Monday, April 8, 2019

Help a Dog Change a Life

We're so excited to share our new video with you! Please watch and see how a cute little puppy grows up to change someone's life!

But we're excited for more than just our video. Today, we launched our CrowdRise campaign to help raise funds for a new training complex so we can continue to train high quality assistance dogs. We need your help to make it a success!

Visit our CrowdRise campaign, donate, and share!

As Kira says in the video, assistance dogs are "living proof that a life has been changed."


Monday, April 1, 2019

This puppy has BIG plans!

This little puppy has BIG plans! We’re unveiling something big next week, and we’re going to need your help to make it a success. We’re as excited about it as this puppy running down the hill!

Get ready for the big reveal on April 8 because #DogsChangeLives!

We see how dogs change people’s lives every day. From the moment they’re born, our puppies start changing lives.

Our whelping families often tell us that even though it’s a lot of work to take care of tiny puppies for their first eight weeks, they always miss them when it’s time for the pups to move on to their raisers.

The puppies spend 15-18 months with their raisers, learning good house manners and over 20 cues, and practicing their skills in public  in places like stores, sporting events, movie theaters, schools, and more. With every step of their journey, they’re making an impact.

Puppy raiser Sandra Creason says, “Raising service dogs has become such a huge and important part of my life. I don’t remember what my life was like before I started this journey.”

Perhaps most significantly, these dogs change the lives of their partners. Bill Glaser is partnered with SSD Savannah, and their bond has changed Bill’s life. His wife, Ali, says, “He has hope, and her name is SSD Savannah!”

Has a dog or service dog made an impact in your life? Share your story in the comments!  

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bring Your Dog to PawsAbilities!

Who’s coming to PawsAbilities on Saturday?

We’re holding canine festival on March 30 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center. You and your dog can shop at all the vendors, run the lure course, try your luck at Paw Draw, and of course, play your favorite Dog Olympic Games!

Most of our Dog Olympic Games are based on the skills we teach our service dogs. But don’t worry! All dogs are welcome and able to play these games.

Some games will test your dog’s self-control, like Temptation Tower where you build a tower out of dog treats while your dog ignores it. Self-control is at the foundation of our service dog training. Our dogs have to ignore food and other enticing things in the environment.

Other games will test your dog’s ability to move around in space, like the fan favorite Doggy Limbo. What does the limbo have to do with service dog training? Our dogs need to be able to go under tables and benches, and curl up in small spaces like under the seat of an airplane. They may need to crawl under a chair to retrieve an item that rolled under there.

Some games will test your dog’s ability to listen to and perform cues promptly, like Musical Hoops, where your dog must sit with at least two paws in the hoop when the music ends. As working service dogs, our dogs must not only perform tasks promptly, but also enjoy their work. For example, if their partner drops something, the dog will need to pick it up every time.

Other games are just for fun, like the Clean Plate Club. What dog doesn’t want to eat dog biscuits, cheese, and hot dogs? The majority of the dogs we train are labs, and they’re incredibly food motivated. (That’s why self-control is also so important!) Biscuits and cheese? Yum! Hot dogs? Delicious! How about lettuce? Lemons? Play the game and find out what your dog will eat!

We hope you and your dog will join the fun at PawsAbilities! Tickets are available online. And parking is free!

You can find all the details at  

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.