Tuesday, August 25, 2020

August Volunteer of the Month

A woman and a man sit on a bench outside. The man has his arm around the woman. A yellow Labrador retriever sits and rests her front paws on the man's knee.

Congratulations to Sharon and Brian Stalker, the August Volunteers of the Month! Sharon and Brian raised their first puppy for Susquehanna Service Dogs in 1995. Although SSD Sophie didn’t become a service dog, she had a happy life and a successful career as a drug detection dog working with a state trooper.

They decided to get involved with SSD after their family dog passed away. A co-worker recommended SSD as a way to bring a dog back into their lives.

A yellow Labrador retriever puppy does a play bow in the grass in front of a woman on her hands and knees.

Sharon says, “My favorite part of how we became raisers is this: We were invited to a puppy class to see what it would mean to be a raiser, and were told there was a puppy there looking for raisers. Brian said I couldn’t go because I would just come back with the puppy. He wanted to take more time with the decision. So Brian went to class…and came home with the puppy! We found out right away that he is more of a softie with a puppy than I am!”

Since then, they have raised a total of 19 dogs for us!

In a living room, three yellow Labrador retrievers look directly into the camera. One dog stands with their head cocked and a serious expression. The other two sit with happy expressions. Their mouths are open and tongues are out.

In addition to raising puppies, Sharon and Brian also help evaluate our released dogs to see if they would make good companion dogs. Companion dogs are specially trained pets that provide comfort, companionship, and motivation for one or more family members.

A woman stands in her backyard with her back to her house and snuggles a yellow Labrador retriever puppy.

They continue to volunteer because of the impact these dogs have on people’s lives. “The second puppy we raised, SSD Lily, was placed as a service dog,” said Sharon. “She was partnered with a young girl, and after a few weeks, the girl’s mother called us to thank us for raising Lily. She said that after a trip to the mall, her daughter told her “People see me now.’ That one statement is the reason we keep raising these wonderful dogs.”

A yellow Labrador retriever in a purple service dog harness is curled up in a ball on a bright green blanket.

Thank you, Sharon and Brian, for helping #DogsChangeLives! 

Friday, July 17, 2020

July Volunteer of the Month




Congratulations to Beth Bartoli, the July Volunteer of the Month! Thank you for helping #DogsChangeLives! Read her story below about her volunteer experience.

Guest post by Beth Bartoli, volunteer with Susquehanna Service Dogs

I have been an SSD volunteer since December 2017, when I started raising SSD Felix. She is the first dog I have raised, but I plan on continuing to raise dogs for SSD. 


When she was almost two years old, Susquehanna Service Dogs selected Felix as a breeding dog, which also gave us the opportunity to train her as a demonstration dog for SSD. She started classes to become a demonstration (or demo) dog. Felix has been a demo dog for almost a year now, and we have done various “meet and greets” in the community to demonstrate what service dogs can do to make a difference in people’s lives. So far, Felix’s favorite job has been to visit patients at Harrisburg Hospital. She seems to really enjoy visiting with people there, getting and giving love and making people smile. 


Felix just had her first litter of puppies (4 males and 3 females) on June 17, and she is a great mom. They are currently being cared for at Warrior Canine Connection, and we have been able to visit Felix and the puppies once a week since we are her breeder caretakers. It has been wonderful to be able to visit with Felix and to watch her puppies grow. It will be exciting to see these puppies grow hopefully into service dogs, too. We are hoping to raise one of them when they are 8 weeks old. 




I got involved with SSD after reading about how service dogs can make such a big difference in people’s lives, and help them become more independent. My family loves dogs, and we felt like raising a service dog would be a great volunteer experience that we could do together. All members of my family have participated in training Felix, going out in public with her, practicing good behavior at home. 



It is so rewarding to see the dogs being paired with a partner who has specific needs. Hearing the stories from partners about how much a dog has changed their lives is amazing, and I know that the work put into raising a service dog is worth every minute. 


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

June Volunteer of the Month


Congratulations to Maria and Rob Hersey on being our June Volunteers of the Month! Read their story below about how they became puppy sitters. Thank you, Rob and Maria, for helping dogs change lives! 

Guest post by Maria Hersey, volunteer with Susquehanna Service Dogs



Rob and I began volunteering as puppy sitters in May 2016. Fortunately, I keep notes on all the dogs we sit for and realized that within that time, we have had the honor and pleasure of sitting for forty-three dogs. Ten of those dogs have stayed with us multiple times: Andie Joy, Wes, Dustin, Chickadee, Jackie, Cassiopeia, Prague, Cha Cha , Nellie, and Sergeant. 

Initially, we began sitting on weekends for dogs in Advanced Training. As the years progressed, we began to care for dogs requiring a longer sitting period due to unique situations or breeding schedules. When you spend many weeks caring for a dog, you have the satisfaction of developing a relationship with them and that arrangement is beneficial, not only for the dog but also for both us. Some of the circumstances which resulted in long-term sitting involved discharged dogs awaiting a final disposition, dogs with upcoming adoptions, a dog needing to lose weight, and breeding dogs who need a home situation prior to mating.


Time and again, we are asked “How can you give up these dogs?” Our answer: “There is always another wonderful dog needing us to sit so we rarely feel sad.” There is such variety to our assignments. We have sat for one or two days or up to six weeks. It just depends on SSD’s needs and what is going on with our schedule.


Admittedly, we hold a special place in our hearts for dogs who spend an extended period of time with us:  Bailey (a sweetheart), Andie Joy (happy girl), Jackie (what a scamp), Cha Cha (full of energy), Mikey (a teddy bear), and Sergeant (incredible athlete). We were sad when they left but as we said, there is always another special puppy ready to join us for a new adventure.


Five years ago, we lost our beloved Annabelle, a rescued black lab/golden mix.  Since we are retired and in our 70s, we did not want to take on the responsibility of rescuing another dog. Nor did we want to burden our children should we not be able to care for a dog. However, throughout 51 years of marriage we have always had a rescue and now we felt lost without a canine companion. We also enjoy an active lifestyle of walking and hiking and both activities are so much more much fun when we can share them with a dog.


Sitting for SSD was the perfect situation for our current lifestyle. We have our freedom but also have ample opportunities to get our “doggie fix.” Also what is not to like about SSD dogs! They are well-bred, beautifully behaved, and can accompany us to all the places we like to visit. Our dogs join us in daily exercise classes, join us while we volunteer at the public library and go on daily visits to the Mohler Senior Center. It is such a pleasure to walk into these places, especially with a SSD dog, because we are greeted with such delight and joy by all.  At the senior center, Rob and I discovered that our “supposed” popularity is in direction proportion to the dogs we share with the members.


We have truly enjoyed working with the staff and other volunteers at SSD. This is a community of devoted dog lovers who are so dedicated to the mission of sharing these beautiful animals with those in need. No matter what your age or who you are, if you are involved with caring for SSD dogs you are completely accepted as part of this greater service dog family. 







Wednesday, June 10, 2020

May Volunteer of the Month



Congratulations to Susan Wesner, the May Volunteer of the Month!

Susan has been volunteering with Susquehanna Service Dogs since May 2014 as a puppy hugger helping to socialize our youngest service dogs in training. She first heard about SSD when she attended PawsAbilities, our canine festival. By 2015, she took our classes to become a puppy sitter.

After sitting new puppies SSD Geronimo, SSD Godiva, and SSD Guava as part of our 2x2 puppy sitting program, she was hooked.


Since then, she has supervised puppy socialization at our center in Grantville, PA and has helped canine eye clinics and other activities. She has also helped with litters in some of our whelping homes—clipping nails, cleaning up after the puppies, and more.


“Best of all is getting to work with the puppies on their early socialization and learning,” says Susan.

“As a sitter, I enjoy working with the dogs in public, and when I get the opportunity to sit a dog more than once, it’s fun to see how they have progressed. Knowing these puppies and dogs will someday help someone with things that I take for granted is why I continue volunteering.”


Thank you, Susan, for helping #DogsChangeLives!

Our volunteers collectively give over 40,000 hours per month to raise and sit puppies, help with public training, maintain our property, help with fundraising, and so much more! To give back to our volunteers who give us so much, we’re recognizing a volunteer each month. Selected by random drawing, volunteers of the month receive a gift card to local restaurants and businesses.



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

April Volunteers of the Month



Congratulations to the Finnegan family, the April Volunteer of the Month!

The Finnegans have been volunteering with Susquehanna Service Dogs since December 2017, when they began raising their first dog, SSD Beethoven. Beethoven is now working as a detection K9 with the CIA, and the Finnegans are raising SSD Davis, who is almost ready for advanced training, and new puppy SSD Murtaugh.


In addition to raising puppies, they have also been sitters and help with our 2x2 puppy sitting, where they watch two of our youngest puppies overnight to help them acclimate to spending time away from their entire litter.

The family got involved with SSD when daughter Erin was a young Girl Scout and a group of volunteers raising guide dogs visited her troop. “From that moment on, I knew I had to help in some way,” said Erin.



She searched for a local organization and found SSD. “We as a family have never been happier to be part of something so special and helpful for the community,” she said. “We love the positivity surrounding it all. SSD feels like one big family that we are all a part of, and we’re there to help each other out.”

Thank you to the Finnegan family for volunteering with SSD and helping #DogsChangeLives!

Our volunteers collectively give over 40,000 hours per month to raise and sit puppies, help with public training, maintain our property, help with fundraising, and so much more! To give back to our volunteers who give us so much, we’re recognizing a volunteer each month. Selected by random drawing, volunteers of the month receive a gift card to local restaurants and businesses.



Wednesday, March 11, 2020

February Volunteer of the Month



Congratulations to Sue Knode, the February Volunteer of the Month!

Our volunteers collectively give over 40,000 hours per month to raise and sit puppies, help with public training, maintain our property, help with fundraising and so much more! To give back to our volunteers who give us so much, we’re recognizing a volunteer each month. Selected by random drawing, volunteers of the month receive a gift card to local restaurants and businesses. Thank you to Skyline Family Restaurant for donating a gift card for February’s volunteer!


Sue has been volunteering with SSD for 13 years! She had been volunteering at the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community and saw the Susquehanna Service Dogs booth. She introduced herself to Nancy Fierer, our founder, and of course, Nancy encouraged her to get involved. Sue went home and immediately filled out the application to become a puppy sitter!

Since that day, she has filled many volunteer roles, raising nine puppies and sitting countless dogs. She serves on the Puppy Raiser Council and is a partner liaison, answering questions and helping partners settle in to life with their new service dog. She assists with IFTs (In For Testing) for our dogs in training to evaluate the dogs, helps with Team Training, gives public access tests and retests, does demonstrations, and more.


“I love the people,” says Sue. “It’s wonderful to work with partners and see the difference their dogs make in their lives. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know such a diverse group of people. I’ve formed great friendships with other volunteers, partners, and staff!”

Thank you, Sue, for everything you do for Susquehanna Service Dogs!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

January Volunteer of the Month

Our volunteers are the backbone of everything we do at Susquehanna Service Dogs. Collectively, they give over 40,000 hours per month to raise and sit puppies, help with public training, maintain our property, help with fundraising, and so much more. We mean it when we say that we couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.

To give back to our volunteers, we’ll be recognizing a volunteer each month. Selected by a random drawing, volunteers of the month will receive a gift card to local restaurants or businesses. Thank you to Fabio’s Authentic Italian Restaurant in Grantville, PA for donating a gift card for this month’s volunteers!

Congratulations to the Frank family on being the January Volunteers of the Month!


Joel, Deb, Bethany, and Josiah have been volunteering with Susquehanna Service Dogs for almost 5 years! They got involved after seeing a demonstration by volunteer Betsy Smith and SSD Rossi. Bethany was interested in raising a service dog, so they applied and have been volunteering ever since. They’re currently raising their fourth dog!




They’ve done more than raise puppies, though. They do home visits for new raisers and sitters and help with Team Training. They’ve been whelpers, and have even “started” a puppy by training them for several weeks before the pup moved on to another organization.


“We love to see the dogs when they are placed with their partner! It makes all of the raising and training worth it!”

Thank you to the Frank family for helping #DogsChangeLives!