Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 7th, 2014

Today is the fourth anniversary of the Illini Service Dogs. It is quite a special day for us. As we reflect on our accomplishments, our founder would like to share more about the background of the Illini Service Dogs.

“It all started with a girl, a dog, and a dream…”

 Bridget and Her first service dog, Coal.

Service dogs are often very expensive and organizations have extremely long waiting lists. I knew that I could benefit from a service dog, so my family got our first dog that I trained as my service dog. My first dog, Coal, was amazing. He taught me more than I taught him. Coal knew over 40 commands such as opening doors, retrieving objects, turning on and off lights, pulling me in my wheelchair, bracing when I walked or fell, and many other helpful skills. Coal attended high school, college, and even part of graduate school with me. I had to force him to retire at 12 years young or he would have happily kept working. I would like to share that even though he retired, he remained my family’s pet and guard dog against the ever-present squirrels in the backyard. When Coal retired, I was very blessed to have Hero as his successor. Hero attended graduate school with me and he is currently my partner in the working world. When we graduated with our Master’s degree, Hero wore a well-deserved cap and gown that can be seen pictured below.
 Bridget and Her service dog, Hero at graduation.

My dear Coal passed away on March 7th, 2014 at 14.5 years old. I am still grieving from this significant loss. I’m sure that anyone that has loved a dog can appreciate the pain that I still feel every day.

I am so proud of Coal because his impact was larger than changing my life. Coal changed the world. Coal is the reason that the Illini Service Dogs exist today. After I trained Coal (or he trained me), I began training service dogs for other people with disabilities. I felt strongly from a very young age that people should not have to wait years for a service dog and they should not have to pay an exorbitant amount of money.

When Coal and I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I met many students that said, “I wish I could train service dogs.” With Coal by my side as the perfect example of a service dog, many people dreamt of being able to train a service dog for other people with disabilities. That’s when Coal and I started the Illini Service Dogs, which has college students foster and train service dogs to provide to people with physical disabilities at no cost to the individual.

The Illini Service Dogs

I’m fortunate to see Coal’s legacy live on every day through all of the Illini Service Dogs. Coal changed a campus, changed people’s lives, and changed the world by raising awareness of service dogs, disability culture, and inspired a new generation.

The Illini Service Dogs trains people to become advocates for people with disabilities. As well as learning how to train a service dog, our volunteers learn all of the laws and responsibilities that are associated with service dogs. They become advocates for the disability community and attend many wonderful events each year to raise awareness about service dogs.

In addition to attending college classes, each of our volunteers takes part in training a service dog. Each of our dogs are trained to know over 40 commends to assist people with physical disabilities. In addition, the dogs are well experienced in a variety of situations and environments. They attend college lectures, Big Ten and major sports games, movies, concerts, and they travel around the state experiencing different events at locations such as the St. Louis arch and the Bean in Chicago. By the time the dogs graduate from our organization, they are well prepared to handle life as a service dog.

How You Can Help

Our mission is to provide highly trained service dogs to people with disabilities at no cost. We rely solely on donations and we appreciate every donation that we receive. Training a service dog is very costly as we ensure that our dogs receive quality health care, dog food, and training supplies. You can support our mission by donating to the below links. We are a volunteer run organization and your total donation will go to support improving people’s lives.

We also offer sponsorship opportunities for individuals, families, and companies that may include naming privileges of a future service dog in training.

In addition to monetary donations, we are always appreciative of in-kind donations of the following items:
-          Purina Pro Plan SportDog Food 
-          Milkbone dog treats
-          Kong toys
-          Nylabones
-          Dog beds
-          Medium/large dog crates
-          Blankets
-          Collars (S/M/L)
-          Leashes

We greatly appreciate the support we have received from our family, friends, and fans. We couldn’t do it without you!

Thank you for believing in my dream.


Bridget Evans

Please contact us at illini.dogs@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Hello All, our dogs are incredibly busy this semester! Take a look at some updates about our program.

Welcome Circee!

We are very pleased to announce our newest addition to the Illini Service Dogs training program--Circee! Named after the CRCE athletic compound, this sweet little girl was adopted from the St. Louis Senior Dog Project. She has some big paws (and vests) to fill, but we know she is up for the challenge! A special thank you goes out to her previous foster mom, who started her on her journey by offering her and her siblings a wonderful home until we found her! Circee is a 12 week old lab/border collie mix.

This Week we celebrated a birthday for one of our members, Busey, and the welcoming of our new member, Circee! Here's all of our current dogs at the celebration.

(Grainger and Amanda, Abe and Jordyn, Aero and Mia, Busey and Art, Circee and Kendall)

Happy First Birthday, Busey!

Our favorite bearded lady turns 1 

on September 30th, 2014. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Welcome Our Newest Member, Aero!

This summer we have gained a new teammate to the Illini Service Dog Program! Aero was donated to us by Turning Point Labradors, and is sponsored by the Fighting Illini Triathlon team. Aero is a black male labrador and we cannot wait to see his progress! Visit Aero's tab to keep up with his handlers and him.

Aero's Welcoming Video

Blue and Scout have Graduated!

We are happy to announce that Blue and Scout have successfully been placed in their forever homes. Each dog has been matched with a wonderful partner with a physical disability. Our organization takes great care to respect the privacy of our placements, and no information is shared without their knowledge, consent (or directly from them). We can share with you that Blue and Scout are now a part of amazing families and they will change the life of their partner.
It is a bittersweet time for all of the volunteers that helped train and raise Blue and Scout, but we couldn't be more proud. Best of luck to Blue, Scout and their new partners as they begin the next chapter of their amazing journey.
Scout and her primary, Joe

Blue and his primary, Amanda.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Handler of the Month

April's Handler of the Month goes to...

Jamie has been a wonderful asset to the Illini Service Dogs!  As we have gotten to know Jamie, we have learned what a wonderful trainer she is, how much work she puts into this, and how much patience she has.  Jamie has been on several different dog teams and has shown great enthusiasm with each dog.  We are so thankful that Jamie has been flexible and willing to adapt to new situations very comfortably and easily.  Jamie has advanced throughout her time in the Illini Service Dogs and has become a lead secondary trainer with a lot of experience.  Jamie always takes feedback and makes changes accordingly.  She is always in a positive mood and comes to every training and event ready to learn with a smile on her face.  Thank you Jamie for being so encouraging as both a student handler and an advocate for the disability culture.  We love seeing you so engaged and excited about training the dogs and we can't thank you enough for committing so much of your time to the Illini Service Dogs! Congratulations on this honor and we appreciate your continuing effort!
Jamie with her new BFF, Busey

Jamie at a fundraising event with Busey and Busey's primary handler

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Handler of the Month

March's Handler of the Month goes to...

We are happy to announce that our March Handler of the Month goes to Mary! As a new member, Mary has taken it upon herself to make herself known in our program. She makes sure to attend every training, fundraising event, presentation, and more.  She has also offered to help us with anything that she can, such as coming up with fundraising opportunities and getting more people involved in our events.  Not only does Mary come to everything Illini Service Dog related, but she comes with a smile on her face and an energy that's contagious! We so appreciate the good attitude! Also, Mary has come to every available training between our dogs and their potential placements, which shows that she wants to learn more and understands the end goal of our program.  So, as well as loving all the dogs, Mary is really making the disability culture connection.  She has made the effort to inform her sorority about the Illini Service Dogs, and it shows that she wants to educate as much as possible.  We are so thankful to you Mary and are so glad that you are a part of our program.  We have already seen your growth in the few months that you have been involved in ISD and we are excited for the future. We see your dedication and commitment and want you to know our appreciation!

Mary with Grainger at a Pet the Pup event

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Handler of the Month

February's Handler of the Month goes to...

This month we have chosen Art as our handler of the month! As always, this is an honor that is awarded to the student handler who has gone above and beyond in their call of duty.  Art has personally stepped up and been a big asset to our program.  He has always been a dedicated member of our program, but just recently has taken on a bigger role.  In this role, Art is required to keep constant communication with team members and the administrative board, and he has done an amazing job.  Art has shown that he is fully capable of taking on more responsibility, and he is truly appreciated among the club.  Art is constantly asking questions to learn more and is willing to apply himself to be a better trainer.  We want to thank Art for being a committed member of this club for so long, and we can see the growth that you have made as an individual. It is so rewarding to see you work well with the dogs and people too! Thanks for everything you have done, whether it is being at all the fundraising events or coming to every training, we definitely see your dedication. Keep up the good work, Art!

Art giving some love to some of our graduated service dogs

Art at one of the events for the Illini Service Dogs
Art with other Team Kirby members at Kirby's graduation

Art at another event for the Illini Service Dogs