As if college wasn’t enough, three Augustana University students are finding themselves hounded with extra responsibility. Not that they mind. A number of Augie students live in what are called theme houses, and each house chooses a service project or nonprofit to support and works together throughout the year for that cause.

One of the projects is connecting three juniors to a special family.

In this house, three college students are focused on a lab. Unlike their classmates, this lab isn’t the kind you study in. This is an actual Labrador mix. Volunteering to foster dogs brought man’s best friend into the care of these young women. 

“Eliza is the sweetest dog in the entire world,”  Augie junior, Baylie Hilgenkamp said. 

The world wasn’t so sweet to Eliza. Hilgenkamp suspects someone abused the dog, and now the goal is to heal her.

“It’s important to show her no matter what she lived through, there’s still people who are going to love her,” Hilgenkamp said.  

This is a labor of love. Speaking of labor, there’s more to the story. When they took her in, Hilgenkamp and her friends knew she was going to have two puppies. That happened, and then…

“One would come out. Then five minutes later another one and another one,” Hilgenkamp said. 

Eliza stopped after 13 puppies, which started even more responsibility.

“We definitely live in their world. This is their house now. Temporarily. I mean, it’s awesome,” Kelsey Thorsness said. 

“Eliza actually got sick and had to go to the emergency vet, so we had to bottle feed 13 puppies,” Hilgenkamp said. 

The pile of Augie doggies is a lot of work, but comes with a lot of reward.  

“It’s a nice little relief after cram sessions before exams and stuff like that. You come out here and they give you love and snuggles. It’s nice,” Thorsness said. 

Eventually, all of the dogs will go back to the Humane Society. Hilgenkamp says the puppies will likely go fast. She stresses grown dogs may have a harder time finding a home, and she hopes someone will adopt Eliza and give her a good life.

It’ll be sad to see them go, but these college students say caring for Eliza and her puppies have taught them an important lesson. 

“It’s giving me so much more empathy, I think, for other people. They’re so incredible. Just these little lives we’re taking care of,” Hilgenkamp said. 

It’s interesting how man’s best friend can actually bring out the best in mankind. 

To find out more, you can contact Sioux Falls Area Humane Society.