The University Record, October 3, 1994

Working dogs make independent living possible

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Willy was frustrated and bored with his part-time job as a demonstrator. His life didn’t seem to have a purpose, and he wasn’t doing what he had been trained to do.

Kim was afraid of being alone after being assaulted and needed someone to help her at home. After she filed an assault report, she told the officer she was going to get a gun.

Instead she got Willy.

Willy and Kim didn’t meet through the personal advertisements in a local newspaper or through a dating service. Willy is a seven-year-old golden retriever and Kim Frania is a senior majoring in anthropology, zoology and biology at the U-M. She is confined to a wheelchair as a result of an injury when she was a freshman in high school 10 years ago.

After she was assaulted, the police officer who responded to Frania’s complaint told her about Paws with a Cause, an organization that trains dogs to perform tasks for people with disabilities that prevent them from accomplishing what most people take for granted each day.

Frania waited four months for her first dog, and then gave him up after six months when he chased squirrels across campus in the opposite direction from the one she needed to go. Willy came to live with her a short time later.

“I’d be lost without him,” Frania says. Willy answers the phone, picks up things on the floor, opens doors, pays for Frania’s purchases and even helps her with clothing.

In 1984, doctors told Frania that she might as well forget finishing high school. She’d lost too much time, they said, and would never be able to complete the courses and graduate.

“I said, ‘I will not forget it!’ And I did finish. Now I’m here and I’m going to graduate from the University of Michigan in December of 1995,” she says. “I want to go back and show them.”

Frania plans to take a year after graduation to rest up from studying. Then, she says, she plans to attend graduate school in North Carolina or Illinois to study veterinary medicine.

At the U-M, Willy and Frania are frequently spotted moving across campus to and from classes. Willy opens doors, carries books and picks up dropped pens. And he is constantly approached by strangers who want to pet him.

“If there is one thing I’d like to tell everybody, it’s don’t pet the dog,” Frania says. Willy is a working dog and needs to concentrate on his job. Although most people still don’t seem to be able to keep their hands from reaching down to pet him, Willy knows he has a job to do.

“Even when people try to pet him, he usually just ignores them,” Frania says. “He only pays attention to me and to what I ask him to do.”

Paws with a Cause receives some of its funding from United Way designated donations and an allocation from United Way of Michigan.

United Way officials remind those who wish to designate funds to a specific agency or area to be sure of the name of the organization and be specific when filling out the pledge cards.

The University’s United Way campaign began Sept. 26 and will continue through Nov. 3.