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Saturday, June 15, 2024
<p dir="ltr"><span>Morgan Montaudo poses with Biscotti. She volunteered in October to raise him as a service dog for someone else who needs him.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span> </span></p><p><span> </span></p>

Morgan Montaudo poses with Biscotti. She volunteered in October to raise him as a service dog for someone else who needs him.



On April 30, 23-year-old Morgan Montaudo walked across the stage of the O’Connell Center — a proud UF graduate. At the end of the Summer, her dog Biscotti will graduate, too.

While Biscotti attended many of Montaudo’s health science courses, he will not be graduating with a degree from UF. However, he already has a job lined up.

Biscotti has been training to be a service dog.

Before meeting Montaudo, Biscotti was part of the “Prison Pup Program,” a partnership between New Horizons Service Dogs in Orange City, Florida, and the Florida Department of Corrections.

In the program, Biscotti was trained by inmates, which improved the inmates’ life skills and confidence. This helped them stay out of the system after release.

Montaudo volunteered in October to socialize Biscotti. Her role is to introduce him to the outside environment and provide continuous training.

“He made my college experience so much better,” she said. “He put so much happiness in my life and a smile on my face.”

She said she takes him everywhere she goes.

The students in her classes, who were studying the medical profession, were aware of how to act around a service dog, she said.

“They let him do his job,” Montaudo said, “but they loved him. Everybody loved him.”

Montaudo said she was happy  that others on campus who were not aware

of how to act around service animals could learn and become aware.

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A lot of changes are happening in Montaudo’s life after graduation, and she said  that now is a good time to give Biscotti back so he can help someone who needs him.

“They hold a ceremony to hand over the leash from the trainer to his forever person,” she said. “I’ll be there to meet the person and, hopefully, keep in touch with them.”

Before the graduation, the forever owner goes through a two-week training process to learn how to work with the dog, said Ellen Grimm, a volunteer coordinator for New Horizons Service Dogs.

Grimm said anyone can be a puppy raiser if they have the time to work with the dog daily and the money to support the dog by paying for food and veterinary bills.

She said many UF students have volunteered to be puppy raisers.

“It’s a great socialization opportunity for the puppies to be on campus,” Grimm said.

The puppies are placed with their forever owners based on the skills they learn, she said.

She said dogs are placed with people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, autism and cerebral palsy.

Grimm said the dogs learn how to retrieve things such as cell phones and keys. They turn lights on and off, open cabinets and push automatic door buttons.

“It’s an awesome feeling to see some people leave their home,” she said. “The program gives people the confidence to go out and do what they need to do.”

While Montaudo is going to miss Biscotti, she said she plans to continue working with service dogs in the future as an occupational therapist.

“I have this summer off to travel and work before I apply for graduate school,” she said. “I may even foster another dog.”

Morgan Montaudo poses with Biscotti. She volunteered in October to raise him as a service dog for someone else who needs him.



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