Who Let the Dogs In?

August 14, 2023
All creatures, great and small, are integral to God’s plan for our life here on earth. Just like people, they each have time and talents to serve those in our congregations and community. In a way, raising puppies to become assistance dogs mirrors a relationship with God.

Raising assistance dogs teaches life lessons about responsibility and patience, unconditional love, the kind that God has for us, and when they leave us, teaching us about compassion and loss.

At the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension, members are puppy raisers, meaning when they attend church events, there is a puppy right next to them, as young as 8 weeks old when they start their journey, and at 18 months, it is time to bid them farewell and send them forward. Our church community allows the puppies in training to make positive associations with diversified experiences, such as meeting people from all walks of life and of all ages. Live music, singing, and the sounds of different instruments. They are welcome to sleep through sermons, teaching them to settle patiently. While being raised and trained for an essential service job, they serve our congregation in many ways while on their journey. Children have overcome a fear of dogs through one of our puppies, and everyone smiles when the puppy shows up, and those who are no longer at a place in their life to own dogs enjoy the puppy's company each Sunday.

When sending the puppy to their formal career decision-making, we bless them and say, “Be good & do good.” Knowing that while they were with us, they were good and have done good and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Dogs raised in our congregation have chosen careers such as Guide Dogs for visually impaired individuals, Assistance Dogs for Veterans, and Mobility Assistance dogs for someone that needs mobility assistance such as balancing, bracing, and pulling a wheelchair).

Ascension’s relationship with our local group of puppy raisers isn’t limited to Sunday mornings. We have partnered with them to use our facilities to train the larger group. They have supported our Grace Ministry (Ministry for the homeless.) When they serve the homeless populations, the dogs are again learning, and the homeless get puppy love.

While we think that in supporting and raising the puppies, we are serving them, time and time again, it is the puppies serving us. Making sure we smile, comforting us after a tough funeral service.

On the horizon, congregations will be participating in Pet Blessings. If you have a member of your congregation with service dogs or participate in a service dog organization, please consider collecting offerings at your blessing of the pets supports their mission each year.

Kerstin Ramus, Member, Lutheran Church of Ascension Savannah

Audra Gehler, Diversity & Justice Task Force