Guest post by Kera Daily, puppy sitter and volunteer
At Chocolatefest 2015, my daughter and I hugged an SSD puppy for the first time, having no idea how our lives would change because of that little fur ball. After learning more about the organization and the amazing ways service dogs help people, we decided to become puppy sitters. We enjoyed the sitter classes, which reduced our nervousness over caring for an SSD dog, and gave us hands-on experience working with the pups.
Our first puppy sitting gig was with SSD Sophia, an adorable Golden who recently turned one year old. She was so sweet and so well-behaved for 8 weeks old that we didn't want to give her back! Both my daughter and I cried the night before she left us, and I wondered how we could ever raise a dog knowing we would have to give her up. When I posed this question to my then 10-year-old daughter, she thought about it and responded, "It would be really sad to give the dog up, but knowing that it would be helping someone who can't do things on their own would make me happy." Wise words, but I suspect easier said than actually going through it.
While we won't personally experience an SSD dog go from an 8-week-old pup to advanced training to team training, as sitters we do get the opportunity to share our home with and get to know so many different SSD pups. And because we don't have the dog full time as a raiser, as sitters we get to be like grandparents and spoil the dog the length of their stay with us with activities like hiking, swimming, play dates with other SSD dogs, and all the kids in the neighborhood at our home excited to play with the pup. We still occasionally cry when it's time to return a pup to their raiser, but we are thankful to have had the opportunity to be a very small part of the dog's life.
One pup in particular I became quite attached to. He was the best hiking buddy, fairly calm for a one-year-old, and he felt like an old soul, if there is such a thing for a dog. He was discharged from the program, and I was thrilled with the chance to adopt him. Forest joined our family 6 months ago, and not a day goes by that he doesn't make me laugh. He is so good with the pups we continue to sit; letting them climb all over him, playing in the yard with them, and even pulling them closer to him when they sleep together. I sometimes joke that he's a service dog drop out, but in a way, he's still providing a service by helping to care for the SSD pups we sit.
Join Kera and Susquehanna Service Dogs for the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community on May 21 at HACC!
There are three ways to participate:
1 HACC Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Saturday, May 21
Registration starts at 7:45 a.m.
5K Walk starts at 9 a.m.
One-Mile Fun Walk starts at 9:15 a.m.