Colleen and Timmy Kramer participate in Paws with a Cause


Ashlyn Korpak, Staff Writer

In Colleen Kramer’s freshman year of high school, her life was changed forever. She met a dog from Paws with a Cause, a program that trains dogs to assist those with disabilities. She thought to herself, “that is what I want to do.” Now a junior, Colleen has raised one dog for Paws with a Cause and is currently in the process of raising another.

Colleen and her family went through the process of getting a Paws dog, which includes an application, an orientation, and a home visit. Within two months, the Kramers had their first Paws puppy. The puppy’s name was Yedda, a half golden retriever half lab, who was a “piece of work.” Their second and current dog is Pike, a golden retriever.

“When we first get them, they’re just really energetic and very playful,” freshman Timmy Kramer, Colleen’s younger brother said.

Yedda was super hyper and easily distracted. Colleen did her best at training Yedda and working to keep her focused and calm, but temperament is a big factor for a Paws dogs. Unfortunately, Yedda was turned away from the program due to her nutty, exuberant personality. This means that she would not be moving on to the next step of her training, and would instead be sent to live her life as a family dog. Unlike Yedda, Pike overcame her rambunctious puppy stage and is now much more tranquil and likely to succeed in the Paws with a Cause program.

“Pike is probably the most obedient and calm puppy you will ever see,” Timmy said. “Yedda was probably the exact opposite. She was crazy. She jumped around and loved to be with people. I think Pike has a really good future. I think she will be perfect for the program because of her being so calm.”

Paws with a Cause is now a big part of Colleen’s life. She has the puppy from ages 8 weeks old to a year before bringing the puppy back to Paws with a Cause to finish the dog’s training with a professional. While the dogs are with her, they must be potty trained and taught basic commands such as sitting, staying and laying down. However, the puppy will not obey without what Colleen calls the “number one thing” a puppy has to be taught: eye contact.

“Once you get that eye contact, they always look at you, they always want to be with you,  and they consider you their person,” Colleen said. “ Then, they really just love to be with you and love to please you.”

Raising a puppy isn’t just Colleen’s deal. The saying “it takes a village” is very true when it comes to puppies. It takes the whole Kramer clan to raise these Paws dogs. With Colleen gone at school for seven hours, followed by swim practice for another two to through hours, Pike would have to be in her crate for a long time. But Kristie Kramer, Colleen’s mom, is a stay-at-home mom. This allows the puppy to be out and about during the day.

“I would not be able to train paws dogs without her,” Colleen said. “ I don’t know what I would do [without her]. She’s a big help to me and I really appreciate it.”

Raising a puppy is a lot of hard work and takes up a lot of the family’s time.

“So much work goes into the training that people don’t realize,” Colleen said. “The first three weeks with my first dog, I awoke to a crying puppy up to five times a night and had to take her outside in the pitch black in the middle of winter. I will never forget how tired I was at school during that time, but every second of it was worth it.”

There is no denying the delight and jubilation a puppy inevitably brings to any family.

“They’re the cutest thing ever; they bring a lot of joy to the house,” Timmy said. “ It always makes your day better when you come home and see them.”

Lots of new memories and memorable adventures come with having a puppy, and Paws puppies are no exception.

“One of my all time favorite memories was taking Yedda to the Conductive Learning Center in Grand Rapids,” Colleen said. “The CLC is a school for special needs kids. I have a friend with cerebral palsy who attends this school. Seeing the smiles on the kids faces when I showed them all the tricks that Yedda knew was unforgettable.”

Unfortunately, there comes a time when Paws with a Cause dogs have to go back to the program to finish their training or be placed with a forever family. Having to give up a dog you raised for a year in your home and connected with is difficult.   

“With Yedda, leaving her was really hard on my sister,” Timmy said. “ I know it took her a couple of days to get back to normal.”

An option for those who struggle with the separation is an overlap. The Kramers did that with their first dog, Yedda, and their second dog, Pike. The last month that Yedda was with them, they began the training of Pike. This helped Colleen and her family with the shock of having to bring Yedda back to Paws with a Cause.

Colleen and her family are only one cog in a much bigger machine though. Paws with a Cause reaches all across America, training assistance dogs in thirty states since its founding in 1979.  They have placed more than 2,500 assistance dogs. There are more than 180 puppy raisers and hundreds of other volunteers.

Raising these puppies is a big part of Colleen’s life right now. Although she plans on continuing to raise dogs throughout the rest of her high school career, it’s not exactly something she can do while she is in college. Colleen has thought about doing Paws with a Cause puppy raising after college, or rescuing a dog she can own. No matter where Colleen goes or what she does with her life, she will always have what this experience has taught her and her never ending love for dogs.

“There are so many people that I haven’t even met yet that are just dedicated to this life of training and raising dogs for this program,” Colleen said. “It’s really incredible.”