Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Night for the Dogs: Black Tie & Tails

Dogs strutted around the ballroom in their finest evening wear. They held their heads high, as if they knew they were the guests of honor.

Our 6th annual Black Tie & Tails was a fun and charming evening for both our human and canine guests.

The women dressed in elegant gowns and dresses and the men wore their best suits or tuxedos. One gentleman even wore a full kilt. The dogs also dressed for the occasion, in bowtie collars, satiny and glittery skirts – even a red feather boa. The gala began with the reception, where guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, had their photos taken and had their caricatures drawn by Neil McMillin to commemorate the occasion.

Guests mingled, meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. Dogs’ tails wagged and they sniffed each other, getting acquainted. Some of these dogs have come to Black Tie & Tails for several years, and we love seeing our old friends again. One owner commented that her dog gets really excited for Black Tie & Tails, and with good reason. These dogs are guests of honor.

At the beginning of the night, each dog was formally announced by Flora Posteraro of ABC27, our mistress of ceremonies. The dogs pranced across the dance floor as their names were announced, showing off their evening wear and perfect grooming. There were black, yellow and chocolate labs, a golden retriever, a corgi, St. Bernards, a Great Dane, and many others.

During dinner, each dog relaxed at their owners’ feet and enjoyed a delicious doggie dinner provided by Doggy Delights. The dogs loved their dessert – Frozen Woofys! Watch a video of SSD Rossi enjoying her Banana Rama Ding Dog Frozen Woofy. Rossi is a demo/interview/therapy dog for SSD.

Linden seemed to enjoy being in the limelight while she ate her dessert:

Our human guests enjoyed a delicious dinner, silent auction, live auction and live jazz music provided by Andrew Bellanca and friends. Items auctioned at the live auction included vacations in Annapolis, Florida, and Loon Lake; a cocktail party; and the rare opportunity to name an SSD puppy.

Black Tie & Tails benefits SSD, and we would like to thank all of our guests and sponsors for attending and supporting us, as well as the Sheraton Harrisburg-Hershey Hotel for providing such a lovely venue. It is with your support that we are able to provide service dogs to assist people to become more independent. With your support, we are able to change lives.

We hope you had a lovely evening with your canine companion. We know we enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dressed for Success

Susquehanna Service Dogs Rusty, Shamrock, Lavender, Onyx, Copper, Slate, Jade, Denim and Sienna are dressed for success! Those purple things they’re wearing are puppy-sized harnesses.

All of our service dogs wear harnesses to show that they are a service dog or service dog-in-training. (For SSD, a purple harness means the dog is still in training. A green harness means the dog is a working service dog that has been placed with a partner.) However, having the puppies start wearing them this young is something new for us. If you watched the Hill Top Litter last November, you probably noticed that the puppies did not wear harnesses. With the Crayon Litter, we decided to get the puppies used to their harnesses early. By the time these puppies are grown, they’ll have changed harnesses five times!

We have a very specific reason for dressing the puppies in their harnesses so early. Their mom, SSD Winter, is very sensitive to her harness. If possible, she prefers not to wear it. Harness sensitivity is a trait that the puppies can inherit. We’ve seen it in puppies as young as eight weeks old.

What’s so bad about a dog that’s sensitive to his harness? Nothing is “bad,” really. It does limit the dog’s placement options, though. A dog with harness sensitivity will not be able to be a balance dog because balance dogs wear a special harness that partners hold on to. Also, since the dogs don’t necessarily need to wear their harnesses while they’re at home, partners may need to dress the dog when they go out in public. A dog with harness sensitivity would not be able to be placed with an individual who uses a wheelchair, especially if that person is going to be dressing the dog. It wouldn’t take the dog long to figure out that if he doesn’t want to wear his harness, he just needs to stay out of arm’s reach. A service dog would not be doing his job of assisting his partner to be more independent if that partner has to have someone else put the harness on the dog.

Additionally, dogs that do not like their harness are a little more challenging to train. For example, if a dog doesn’t like his harness, he will tend to do a “sphinx” down rather than a relaxed down, meaning he may hover or not roll onto his hip. Additionally, dogs with harness sensitivity may not like to walk on strange surfaces. Both the relaxed down and walking on strange surfaces are important skills for service dogs.

By having the puppies wear their harnesses at such an early age, we’re hoping they do not develop harness sensitivity. So far, things are looking good!

Here's a video from a few weeks ago of the puppies playing in their harnesses: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2308177

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Puppies Say "Yum!" to Puppy Food!

It didn't take the puppies long to figure out that the mush in front of them was food. Soon after we plunked them down in front of a plate of softened puppy food, they dug right in, eating like champs.

A little over a week ago, the puppies ate their first meal of "real" food, beginning the process of weaning. We soaked puppy food in water to soften it into a gruel, then served it to the puppies. Because this was the first time they were eating real food, we fed one puppy first. Shamrock was the lucky first puppy to eat his meal. At first, he wasn't entirely sure what to make of the new food, and he licked the edges of the plate. But once his caretaker scooped a little food on her finger and let him lick it off, Shamrock got the idea and dug in.

After that, we fed three puppies at a time so we could watch them and more easily monitor how much they were eating. Until they got the hang of eating, we actually stuck their front paws in their food, which seemed to help them realize that there was tasty food in front of them. Watch a video of Jade, Denim and Copper chowing down:

The puppies even licked up the food that fell off the plates onto the blanket!

We feed the puppies a lamb-based puppy food, recommended by the vet because it will help avoid allergies later. The puppy food must also contain DHA, which is important for brain and eye development and can help them learn more quickly and enhance their memory. While SSD Winter was pregnant and later while she was nursing, she ate puppy food so the puppies would receive the nutrients through their mom.

All of our food comes from Abrams & Weakley.

You can help us feed the puppies! As these puppies grow, they go through a lot of food. We provide food for our dogs while they're young puppies and while they're in the kennel. When they join their puppy raiser families, they go with a five pound bag of food. We also take care of any special veterinary diets. Additionally, when we place the dogs with their partners, we give the partners a 40 pound bag of food.

Donate to feed a puppy!

We hope you enjoy the videos and the puppy cam! We know we love watching them!