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A Foster Puppy Raiser helps a person living with a disability by raising a dog that will enhance their independence and quality of life. Foster Puppy Raisers volunteer to raise a PAWS Puppy for 14-18 months, until it’s old enough to begin formal Assistance Dog training. During that time, the puppy lives in a Raiser’s home while they teach basic obedience and expose the dog to public environments it may experience with a client. Here’s a few things a prospective Raiser should know:

  • We do not require dog training experience, just a willingness to learn

  • You must be committed to teaching basic obedience and attending obedience classes 

  • You’ll need to expose your Foster Puppy to public environments at least three times a week 

  • We’ll provide you with a team of support to raise the best dog possible for a client

  • Must live in the areas of: Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw, Southwest or Southeast Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; or Tallahassee, FL.

I would like more information about raising a PAWS Foster Puppy

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Paws with a Cause



    A Foster Puppy

    Raiser’s gift of love


  • STEP 1:


    Learn about PAWS

    Foster Puppy program


  • STEP 2:


    Complete application

    for consideration


  • STEP 3:


    Talk to PAWS Staff and

    current Puppy Raisers





“If you can love something so much and then give it away to someone you don’t even know because it’s for a good cause, then you’ve learned something really important.”

Dianna, PAWS Foster Puppy Raiser


Dianna always had dogs growing up, but her husband Dave didn’t have the same experience. Early in their relationship he told her, “I don’t know if I could ever live with a dog.” Ironically, they were on a walk with Dianna’s German Shepherd when he broke that news, but he quickly changed his mind once Dianna made it clear that she intended to always have dogs in her home.

Who would have guessed that one day, when they were married with three young children and a family dog already, he would be the one to suggest they become a foster family for PAWS Dogs? After seeing a presentation at work, he came home and said, “Honey, this could be kind of fun. They need families to raise puppies. I think we should do it!”

Thirteen Foster Puppies later, they’re still at it. In fact, it’s become a family project for them. Sometimes Dianna wondered if she was doing the right thing, particularly after a conversation with a stranger while shopping. A woman approached Dianna and asked about her dog. Dianna explained she was training it to be a future Assistance Dog; the woman seemed impressed until she learned the dog would be turned in at the end of the year. Suddenly indignant, she asked, “You actually let your children fall in love with this puppy only to give it away?” Dianna replied, “It’s not like that at all. I’m teaching my children the gift of love. If you can love something so much and then give it away to someone you don’t even know because it’s for a good cause, then you’ve learned something really important.”

Years later, she and the kids were driving away from PAWS Headquarters after returning their most recent Foster Puppy for Assistance Dog training. “We were bawling,” she said. “We always do. It’s always very difficult because you really do fall in love with them. My daughter said, ‘This is so hard. I hate this.’”

Dianna responded, “This part is always the most difficult, but you know, there is a way to avoid the pain. We could stop raising Foster Puppies.” Her daughter’s mood changed instantly. “What? No way, we can't stop! This is our thing. This is what we do and we are good at this!”

Dianna reflected on the memory. “That's when I realized this is really a family thing. This isn't just me anymore. We decided to do this as a family.”

Paws with a Cause




“Raising a puppy will open your world; it makes you think differently. You think about a person getting a wheelchair out of their van and things way up on the shelf where you can’t reach. You think of how their world must be and realize what we take for granted.”

Richard and Patti, PAWS Foster Puppy Raisers


Orientations are a great way to learn about the Foster Puppy Program, talk to current Raisers and ask questions of PAWS staff members. Prospective Raisers need to attend one orientation session prior to applying to become a Foster Puppy Raiser. Please RSVP.


Southwest Michigan

November 30th, 6 PM

December 14th, 6 PM


PAWS Canine Development Center
4646 South Division, Wayland MI 49348
View campus map


Julie Thorington

Southeast Michigan

December 3rd, 6:00 PM - Wayne County Community College

December 8th, 5:30 PM - SE MI Regional Office

December 8th, 6:00 PM - Novi Public Library, Second Floor Meeting Room


PAWS Regional Office
1328 Wheaton, Troy MI 48083

Wayne County Community College
Western Campus
Multi Purpose Room
9555 Haggerty Rd., Belleville MI 48111


Linda French

Novi Public Library, Upstairs Meeting Room

45255 West Ten Mile Road

Novi, MI 48375


Julie Thorington



Chicago Area

Thursday, November 12th, 7 PM

Monday, December 10th, 7 PM

Saturday, January 23rd, 3 PM


Our Savior Lutheran Church
1244 West Army Trail Road, Carol Stream, IL


Julie Thorington


PAWS’ goal is to have a safe environment for our volunteers. In order to ensure that, PAWS conducts a criminal history background check for all prospective PAWS’ volunteers. You are NOT required to complete a background check in order to attend an orientation.

We retain the right to determine whether or not to engage a prospective volunteer who has a criminal history. When making a decision whether or not to allow service by a prospective volunteer with a criminal history, PAWS will consider:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
  • The time that has passed since the offense/conduct and/or the sentence
  • The nature of the volunteer position sought

    Background checks may take up to two weeks to complete.

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