Monday, September 28, 2009

Live on the Puppy Cam: The Crayon Litter!

Our Puppy Cam is now live! You can watch Shamrock, Slate, Denim, Sienna, Onyx, Lavender, Copper, Jade and Rusty as they play and sleep. Just visit our website: to view the Puppy Cam.

As the puppies make their debut on the Puppy Cam, they are also reaching a milestone in their development. Today, they ate puppy food for the first time!

Look for a post soon about the puppies' reactions to their first "real" meal.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You're Invited to Tails from the Bark Side!

You’re invited to Tails from the Bark Side, a Howl-o-ween costume dinner dance to benefit SSD’s Northeast Puppy Raising Program!

When: 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 10, 2009

Where: VFW Post #3448
B. Gregory Krummell Memorial
440 Sterling Road
Tobyhanna, PA

Tickets: $25 per person (must be purchased by Sept. 28)

Tails from the Bark Side includes a 50/50 raffle, Chinese auction, music, food and costume prizes! Entertainment will be provided by Long Time Comin’. Costumes are optional.

To purchase tickets, please email

Service dogs and any SSD dog are welcome!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Crayon Litter: The Early Days

As soon as we walk into the room, we can hear the soft squeaking noises of nine puppies. SSD Winter, the proud mom of the newest litter of Susquehanna Service Dogs, pads over to greet us, then flops down at our feet, the picture of a tired mom. Winter’s breeder caretaker family is tired, too – the puppies must be fed and cared for every four hours around the clock. And yet, even though everyone is ready for a nap, there’s a feeling of exhilaration. All because three feet away, in a box lined with a heating pad and plenty of towels and blankets, are nine little puppies, wriggling, sleeping and making those adorable little puppy noises.

Born September 3, 2009, the puppies will live with their breeder caretaker family until they are seven weeks old. Winter’s maternal instincts are not strong, and she doesn’t have enough milk to feed nine puppies, so we need to do many of the tasks she would normally do.

The mother usually licks her pups to stimulate their digestive system. To mimic Winter’s tongue, we use a cotton pad soaked in warm water to rub the puppies’ bellies. Because Winter does have some milk, we make sure that all the puppies have a turn at nursing, but we supplement them by bottle-feeding them puppy formula.

The breeder caretakers must stimulate and feed Shamrock, Slate, Denim, Rusty, Sienna, Lavender, Onyx, Copper and Jade every four hours – an exhausting, but rewarding process, especially when you can see the puppies doubling and tripling their birth weight! (By Day 9, the puppies had doubled their birth weight!)

In addition to caring for the puppies’ needs, we do Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) with them until they’re 18 days old. Developed by the US Military for their canine program, ENS became popularly known as the “Super Dog” program because if it’s done properly, it can greatly increase the dogs’ neurological capacities.

We perform five exercises in order once each day with each puppy:
1. Tickle between the puppy’s toes with a Q-tip. (3-5 seconds)
2. Hold the puppy straight up in the air so its head is vertically in line with its tail. (3-5 seconds)
3. Hold the puppy upside down so its head is vertically in line with its tail. (3-5 seconds)
4. Hold the puppy on its back. (3-5 seconds)
5. Place the puppy on a damp cloth that has been refrigerated for at least five minutes. (3-5 seconds)

Performing these exercises can kick the puppies’ neurological system into action earlier then it normally would. Studies have shown that dogs that have been exposed to ENS are more resistant to disease and have a greater tolerance for stress. In addition, dogs that have gone through ENS perform better in problem-solving situations and tend to be more active in exploring their environment. If you would like to learn more about ENS, read Dr. Carmen Battaglia’s article about it.

These capacities are especially important for service dogs. Service dogs will need to learn many new behaviors, sometimes even figuring out a new behavior on their own, and they will continually learn new skills as they adapt to their partners’ needs. They will need to generalize the behavior, performing it in many different environments that can often be stressful for the dog. The ability to stay calm and focused is necessary for service dogs to assist their partners.

ENS will give Shamrock, Slate, Denim, Rusty, Sienna, Lavender, Onyx, Copper and Jade an advantage as they grow and start to learn the skills they’ll need as service dogs.

We will continue to share updates on the puppies' progress. The puppies will be eating their first meal of real food (softened puppy food, or puppy gruel) within the next two weeks. Look for a post about their adventure with real food!

Also, we are going to have a Puppy Cam for the Crayon litter. It will be streaming live on Ustream and you'll also be able to watch it on our website. We'll have more information about the Puppy Cam soon!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sign up for OneCause and Support SSD!

We need your help!

OneCause, an online fundraising site that lets you raise money by shopping online, is holding a contest for its causes. The first 10 causes or schools to get 20 new supporters will receive $250 from OneCause. We're asking you sign up for OneCause at and choose Susquehanna Service Dogs as your cause.

It takes less than five minutes and costs you nothing. Please sign up and help us become one of the first 10 causes to get 20 new supporters!

OneCause is a great site. When you shop through OneCause, companies and merchants will donate to your chosen cause. It's a simple way to benefit SSD.

Thank you so much for signing up for OneCause ( and for your continued support!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Meet the Dogs: Making a Match

It’s the moment some people have been waiting for. They’ve been waiting for one, two, three or more years.

It’s the moment they get to meet the dog who may become their service dog.

Two weeks ago, six people who have been on our waiting list met several of the dogs currently in advanced training. At our Meet the Dogs sessions, individuals meet several dogs to find a good match for their needs and personality. We take matching people with the dogs very seriously. The dogs and their partners will be working together for the next 8-10 years, and we want to make sure they can not only work together but also form a lasting bond.

At our Meet the Dogs sessions, each person spends 1 ½ to 2 hours with us. During that time, we go over their application, asking lots of questions. We ask so many questions and ask for many details because once a person is matched with a dog, we will specially train that dog for their unique needs. In order to do that successfully, we need to know things such as which side the person prefers the dog to walk on, whether the dog will need to pull a wheelchair, what type of doors the dog may need to open, and what type of retrieves the dog may be doing, among many other things. Then, when we’re training the dogs, we try to recreate the environment in which the dog will usually be working. For example, one person requested that her dog be able to turn her touch lamp on and off. To make sure that the dog will be able to perform this behavior in the person’s home, we asked her to send us a picture of the lamp and the area around it, including the floor, table and ceiling, so we could recreate the scene as accurately as possible.

Once we learned as much as we could about the person’s specific needs, it was time to meet the dogs: SSD Barely There, Coriander, Gnat, Lil, Mite, Sonora, Midge and Pearl. Each person met several dogs out of this group. When we bring a dog out, we walk him over to the person and give them time to hang out and greet each other. Then we take the dog about 20 feet away, and the person must give the dog a series of cues, clicking and treating the dog when he performs them. First, the person calls the dog to “come,” then “come, sit” and finally “come, down.” The person and dog get more time to hang out together, and then they go for a short walk. Each person goes through this process with several dogs and ranks the dogs according to how much they liked them and how well they think they’ll be able to work with them.

We love the moments when the people actually meet the dogs! It’s a special time to see the reactions of both the people and the dogs. Barely There trotted right over and gave kisses. Gnat trotted over, gave kisses, and then promptly turned his back, asking for his butt to be scratched. Lil was a little lady, sitting or standing calmly while she was petted, while Sonora was a ball of energy prancing around the person for attention. Midge, affectionately known as “The Tongue” because she loves to give kisses, licked whatever part of the person she could reach. Each dog greeted each person in their own way, with their own distinct personality.

Not only does the person choose the dog, but the dog chooses the person. The same dog will react to different people in different ways. For example, SSD Lil, a beautiful black lab, went right over to one person and gave him her complete attention, moving closer to him as he petted her. When it was time for her to go back to her crate, she kept looking back at him as if she didn’t quite want to leave. With another person, however, Lil’s attention wandered. Instead of coming almost immediately when called, she trotted over to investigate an interesting smell by the wall before walking to the person, and she didn’t seem quite as eager to be petted. Just as each person has a distinctive personality and gets along better with some people, each dog has an individual personality that makes them better suited for certain people. Lil’s reaction to different people is just one example of a dog behaving differently with each person. The dogs began forming bonds with different people, and it’s this bond – with the person and the dog choosing each other – that we look and hope for. It is this bond that makes a good team and loving companions.

Besides the bond between person and dog, there are several factors that contribute to making a match. For example, if a person needs the dog to pull their wheelchair, we must make sure the dog’s bone and joint structure is sound so the dog is capable of safely pulling the wheelchair. Most important, however, is the person’s choice of which dog they prefer. Once we match people with the dogs, those dogs will be individually trained for their partner’s needs. The dogs that are matched from this Meet the Dogs will go through Team Training with their partners in February.

This is such an exciting time for SSD and for the people who may soon be matched with their service dog! We wish each person and the dogs good luck as they continue their journey to becoming partners and companions!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Welcoming Our New Puppies!

The next generation of SSD service dogs has been born! We welcome the Crayon litter: Shamrock, Slate, Denim, Rusty, Sienna, Lavender, Onyx, Copper and Jade.
SSD Winter, who was originally a puppy from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, had a caesarean section to give birth to these nine puppies. Because she was under anesthesia, human helpers did the tasks Winter normally would have done - freeing the puppies from the amniotic sac, squeezing fluid from the puppies' lungs, drying their fur and cutting the umbilical cords. The puppies' yelps as they took their first breaths were such beautiful sounds!

We did have one moment when we worried a puppy might not make it. One of the puppies had gotten stuck in the birth canal before we arrived at the vet. The puppy was very weak when it was finally born, but with the help of some CPR and an oxygen mask, it was soon wriggling to join its brothers and sisters! What a relief! The puppies waited in a warming box for Winter to wake up.

Once the anesthesia wore off, we bundled Winter and her pups in the van for the ride home. The puppies nursed in the van. On the ride home, Winter's mothering instincts kicked in and she tried to see to all her puppies' needs that she hadn't been able to do while she was under anesthesia. She even tried to chew off the puppies' umbilical cords - again!

Back home, mother and puppies settled into the whelping box.
Each puppy is named after a crayon color:

Shamrock - yellow male
Slate - black male
Denim - black male
Rusty - black male
Sienna - yellow female
Lavender - yellow female
Onyx - black female
Copper - yellow male
Jade - black female

Once the puppies are about four weeks old, you'll be able to visit them for puppy hugging. We'll give you more details about puppy hugging in a future post.

Congratulations, Winter, on a beautiful litter! Thank you to everyone who helped with the whelping, and a special thank you to Dr. Hahn at the Palmyra Animal Hospital! We couldn't have done it without you!