Friday, December 14, 2018

"He has hope and her name is SSD Savannah!"

A message from Pam Foreman, director of Susquehanna Service Dogs

“He has hope, and her name is SSD Savannah!”

Dear Friends,

This is what we do, together. It is what Susquehanna Service Dogs is all about. It’s why what we do together matters.

When you donate to Susquehanna Service Dogs you share in giving that kind of hope, making that kind of difference.

As Bill Glaser told us recently, “I am more in tuned to life and re-engaged in it.” His wife, Ali, has her own story to tell. 

“Last month Team Glaser received THE greatest gift from the universe by far. Her name is SSD Savannah and she works for my superhero hubby, Bill. If you ever get to witness these two in action, it’s truly a blessing. I have such an immense gratitude. Savannah and I have been sitting with Bill, he has been in the hospital since yesterday morning. As I sit here with them I am feeling the tremendous blessing that is our sweet Savannah. She has supported him from the moment we arrived by ambulance and only leaves his side for potty breaks and to sleep at home each night. Unfortunately, we are here often and will continue to make the best out of every situation. Here is what is different this time around though…..a service dog. A furry little healer, a mountain mover, a motivator and a bond beyond words. The energy this dog can spread is pure magic, PURE MAGIC! She shares it soooo willingly, with the staff here, her family, but more important, her guy. I sit and watch them together and my heart melts. She is healing him, in a way that I can’t anymore. He has hope, and her name is SSD Savannah!

We will forever be champions of SSD and the lives that you guys change with every dog placed. To have gone through the entire process was a blessing for us. The entire staff and volunteers at SSD are game changers. They are so deeply committed to pairing the right people with the right dogs. Once they do, the commitment to strengthen that new partnership is awe-inspiring. We have felt it first hand, and it is magical and life changing.” 

To be a part of stories like Bill and Ali’s--to be a life changer--consider a donation to Susquehanna Service Dogs. Consider the next person and the next family your contribution will impact. Consider how your support in supporting others to live their best lives, lives more fully engaged, will make a real difference.

What we do together matters.

As the year comes to an end and you consider where your donations will go, please consider Susquehanna Service Dogs!

To give:
Ø  Send a check to Susquehanna Service Dogs at 1078 Gravel Hill Road, Grantville PA 17028

Thank you,


Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 Spirit of Volunteerism Award

Susquehanna Service Dogs would not be what it is without all of our dedicated volunteers. Our volunteers raise and sit our puppies, help train the dogs in advanced training, give demonstrations, make harnesses, maintain our kennel and property, help with team training and public access tests, and so much more.

This spirit of volunteerism started with our founder, Nancy Fierer, who served as our volunteer director for over 20 years. When Nancy retired, we couldn’t think of a better way to honor that legacy than by creating the Nancy and Robert Fierer Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

We’re pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the award is Dr. Nancy Dreschel, who runs our puppy raising program at Penn State University.

Below is the presentation given by Director Pam Foreman at our annual Graduation and Celebration.

From Pam Foreman:

When an organization like ours has so many talented people dedicated to supporting its mission, it is challenging to identify the most worthy recipient of an award like this.  There are so many people deserving of it and once again we had great nominations. 

We want to say a special thanks to the three people who reviewed the nominations and chose this year’s recipient.  I know they had a hard job. Thank you to Samantha Jacoby, Nick Liermann, and Darrin Silbaugh.

It gives me great pleasure to announce Dr. Nancy Dreschel as the recipient of the second Annual Nancy and Robert Fierer Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Dr. Dreschel – Nancy – is a Dr. of Veterinary Medicine and Professor of Animal Science at Penn State University.

She began her association with SSD several years ago and is the reason SSD is able to have a Campus Puppy Raising program at Penn State in State College, PA. Because of Nancy’s dedication and extraordinary hours of commitment to our program, we are able to have a strong base of interested, dedicated, and talented puppy raisers in that area. At any given time there are approximately 10 dogs being raised in State College. (Currently there are 11.) In fact, some of the puppies raised by that group of students are graduating tonight.

Nancy is the advisor for the Roar for More club, which is the club that was formulated to support SSD with raisers, education about service dogs, and fundraising efforts. Because of their presence and Nancy’s respected reputation, the club and SSD have become well-known in the area. This visibility has been instrumental for SSD regarding new raisers and fundraising efforts.

The first years of developing this puppy raising program program took quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears until it was structured in a way that worked for everyone – communication from a distance, necessary support for both Nancy and the raisers and club, vet care, and so on. Nancy’s willingness to hang in there during the challenging times as we muddled through the collaboration is one of the reasons the program is so successful and strong today.

In addition to teaching weekly classes, she oversees special outings and also continues to teach classes through the summer for the raisers that stay in the area. She is the first responder for raisers’ vet concerns and nurtured a lasting and beneficial relationship with a vet clinic in the area who have continued to provide great care for our dogs at a greatly reduced fee.

Nancy also mentors the student raisers and gives them guidance as problems and issues come up while raising – and that guidance and mentoring ends up being in a variety of areas. The students raising at Penn State often express the benefit they get from being part of the program – responsibility, thinking beyond themselves, learning about disabilities, socialization that requires a degree of maturity while having a dog in training, and the ability to educate others about service dogs, persons with disabilities, and about SSD specifically.

Nancy is also the reason that SSD is involved with Dr. Allen, the Director of Mental Health Services, Center for the Protection of Children, Penn State Children’s Hospital and the project and research that Dr. Allen is conducting regarding the benefit of having dogs in counseling sessions for children. Nancy became involved with that study to do her own research on stress levels and the welfare of dogs providing their service in that type of setting.  She remains an integral part in the study, and alongside SSD, has developed a great partnership in this very important research.

Overall, Nancy is the type of person anyone would want on their team. She is personable – everyone likes Dr. D. She is willing to work out the glitches of processes to make things better because she so deeply believes in the work. She provides an enormous amount of hours to SSD’s mission in addition to her already busy schedule as a professor. She is a great resource and mentor for all of SSD’s Roar for More raisers, as well as a tremendous ambassador for SSD in the State College area and beyond.

Nancy has become an essential part of SSD and is deserving of being acknowledged for that work through this Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Friday, February 9, 2018

From Puppy Hugging to Puppy Sitting

Guest blog post by Vanessa Sobotta, volunteer puppy sitter

My history of volunteering with Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) began about 5 years ago. I had watched a friend of mine, Jane Jackson, raise SSD Topaz from a puppy, and was very intrigued by the process. Our family Golden Retriever had passed a few years prior, and my kids were begging for another dog. While our schedule wasn’t necessarily conducive to adding another pet to the family, I knew SSD had several programs that my family could partake in. Among these was puppy hugging.

The first litter we puppy hugged was the Czech litter. From the moment we sat in the pen with puppies practically rolling over us, the entire family became hooked. Any puppy is a bundle of joy—multiple puppies, however, is pure heaven.

I was subsequently introduced to their puppy sitting program. As I began to learn more about it, I felt sure that it was something my family wanted to do. I registered to be a puppy sitter, and anxiously awaited our home visit to be cleared. In the meantime, I attended the necessary classes. These classes taught the basics of puppy handling (it’s not as easy as it looks) and clicker training, a necessary part of the puppy’s training process. Once the home visit was completed and we were cleared for the program, my family and I were ready to go.

Over the past 5 years, we have been lucky enough to have a dog stay with us over the Christmas holiday. Our first, SSD Meade, was so much fun. He really got us hooked on the program. Every time we welcome a pup into our home I am in awe of the amount of love and work the puppy raisers give to their dogs. When the dogs are staying with our family, we try to take them on typical outings to help increase their comfort level with a new daily routine. Examples of these outings include kids sporting events, grocery shopping, or to work with me. Depending on the dog, they sleep in either my son or daughter’s room.  

The most surprising part of working with so many dogs is how different each of their personalities are. Some love to cuddle, while some prefer to keep to themselves. Some are goofy and playful, while others are very eager to work. If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that no two dogs are ever the same.  

We have been lucky enough to watch over 30 SSD dogs in training, some of them more than once. It’s always wonderful to hear when they move up from their raisers into advanced training, or where they have been placed, whether it be with the CIA or with their partners.  

While our family has not decided to become full time puppy raisers, we love meeting the numerous dogs and volunteers that make SSD the outstanding program that it is.

If you’d like to join Susquehanna Service Dogs as a puppy sitter or puppy raiser, you can apply online.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Raising SSD Hermione

Guest blog post by Gail Frassetta, puppy raiser

And just like that, she’s off! SSD Hermione entered advanced training, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. The journey with her has been one of the most rewarding and happy experiences for not only me, but my entire family.

We made the decision as a family to raise a service dog last June and in a matter of a few weeks, we had Hermione in our home! I must say, I was very impressed with what she already knew and was accustomed to. The whelpers (the family that took care of the litter of puppies until they were eight weeks old) did an amazing job of introducing sights, sounds, textures, and experiences to these tiny pups. The puppy manual provided by Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) also helped us prepare to have her in our home and to start working with her until our training classes began.

SSD’s trainers guided us through each semester of training, building on and perfecting what we learned in the previous semester. But we didn’t just spend time in the classroom. As a matter of fact, as the puppies get older, some of the classes are public outings. You can’t imagine what it looks like to see 30-60 service dogs in training at Chocolate World, or walking through the streets of Gettysburg, or even at the airport! These experiences set up real life situations for the dogs to practice everything they learned in the classroom and to gain skills and experiences necessary for a good service dog.

But we didn’t stop with the experiences provided by SSD. We had to get creative to think up situations and experiences for Hermione. She learned how to be gentle with older humans and tiny humans. She learned to quietly lay under a table at a restaurant on Thanksgiving. She visited schools with hundreds of students who wanted to pet her.

Every one of these experiences helped Hermione become the dog she is today. Each experience did not go perfectly but each was a chance for her and me to learn.

As I met people throughout the year and talked with them about the great work SSD does, so many people said, “I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t give the puppy up after raising them for over a year.” I felt from the very beginning that I would be so proud to raise a puppy that could positively impact someone’s life.

My resolve was solidified when I had the opportunity to visit team training. Team training is a two and a half week period where the service dogs begin to work with the person they were matched with. I sat with a young girl who was so excited to have a dog that was trained to crawl under her legs and stand up to raise her legs above her head if she fainted.

To see these dogs and people bonding and working together confirmed for me that raising a service dog would be a rewarding experience. And it has been!

P.S. I’m ready to raise another puppy!

If you would like to become a puppy raiser like Gail, you can apply online.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

An Inside Look at Puppy Sitting

Guest blog post by Meredith Heilner, volunteer with Susquehanna Service Dogs

You’ve heard of babysitting. But have you ever heard of puppy sitting? I never did, either, until a co-worker introduced me to Susquehanna Service Dogs. He told me that his family had just visited a place where they were able to hug puppies for an organization which trains and raises service dogs. My co-worker thought that this would be a good way for me to get my “puppy fix,” since I wasn’t ready to get another dog at that time. When he told me about puppy hugging, I said “Wow!” I didn’t know that an opportunity like this was available and I immediately checked Susquehanna Service Dogs’ website to find out where and when I could sign up to do puppy hugging.

I quickly found many more volunteer opportunities available to help this wonderful service dog program. After my first adventure in puppy hugging, I was hooked and knew I wanted to become more involved with Susquehanna Service Dogs.  

I wasn’t ready to raise a puppy just yet, so I decided to volunteer as a puppy sitter. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as it is the best of all worlds for me. Having the ability to sit many different dogs fits my schedule very well right now. It is wonderful to see their distinctive personalities and watch their skills develop as they grow.

As a sitter, I am able to attend puppy sitting classes, as well as take the dogs to their training classes and learn how to train them, using the positive reinforcement clicker technique employed by Susquehanna Service Dogs. This gives me a chance to practice my training skills, as well. Sitters may also participate in all other volunteer opportunities available, such as demonstrations, the two by two program where volunteers puppy sit two 8-week-old puppies overnight, and others.  There is also plenty of time for play. 

My first puppy to sit was SSD Slider (now discharged) and he was the perfect introduction to puppy sitting for me. This sweet boy has a delightful personality and will always hold a special place in my heart, since he was my first official assignment. Slider ultimately chose another career as a beloved family pet, but luckily I still get to visit with him on a regular basis

I have been fortunate to work with many wonderful pups who have become great service dogs, providing independence and assistance to those in need. Part of the education process in the world of service dogs is understanding that each dog ultimately chooses his own career. While some may not become service dogs, they may be suitable for other jobs, such as working in law enforcement or the CIA. They also may be happiest as a family pet. And that’s perfectly okay, too. 

I can’t imagine not being a volunteer with Susquehanna Service Dogs. The capabilities of these dogs to give people independence they may not have had otherwise is nothing short of awe-inspiring. After witnessing this for myself, I knew I wanted to become a part of it. To be able to contribute in some small way to the development of these amazing puppies is very gratifying.

If you have a love of dogs and are willing to devote some time and effort into learning how training, love, and patience can benefit those in need, I would strongly recommend that you check into puppy sitting and the other volunteer opportunities with Susquehanna Service Dogs. 

If you would like to become a puppy sitter or puppy raiser for Susquehanna Service Dogs, apply online today!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SSD Jitterbug's Adventures

Guest post by Sue Knode, puppy raiser

SSD Jitterbug is the seventh puppy I’ve raised for Susquehanna Service Dogs, and I think she’s the happiest puppy I’ve ever seen! Her name is SO appropriate. When her tail wags, her whole body wags! She turned 8 months in October and is a bundle of energy, cuteness, and love!

She did well at her recent evaluation. This semester in puppy class, we worked on solidifying and proofing the basics: sit, down, stay, recalls, loose leash walking, and retrieves. We also worked with the target stick and introduced the heel box. The target stick is a piece of blue tape stuck to the end of a stick. The dog is trained to touch their nose to (or target) the tape. The heel box is how SSD trains “heel.” The dog anchors their front paws on the box and move their hind legs around it.

Jitterbug’s biggest challenges have been “stay” and retrieves. She’s very good at sticking by my side, following me from room and walking close, even when we’re outside. Staying in one place while I walk away is a hard concept for this puppy. We’re working on building distance and performing with distractions. (In our house, that’s her furry buddies!)

Her favorite item to retrieve is a big old duck decoy. We’ve been working on retrieving other objects and making sure she consistently returns them to me.

Jitterbug accompanied us to Chincoteague, VA this summer on a trip in our motor home. This trip presented many new opportunities. We live in a rural area with very little traffic. The campground was busy and we had close neighbors, some with dogs. Jitterbug was shocked to learn that not every family has Labrador Retrievers!

The campground was a great place to practice loose leash walking and recalls. We found a wonderful dog-friendly beach where Jitterbug and our dog Barracks ran and swam until they were both played out. We visited restaurants, an outdoor café, and something that Jitterbug won’t experience in Pennsylvania—a crab processing shack! She remained calm and did some nice long down-stays.

She was surprised to encounter a horse-drawn carriage in Berlin, MD, and I was surprised at how quickly she recovered and gave me her full attention. And of course, when you’re traveling with a cute puppy, there are tons of opportunities to practice greetings!

During this past semester of puppy class, Jitterbug attended two outings. The first was to the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, PA. We gathered outside with many other SSD puppies and raisers and worked on good attention with power treats and frequent clicks. We spent about 45 minutes exploring the grounds and the various buildings. This outing presented lots of opportunities to walk on new surfaces and practice self-control around other dogs.

The second outing was the Ghosts of Gettysburg Tour. Again, we gathered outside with many other SSD puppies and raisers and working on good attention. Then we walked as a group on the tour. The biggest challenges were the other dogs, the smells, and the traffic.

The common thread for both outings was my music for the drive home—the rhythmic snoring of a very tired puppy!

Jitterbug has just started her journey to become a service dog. She’ll spend the next year with Sue, and then she’ll come to advanced training where she’ll be matched with a person and then trained specifically to assist them. You can help us fund these perfect matches on November 28 for #GivingTuesday. Our goal is to raise $7,500 in one day to fund the perfect match.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fund the Perfect Match This #GivingTuesday

There’s a big day coming up in just over one month! On November 28, we’re participating in #GivingTuesday.

If you’ve never heard of #GivingTuesday, it’s one big day of giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community! This year, we’re hoping to raise $7,500 to fund the perfect match between a person and their service dog.

With your help, we know we can reach that goal!

A perfectly matched service dog team works together seamlessly. The person and their service dog form a strong bond.

We put a lot of work into creating that perfect match. We want to make sure the dog fits into the person’s life and meets their needs. For example, if someone leads an active lifestyle, we want to make sure their service dog will be active and comfortable with continually changing environments.

We also look at the type of work a person needs to the dog to do so we can match them with a dog that enjoys those tasks. When a dog enjoys their work and their partner knows they enjoy it, the team can really bond and be successful.

You can read more about our matching process here.

Why is it so important to donate to Susquehanna Service Dogs this #GivingTuesday?

The perfect match can change a person’s life!

We’ve seen over and over how a service dog opens the door to opportunity. Someone who may have had to depend on other people can now enjoy their independence because they can rely on their service dog.

Nate and SSD Colorado have been a team for over a year, and not only does Colorado help Nate to be more self-sufficient, but he gives Nate’s mother peace of mind.

“As a mother, I’m now more comfortable leaving Nate home alone,” she says. “When Nate is invited out with friends, I don’t hesitate to let him go because he now has Colorado to rely on.”

We hope you’ll join us this #GivingTuesday and help us fund the perfect match to change lives!