Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why Raise an SSD Puppy?

“The best part about raising a dog with SSD is the moment they put that puppy in your arms for the first time,” says Meghan Miller. “It’s incredible to know this little pudge is going to do something amazing, even if you don’t know what it is.”

Meghan is one of our puppy raisers. She and her husband Kyle raised SSD London, who was just placed with his partner in October, and they are currently raising SSD Garnet and SSD Slider.

Garnet and London
Sharon Medford, another puppy raiser, received her first “little pudge” SSD Uncle Cameron just over nine months ago. “The best part about raising an SSD dog is watching them grow and learn, turning into an amazing dog that will change someone’s life,” she says.

We have 103 dogs being raised in our program right now, and we’re continuing to grow. That means that we’re going to need many more puppy raisers to train our puppies, love them, and give them the solid foundation of skills that they’ll need to be service dogs.

Our puppy raisers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have years of experience with dogs, others have never really been around them. They live in houses, apartments, and row homes in the city, in the country, and in suburban neighborhoods. They’re single individuals and families, some with kids and some with all kinds of pets.

The reasons people choose to become puppy raisers are just as varied. Shanne Keeny is a veteran and has many friends who are veterans. “I was fortunate that I didn’t get sent to serve on foreign soil,” she says, “but many of my friends did, so veterans with PTSD are close to my heart. I wanted to raise a puppy that might help a veteran someday (but of course, I will be happy if a puppy I raise helps someone else, as well).”

Shanne raised Lagoon, who was discharged, and is currently raising SSD Grantville, who is in advanced training.

Kelly Slabonik wanted to do something together with her daughter so she could learn the joys of giving back. She says, “At first I didn’t think I could give up the dog, so I started as a sitter. And then a trip to a Team Training and meeting and becoming friends with individuals with service dogs made the hard part of giving the dog up seem not so hard.” Kelly and her daughter Nikki soon became puppy raisers. Together, they have raised Taz, Rizzo, and Drizzle, who were all discharged, and SSD Nitro, who will be going to Team Training with his new partner in February.

Drizzle (yellow) and Nitro

Lisa Slater is one of our newer puppy raisers. She and her husband are raising 10-week-old SSD Hotchee. They decided to become puppy raisers when they were thinking about getting another dog. “I wanted to do something more meaningful than just getting a puppy for my own selfish reasons. While rolling through Facebook, I stumbled upon SSD and began researching. After sharing with my husband, his response was ‘sounds like a great fit for us.’ I know every day with every interaction I have with this pup that we are creating a solid foundation for the dog that will provide a service to someone with needs much greater than my own.”

However, giving up a puppy who is ready to move on to the next part of their journey is hard. In fact, one of the most frequent things our puppy raisers hear from people is “I would never be able to give up the dog.”

Becky Lamb, our puppy raiser coordinator, understands what our puppy raisers go through when they raise and give up their puppy. She began raising SSD Scotia in September 2010 as the best way to learn her new job. Scotia went on to become one of our breeders (she was recently retired), and Becky welcomed SSD Bridge (now in advanced training) and now SSD Jade into her home.

Becky often says to our volunteers, “If you have children, you don’t raise them with the intent to have them live at home forever. You want the best for your kids. You want them to go out there and change the world! It’s the same for the dogs. I want them to go out there and change the world for someone.”

Giving up SSD London was one of the most difficult things Meghan ever did. “But seeing him work with his new partner was the most rewarding moment I think I will ever have,” she says. “You have to keep in mind that this dog was never yours, not truly. They are always meant for a much larger purpose. It’s by no means easy. But the first time I saw our dog with his partner, the first and only thought that came into my mind was ‘worth it.’”

Our next Team Training, where people receive their new service dog and learn to work together as a team, is coming up on February 2-18. If all continues to go as planned, five dogs will be placed with their new partners.

“Nitro, my Pony Boyo, is working toward a February Team Training,” says Kelly. “And I can’t wait to see him go off with his partner to do great things! When one journey ends, a whole new journey is right around the corner. I think the new journey also helps make the journey that’s ending a little easier to handle. Becky always likes to call and say ‘I have a puppy for you!’”

It’s true that when one dog is finishing his journey with his puppy raiser, there are several new puppies who are just beginning. Around that same time that five dogs will be entering Team Training in February, 15 nine-week-old puppies will be just starting their journeys to become service dogs.

Wouldn’t you like to take home your own pudgy, wrinkly-faced puppy and help shape him or her into an amazing service dog who will change someone’s life?

If you would like to raise a future service dog, apply online today or call us at 717-599-5920 to learn more!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Dogs

The thermometer said 24 degrees this morning, but it felt like 7. Brrrrr! We don’t know about you, but we think SSD Breeze has the right idea. It’s time to curl up in a blanket next to the fire!

Our dogs are working dogs, though, and that means that they (and their handlers) will be spending some time outside when they go out in public. (And of course, all dogs naturally need to go outside a few times day.) Here are some tips so your dog stays safe this winter.

Wipe Your Dog’s Paws, Legs, and Stomach
When you come in from outside, it’s a good idea to wipe your dog’s paws, legs, and stomach to remove any salt or antifreeze that may have gotten on them. Both are poisonous to dogs. The chemicals in salt can also burn your dog’s paws or cause them to crack and bleed. You may want to avoid walking your dog through salt.

Keep Trips Outside Short for Puppies
Young puppies are more sensitive to the cold than older dogs. If you have a puppy, you may want to only take short trips outside.

Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone in the Car
If you can’t take your dog in with you, don’t put them in the car. Your vehicle can reach freezing temperatures very quickly. Even if all you’re going to do is run into the grocery store for a gallon of milk, you shouldn’t leave your dog alone in the car. You never know what’s going to happen once you’re inside the store. Any number of things could keep you inside longer than you expected.

Give Your Dog a Warm Place to Sleep
Just like SSD Breeze, give your dog a nice, warm place to sleep that’s away from drafts. Not all dogs like to be bundled up the way Breeze is, but most dogs like to have a warm, soft place to curl up.

Secure Your Dog’s Tags
Make sure your dog’s tags are secure. The snow can mask scents, and it’s very easy for dogs to lose their way and get lost.

Have Fun in the Snow
Just because it’s cold outside, though, doesn’t mean your dog can’t go outside and play! Our dogs love to romp around, catch snow balls, and bury their faces in the snow!

Do you have any other safety tips for cold weather? Leave them in the comments.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Five Tips for a Successful Farm Show Visit

It’s Farm Show time! The Pennsylvania Farm Show starts on Saturday, January 10. If you’re from Central PA, you’ve probably been counting down the days till you could get a milkshake from the PA Farm Show.

This is the largest indoor agricultural exhibit in the United States, and between the animals, produce, competitive exhibits, and vendors, and of course, the butter sculpture, there’s lots to see. And then there’s the food!

The Farm Show is a great experience for our service dogs in training. We usually take our advanced training dogs at least once. Because there are so many smells, crowds, and food on the floor, it’s a very challenging outing. Here are five tips to help you and your service dog in training have a successful trip.

Bring Amazing Power Treats
The Farm Show is chock full of things to distract your dog. You’re going to be competing with animals, food, and crowds of people for your dog’s attention. Make sure you pull out all the stops and bring amazing power treats. If your usual power treats are hotdogs, consider bringing something even better, like hamburger, chicken, or leftover steak. You want your dog to say “Wow, I want more of that!” so they stay focused on you instead of trying to vacuum the Food Court floor.

Plan a Short Visit
The Farm Show is a very challenging outing. While you might want to spend a few hours walking around to see everything, your dog may only be able to handle 30 minutes. Plan to keep your visit short and only stay as long as your dog is being successful.

Be Aware of the Other Animals’ Reactions
It’s a great experience for your dog to walk through the exhibits of horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens. However, these other animals might not be happy being around your dog. Please keep an eye on the other animals’ reactions to your dog, and if they seem distressed, remove your dog, even if your dog is being perfectly calm.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
The Farm Show is usually crowded, and many people will want to pet your dog. Don’t be afraid to say no if your dog can’t handle a greeting at that time or if you just want to keep your dog focused on you. Of course, the Farm Show is also a good opportunity to practice greetings if you think your dog will be successful.

Don’t Expect Perfection
We said it earlier, but we’ll say it again. The Farm Show is a hard outing. Your dog will not be perfect. Be patient and celebrate the small successes your dog has.

Do you have other tips for navigating the Farm Show with your service dog in training? Leave them in the comments.

Have fun and enjoy your Farm Show milkshake!

Monday, December 15, 2014

End of the Year Donations

Now is the time to make your end of the year donation! We would love for you to choose to support Susquehanna Service Dogs. Below is a list of ways you can support us this holiday season. Or you can simply make a donation to help our service dogs change lives.

Fill Rudy the Red Van

Help us fill "Rudy the Red Van" with items for our puppy raising program! You can find our full wish list here. The red van will be parked at the SSD Complex for the entire month of December. You can drop your items off at 1078 Gravel Hill Road, Grantville, PA 17028.

Sponsor a Team Training Kit

For a $200 donation, you can provide all of the items that are given to a partner when they complete Team Training with their new service dog. Items include a leash and collar, treat pouch, clicker, food bowl, nail clippers, shedding blade, and more. Donate now or call 717-599-5920.

Sponsor a Service Dog Harness
For a $100 donation, you can provide a harness for a service dog to wear in public with their partner. Donate now or call 717-599-5920.

Name a Puppy

Wondering what to get that person who has everything? Why not give them the right to name a future service dog puppy? for $1,500, you cna name a dog that will make all the difference in a person's life. Donate now or call 717-599-5920. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fill Rudy the Red Van!

These service “reindeer” are waiting for you to fill Rudy the Red Van!

For the entire month of December, this red van will be parked at the Susquehanna Service Dogs complex in Grantville, PA. We’re hoping to fill it full to bursting with items for our puppy raiser program.

Help us fill the red van so service “reindeer” like Nitro, Newman, Hank, and Bridge can fly off with their new partners and change lives.

We’re looking for a variety of items:
  • Gallon Ziploc bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • Large cotton balls
  • Clorox wipes
  • Clorox
  • Spic ‘N Span
  • Blue painters tape
  • Fleece blankets
  • Puppy leashes
  • 36-inch dog crates
  • Small puppy Nylabones
  • Large non-edible Nylabones
  • Soft training treats (Pupperoni)
  • Buster cubes
  • West Paw toys (large size)
  • Gift cards to Target or Pet Smart
You can drop items off at the SSD complex at 1078 Gravel Hill Road, Grantville, PA 17028.

Thank you from everyone at SSD and our service “reindeer!”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Living a Fuller Life with SSD Outback

Guest post by Roger Hostetter, a US Army Gulf War Veteran partnered with SSD Outback

First, I would like to thank Keystone Human Services and Susquehanna Service Dogs for this wonderful program.

I am a US Army Gulf War Veteran with PTSD and other medical issues from my service in the Gulf. I received an Honorable Discharge from the Army in 1991, and I spent the next 17 years going from one mental health doctor to another. I forget how many I actually saw before being able to have the ones that I currently have.

 In 2008, I saw a doctor who, within one appointment, diagnosed me with PTSD.  I believe it was two appointments after this that he told me he was leaving and had talked to the doctor that I currently see. I was afraid I would have to basically start all over again, but this doctor picked right up where the other one left off.

A few years after this, I heard about veterans receiving service dogs to help with PTSD. I spoke to my doctor about this and he said he felt it would be something good for me to look into, but that he couldn’t help much since the VA doesn’t help veterans receive a service dog.

So my search began. I found so many places out of state. After years of searching, I discovered Susquehanna Service Dogs.

Since they were a local organization I contacted them right away and asked if they have service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

I filled out an application and had the formal interview and was accepted as a client. I was told the wait for a service dog can be anywhere from 18 months to 2yrs. As time passed, I really didn’t think about it, but knew every day that did pass was a day closer to one day getting a dog.

I received an email in May regarding setting up an appointment to the “Meet the Dogs” session.  Through more emailing, an appointment was made. The day of the session, I had no idea what to expect. When I walked into the room, it looked like a military board-type set-up, a bunch of chairs on one side of a table with one chair on the other side.

They asked some questions before any dogs came out and more questions came after I interacted with each dog. I met and interacted with Outback, Kingston, London, and Slate. When I was asked at the end to rank the dogs from my favorite and working down, Outback was my favorite.  To me this was a very important step in the process and another step closer.    

After this, you wait for about a week to see if you were matched up with a dog or not. I received an email stating I was matched up with a dog and the team training class was going to be sometime in October. I believe this now was early June.

The next several months were slow since I now was waiting on the packet regarding the training class and the name of the dog that I was matched up with.

I think it was early September that I received the packet in the mail telling me that I was matched up with Outback and the dates of the class.

The month of September and those few days in October right before the first class date were very slow.

Next thing I knew though, it was the day training was to begin. Team training was awesome and the entire staff and volunteers really care about the clients and of course the dogs.

Outback’s first day at his new home was on Thursday, October 10. That late afternoon and evening was very rough for me. Hank, our little dog was barking just about nonstop. I didn’t know if the barking was aggressive barking or what it was. I tried a lot to get him to stop barking. Sometimes he would stop and shortly after, he would start right back up.

I was really frustrated and was almost to the point of calling Amanda [SSD’s training coordinator] and telling her that the next day, I would be returning Outback and dropping from the class. But I got myself calmed down and recorded 3 different barking sessions for either Amanda or Ryan [one of our dog trainers] to watch and help me.

The next day, which was Friday, Amanda watched the recording and told me that she sees Hank wants to play. There was no aggressive barking here at all. I’m happy to say that Outback and Hank are now best friends. They play a lot. Hank thinks he is as big as Outback.

Within a few days of Outback and me being around each other all the time, I could see a bond forming which has grown and continues to grow. I knew that he knew what he has to do for me and he just needed to get used to me instructing him on what to do.

I was nervous about our Public Access Test. In the back of my head though, I knew we would be okay since our practice test was good.

The morning of our Public Access Test, I kissed Outback and told him that today was a big step for us and that I would do the best that I can for us. He did great. I was told we both did great. After we passed, I gave him a kiss again and told him I love him and that we are a team now.

We have been out to a lot of different places, such as Walmart, the VA Medical Center, Kmart, Sears, some restaurants, and the gun show in Lebanon.

The gun show was something that I would have never gone to alone. I decided to try it out with Outback. He did great there. It was very packed. I had my focus on him the whole time that I really didn’t think about how packed it was. Outback and I even met Governor Corbett.

At restaurants, I still want to sit the way that I do—my back toward a wall or at least facing a majority of the people and including the door. But I have found that even with Outback in a down-stay as instructed, my focus is still on him throughout the entire time we are there.

There are still places that I will not go and I will not subject Outback to. I look out for him as he does for me.

Once again I want to thank everyone that made it possible for Outback and me to be a team, which has also made it possible for my life to be a little fuller.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lucky Dog Casino Night

Are you ready to get in on the action at Lucky Dog Casino Night? We’re so excited to invite you to Lucky Dog Casino Night on November 22 at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey! We had so much fun at last year’s event, and this year should be even better!

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a reception, dinner, and silent and live auctions. This year, we have some great silent auction items for you, donated by our supporters. We have items from Climbnasium, Naylor Wine Cellars, Dog Is Good, Hill’s Pet Nutritio, Bold Lead Designs, and Pizza Grill, among many others.

After dinner, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., you can play complimentary casino games! You’ll receive a free voucher for chips. Try your luck at the craps table, go for a royal flush at the poker tables, or beat the dealer at black jack. If you run out of chips but want to keep playing, we’ll give you another voucher. At the end of the night, we’ll have prizes for the people who win the most amount of “money.”

Service dogs and service dogs in training are welcome, of course, but we ask that you leave your pets at home.

Tickets are available online. We hope to see you there!

Event Details

November 22, 2014

6-11 p.m.

Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey
4650 Lindle Road
Harrisburg, PA 17111

$100 per person
$150 per patron (includes listing in program)

Business casual