAWS humans were showing all that we do, from puppy classes to the comfortable whelping boxes, where we are born.  Guests even got to meet Doctor Jeanne, our PAWS vet who keeps all my PAWS dog friends and me healthy!

Whew, it was a busy day.  I was so tired at the end that I could barely jump into the car to go home.   And then I curled up and fell asleep.  Mom said I snored really loud, but I don’t believe her.  PAWS is such an amazing place.  I’m so glad that we shared it with all the nice people, and I’m so glad that I’m a PAWS dog and get to change the world someday!


PROMISE Goes Shopping
May 2019


Mom took me to a cool new place!  We went to a GROCERY STORE!  There was so much to sniff, taste and explore.  I wanted to try everything!   And right in the middle of the floor, there was a new toy for me.   Mom called it an “onion.”  I made a jump for it, pouncing just like I do at home when Mom and I play catch and retrieve.  I almost pulled Mom off of her feet!    She stopped me and made me sit.  I really, really wanted to taste and play with the onion.  I tried a second time to pull away again.   Mom had me sit still and she gave me treats every time I would look at her.  It was so hard!  I just wanted to go to this strange onion-thing.  But I listened as hard as I could, and Mom told me I was a good girl and gave me lots of praise.

And there was another weird thing at the grocery store.  Mom was holding my leash in one hand and pushing a cart in another.  It was hard to know where I was supposed to walk!  The cart kept getting in the way.  Mom and I tried again and again.  One time, the cart veered right into an aisle of boxes.   Mom looked so exasperated.   It was so funny!    I think Mom learned a lot from our trip to the grocery store.

From Michele:

Foster puppy raisers do a lot of things to help their puppies grow into smart, healthy and adjusted dogs during that first year.  Some of these tasks include:  potty training, not eating the furniture (or the shoes- I really loved those sandals, PROMISE!) and sitting on command.   But one of the unique tasks for future assistance dogs is “Public Access.”  Public Access is the process of socializing your puppy in public environments so that she can stay focused on her owner, the client, and do her job regardless of what is happening around her.

For me, public access is stressful.  How do I decide what to do, for how long and how do I set PROMISE up for success?  This past weekend, we visited a grocery store for the first time.  I purposefully went very early in the morning, before the store was busy, and had a really short shopping list.

While I was told this by other raisers and clients, I had to learn for myself, there is no such thing as a “short” trip when you are with one of the amazing PAWS puppies.   The store greeter shared how much he loves PAWS puppies and welcomed us warmly into the store, another shopper stopped me to share that his parents were Lions and big supporters of assistance dog organizations and another employee shared a story about her own black lab at home.  My quick trip took 45 minutes!

And, as we went early, staff were still restocking the produce to get ready for the day.  Onion skins and a stray blueberry scattered on the aisle floors provided a distraction challenge, I had not anticipated.  My baggie of treats were no match for the neat new morsels tempting her in the aisles!   Once we moved from the produce section, it was a little easier.  But, it definitely was a learning experience for us both.

Overall, PROMISE did well.  Whenever she started to get too distracted, I would stop with her and have her sit and focus on me.  By the end of the shopping trip, PROMISE was ready to be done and just wanted to play instead.  It was an adventure for both of us, and I learned an important lesson that short needs to be shorter and slow is good with a young puppy.

First Day of Kindergarten
April 2019


First class!  I had my first PAWS class today- it was AWESOME!  Ms. Hayley and Ms. Nikki are my teachers, and they are so nice.   And my classmates are so smart, and they all wanted to come up to me to say “hi” and welcome me to class.

I learned so much in class.  My favorite thing is “sit.”  When I sit, everyone gives me a treat and tells me how cute I am (which of course, they are right, I am adorable!).    I can use “sit,” when I get caught doing something naughty, like chewing up the carpeting in Mom’s office, and all is forgiven.  I love school!  I hope that I continue to learn other important things like “sit.”  Gold star for me!

But whew, I was really tired after class.  There was so much to do and learn.  When Mom and I got back to her office, I curled up on my blanket next to her chair and took a much-deserved nap.

First class…  total success!

From Michele:

First class!  I had my first PAWS class today- I was nervous.   There is so much to learn!  The class that PROMISE and I attended had a lot of older puppies.  As I watched these more experienced foster puppy teams, I can only hope that PROMISE and I become half as good someday.  They were amazing!

One of the things that we worked on was “sit.”  For PROMISE, that simply meant sitting for a treat, but for these other teams, it included sitting when the raiser was doing something unexpected (like standing on one leg!) or with the raiser’s back turned to the puppy.   So impressive!

Then we practiced loose leash walking.  That is so tough!  And I discovered that I have a very inefficient treat delivery system.  What do I mean?  I would try to give PROMISE a treat from my hand, when she was next to me and my fingers would get in the way- those little teeth are sharp!  Or I’d try to give PROMISE a treat, and it would drop on the floor instead.  Off PROMISE would go after the treat, and she had a fun game rather than learning a useful skill.   We have lots of practice to do.

PROMISE and I were both really tired after class.  PROMISE took a nice long nap, and she looked so cute curled up on her blanket next to my desk.   Thanks to our amazing teachers, Nikki and Hayley, for a great first class.

PROMISE Comes Home
March 2019

Hi, my name is PROMISE.  I was born as a PAWS puppy on February 6 and had a wonderful home with my whelping family, the Belangers.

I now live with my foster family in Grand Rapids.  You may know my foster mom, Michele, because she is the CEO at PAWS.  But to me, she is just Mom.  She brings me to work, gives me lots of cuddles and is helping me to grow up into a strong PAWS Dog, so that I can change someone’s life someday!

My family also includes my Foster Dad, John.   He works as a professor at GVSU, which is great because it means that we will get to spend lots of time together this summer when he isn’t teaching classes!   And I have a foster brother-  Freddy!   Freddy is a puggle-mix that Mom and Dad rescued three years ago.   I know that we will be best friends.

Mom thought it would fun to have a blog that she and I could co-write to share our foster puppy experiences over the next year.  I can’t wait to share all my puppy secrets with you!

From Michele:

PROMISE joined our home this week.  John, Freddy and I are so grateful to PROMISE’s whelping family for taking such good care of PROMISE for PAWS and for us.

It has been a busy week of adjusting to our new family member.   Luckily, PROMISE is a good sleeper, and I have only had to get up once a night for a bathroom break.  However, potty training has been a little less successful so far- human error.  I have been a little lax in following the instruction of crating PROMISE if she doesn’t potty outside and creating a good bathroom schedule.  Now that I have written this for all to see, I am recommitting to better supporting PROMISE in learning this important skill!

One of our concerns with fostering a puppy was bringing PROMISE into the house with our dog Freddy, who has always been an only and a very spoiled family pet.   Freddy is a small dog, weighing in at only 16 pounds, and PROMISE is already 21 pounds!  I’ll admit that the first 24 hours was a little dicey, with Freddy not sure what to make of this interloper.  The first night, Freddy slept on top of me, over the blanket and just stared at PROMISE’s crate, keeping an eagle eye on her.   But Freddy quickly learned to set some good, appropriate adult dog boundaries, and PROMISE is respecting those.  And my victory for the week?  Freddy and PROMISE played together for about 10 minutes last night!

So why did John and I decide to foster a puppy and why now?  We love dogs and see the impact the PAWS Dogs make in the community.  Opening up our home and raising a foster puppy is something that we can do together with joy and fun.  And why now?  We actually started talking about raising a foster puppy in January, but wanted to make sure the timing was right for us.  Between me still being busy getting acclimated to my new position at PAWS and John’s teaching schedule at GVSU, it made sense to wait until the University’s summer break and John’s schedule is a little more flexible.

We are both so happy that we made this choice, and PROMISE and I look forward to sharing our training adventures with you over the next year.

Follow along with Michele Suchovsky’s, PAWS CEO, journey as she raises PROMISE, a PAWS Dog in training.

PROMISE Comes Home
First Day of Kindergarten
PROMISE Goes Shopping
The 40th Anniversary Open House
Adventures in Puppy Raising
Novi Road Trip
Sleepover at Uncle Tony’s 
Sugar Bunny
PAWS To Be Thankful
Christmas at the Suchovsky Home
PROMISE Becomes a Woman
X-Ray Day
Update from the DEO and the CEO
My Friend Dandelion
PROMISE on Public Access
The Letter
That’s All Folks