Rocket Service Dogs was founded as a University of Toledo Organization in the Spring of 2017. Danielle Tscherne, our founder, decided to create Rocket Service Dogs after she visited Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence on a school trip and heard about an organization called Wildcat Service Dogs in Kentucky. She believed that we could implement something like that at the University of Toledo, and she worked along with our faculty advisor, Dr. Janet Hoy-Gerlach, to make this a reality.
The overall mission of Rocket Service Dogs is to provide students at the University of Toledo the opportunity to learn, sit, and train service dogs in training by partnering with Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence. In addition, we hope to educate the public in the Toledo community about service dogs and to have an overall positive impact on the community.
Many of the Rocket Service Dogs trainers were in training classes with other fosters, who train directly through ADAI and have found those connections to be supportive. In addition, other fosters from the University of Toledo, who were not part of Rocket Service Dogs, now have the opportunity to join Rocket Service Dogs as well. Additionally, when other fosters have needed help with sitting, we have been able to help when needed.
Rocket Service Dogs supports fundraising by donating some of the toys and treats we have collected through fundraisers on campus to ADAI.
Rocket Service Dogs has support from the College of Health and Human Services. In addition, our advisor Dr. Janet Hoy-Gerlach is from the Social Work Program, and since graduating Danielle Tscherne has served as a co-advisor and is an adjunct faculty member in the Criminal Justice Program. So, we have support from those programs, however, we are not technically associated with any particular program or college.
All majors are welcome to join Rocket Service Dogs. We are very proud of the diversity of majors among our members, but we are all connected by our love and passion for dogs and helping others.
There was quite a bit of preparation for bringing the dogs into the dorms. Initial contact was made with Office of Residence Life by our founder Danielle. She provided documentation and discussed the possibility of bringing the dogs into the dorms. Following this meeting, further documentation was asked for by Residence Life. We worked with ADAI, as well as other similar organizations on other college campuses for the information. Once we received this information, there were a series of meetings with the Office of Residence Life, Student Disability Services, Rocket Service Dogs, and ADAI. A liaison was appointed to act as the contact between Rocket Service Dogs and Residence Life. Following the meetings, the legal team from the University of Toledo and the Ability Center met to discuss and draw up a liability agreement. The whole process took about a year. By the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, we had received the liability agreement and our first dog was placed in the dorms on October 30th, 2018.
There is also preparation for our members prior to them being able to have a dog in the dorm, either to sit or train the dog. So, our members are required to attend 3 classes, an orientation, policy and handling class. Then they are required to pass a policy exam with an 80% or higher, a handling exam, and to undergo an interview with Rocket Service Dogs President and Vice President. Once they go through this process and are approved for their status and have filled out the liability form, they will be allowed to sit in the dorms. Following evaluations, the President of RSD, contacts our liaison at residence life to let him know who has received what status so the staff in the residence halls can be notified of the students that will have dogs, and the students that have permission to have the dogs.
The difficulty is the limited space we have. It's hard to find time to take her to exercise without a backyard or a big field near us.
Josephine Biltz (President): When I first came to the University of Toledo, I wanted to be involved in an organization that dealt with animals, especially dogs. The end of my freshman year at UT that became a possibility, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help Rocket Service Dogs. I have always had a passion for animals, especially dogs, and I have always wanted to help others. My dream in the future, after attending veterinary school and owning my own shelter and practice, is to train shelter dogs that had the correct temperament and qualities to become service dogs. However, what is really cool is that I have gotten to start working on the portion of my dream of working with service dogs, earlier than I ever expected, and it has been a life changing experience.
Taylor Light (Vice President): I have always had a love for animals, so when I found out that there was an organization on campus that allowed me to spend more time with them and help those in need, I knew I had to join! Additionally, training mobility support animals almost goes hand in hand with my major, seeing that I am pre-physical therapy. This organization has opened my eyes to seeing just how amazing these animals are.
Danielle Tscherne (Founder and Non UT faculty advisor): I am involved with Rocket Service Dogs because when I started the organization in 2017 I was in my final semesters as a graduate student at UT so I didn't get to spend enough time getting to help them grow – but I do as much as I can when I can to help them in any way that I can! It has been an honor to be in the company of everyone involved – and incredibly exciting to see the group starting to grow and more and more students getting involved, it truly is a dream come true!
Dr. Janet Hoy-Gerlach: I am proud and honored to serve as an advisor for Rocket Service Dogs. Service dogs can tremendously increase independence and quality of life for a person living with a disability; unfortunately, the need for the dogs far surpasses the availability. These students are doing life changing work for our community, through the partnership they have built with ADAI. Through providing foster placements and training, Rocket Service Dogs can increase the numbers of service and therapy dogs available to be placed with individuals living with disabilities in the region. Students are able to learn about animal behavior and welfare, as well as how to be an advocate for disability and accessibility issues. Rocket Service Dogs also provides students with the opportunity to get to know and bond with trainee dogs. These animals are truly amazing, and their presence on our campus enhances the quality of university life.