April 24, 2024

Like a lot of pups her age, she enjoys a good belly rub and whip cream pup cups from Goody’s Juice & Java in Manistee. 

But when she’s wearing her uniform vest, Vina isn’t like other puppies. She’s on the job as an assistance dog in training.  

Puppy raisers Michael Bull and Catherine Ciotti are retired and volunteer fulltime training puppies to become assistance dogs. 

The Pierport couple works with Paws with a Cause, a Wayland-based nonprofit with a mission to help people with disabilities lead quality independent lives. 

The charity works toward this goal by matching clients with dogs that are custom-trained. Paws with a Cause has matched more than 3,200 dogs with clients since 1979.  

Raising puppies

Ciotti, a retired math teacher, is a long-time fan of Paws with a Cause and first became familiar with the charity while attending a conference. She recalls sitting in the front row to watch a service dog perform “basic” tasks like picking up a magazine from the floor.