Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rock and Roll Stars Family Portraits

Soon the the Rock and Roll Stars will be live on the Puppy Cam, but until then, we have lots of photos to share with you.

Dylan, Zappa, Hendrix, Grace and Jagger were just born on Sunday, May 23. Even though their eyes and ears are still closed and they can't walk yet, they would love to get a birthday gift from you! Help them start their lives as service dogs-in-training!

Give the Rock and Roll Stars a birthday gift.

We hope you enjoy the photos!

Midge checks out the whelping box before giving birth.

Midge meets her first puppy, Dylan. She adjusted to motherhood very quickly. She's a natural!

Snuggle time!






The band of Rock and Roll Stars!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet the Rock and Roll Puppies!

Guest post by Cindi Lashinsky, our head trainer and a member of the whelping team that brought Midge's puppies into the world.

Susquehanna Service Dogs is proud to announce the arrival of five new puppies into the world! SSD Midge delivered four boys and one girl on Sunday, May 23, 2010 with the whelping team and Midge's puppy raiser in attendance. Despite this being Midge's first litter, she is a natural mom and needed minimal assistance with her puppies. She did a great job getting each puppy started and caring for them. In addition to being a natural mom, Midge also seems to be a natural whelper and delivered all five puppies in less than two and a half hours!

The whole adventure started for Midge months ago, when she flew out to sunny California to meet a handsome black Labrador Retriever named CCI Paxton III. Paxton is a stud dog with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and is one of their top producers of quality assistance dog puppies. Midge spent a few weeks in California under the watchful eye of CCI veterinarian Dr. Ruth Daniels, an expert in breeding, and then flew back to Pennsylvania where the waiting game began. Everyone wondered the same thing - Is Midge pregnant?

The answer was a joyful "Yes!" when Midge had her ultrasound on April 27. The vet suspected that there were six puppies; however, it's difficult to count puppies on ultrasound. Sometimes a puppy squirms into a new position and is counted twice, while other puppies hide beneath one another and aren't counted! Either way, we knew we had puppies on the way.

Midge became restless on Saturday, May 22 around 5 p.m. She paced and panted. Diane, Midge's breeder caretaker, called me for advice. It was a bit early for Midge's labor, so everyone agreed to keep a close eye and see how things progressed. That kind of restlessness can be the start of the first stage of labor for dogs, so the rest of the whelping team was put on alert that we might have some action in the next 24 hours. I headed over around 11 a.m. the next day, and Midge was still panting and pacing, having spent most of the night awake. She had really enjoyed all the pampering that went with being pregnant - especially all the extra food! - but didn't seem so sure about things anymore.

An entire nursery was prepared for Midge and her puppies in Diane's enclosed sunroom. The nursery contained a specially designed whelping box where Midge would have her puppies and raise them, and all the supplies needed, whether things went smoothly or emergency assistance was needed. It also contains a dog door, allowing Midge access to the outdoors. As the hours ticked by, she went out more and more often, pacing the yard and finally trying to get under the house! Dogs have a natural instinct to seek a den when it's time for puppies, so we closed the dog door, shepherded her inside, and called the rest of the whelping team, along with Midge's puppy raiser (who took wonderful photos and recorded all the details of the evening).

Midge took short naps for a few minutes as her body prepared and contractions soon began. At 5 p.m., when Midge was still on the couch (having convinced us that we had a bit of a wait ahead of us), a foot suddenly appeared! A yellow male named SSD's Bob Dylan (Dylan) was born quickly and smoothly at 5:04 p.m. Everyone shepherded Midge into the whelping box after realizing that the action was, indeed, afoot!

Wasting no time, Dylan was soon joined by another yellow brother, SSD's Frank Zappa (Zappa) at 5:20 p.m. These puppies were coming quickly, and SSD's Jimi Hendrix (Hendrix) joined the band at 5:38 p.m.

Dylan, Zappa and Hendrix got time to nurse as Midge finally was able to get some good sleep for about an hour. Each puppy was weighed and given a tiny collar so we could keep track of who's who. The puppies' fur is striped, almost like a chipmunk, with birth fluids when they're born, and we watched as each puppy started to dry, losing the stripes that they possess for a tiny fraction of their lives.

After her short break, Midge was back in action and delivered a little yellow girl, SSD's Grace Slick (Grace) at 6:26 p.m. Grace eagerly joined in the nursing, and the puppies were soon all either nursing or curled up asleep with Midge. Midge had a chance to go outside for a quick walk (followed by a helper with a towel - just in case!) and we gave her some water with a bit of goat's milk to help her stay hydrated. We also gave her NutriStat to replenish her energy. Another good nap followed, with the puppies alternating between dozing and nursing, never leaving mom's side.

Around 7:20 p.m., Midge woke up and began panting again with a few contractions. At 7:31, a black male named SSD's Mick Jagger (Jagger) entered the world, completing Midge's group of Rock and Roll Stars. Midge settled in for a nice sound sleep, and the whelping team sat back to watch and wait, sure that there were more puppies to come. As long as the dam is resting and not contracting, it's not unusual for her to go anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours between puppies. So far, these puppies had come amazingly close together, and we were all sure that it was time to wait now. At 10:30, we woke Midge to take her out for a walk, and we cleaned the whelping box. She was very anxious to return to her puppies, checking each one upon her return. Midge drank some more water with a bit of goat's milk and had a small dose of Oxytocin, which can stimulate contractions if there are any puppies. We watched and waited until midnight while Midge slept soundly, her puppies contentedly nursing and snuggling.

At midnight, convinced that there weren't any surprise puppies still waiting to be delivered, the whelping team left Midge and her breeder caretaker to their rest. The litter is located in the Linglestown area of Harrisburg, PA, and puppy huggers are invited to begin visiting the puppies on a limited basis after they are two weeks old. Once the puppies are four to five weeks old, more puppy huggers will be able to visit. (To let mom and puppies get off to a good start, puppy huggers will not be permitted prior to two weeks of age and will be limited until four to five weeks.) We will send further details when they are ready for visitors. Please note that regardless of the puppies' age, if you have a dog that is or has recently been ill, or have been around any ill dogs, please help us keep the puppies healthy by postponing your visit. There are plans to have the puppy cam again, and we'll send details once it's been set up!

Congratulations to Midge and Paxton III and happy birthday to Dylan, Zappa, Hendrix, Grace and Jagger!

If you're interested in raising one of these little pups, don't hesitate to call 717-599-5920 or visit SSD's website to learn more!

Dylan, yellow male, orange dots collar
Zappa, yellow male, burgundy collar
Hendrix, yellow male, lime green collar
Grace, yellow female, pink collar
Jagger, black male, yellow collar

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Join Us for the Walk!

Tomorrow is the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community! We'll be there with our dogs. Will you join us?

If you haven't registered for the Walk yet, don't worry! You can register at our booth on Saturday morning. We'd love to see you there!

Registration starts at 7:45 a.m. on City Island in Harrisburg, PA. The Walk starts at 9 a.m.

And don't forget to do a little fundraising! For every $50 you raise, you will get a raffle ticket. Highmark Blue Shield is raffling off some great prizes this year! Submit your tickets to be entered to win a prize such as a Kodak digital camera, digital photo frame, Tom Tom GSP system, digital camcorder, and more!

Stick around after the Walk and join us for lunch! We'll be having a picnic with lots of great food! We always have a lot of fun, and we hope you can make it!

If you can't make the Walk, you can still support SSD by making a donation.

Thank you for all of your support!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Less Than One Week To Go!

Although she doesn't look like she has changed very much when you look at her from above, you can certainly tell that puppies are on the way when Midge sits or lays down! She definitely has the "I swallowed a watermelon" look to her. Midge's puppy raisers visited her on Sunday, and they say that if you put your hand on her side when she's relaxed, you can feel the puppies.

Diane, Midge's breeder caretaker, and her family still take Midge on short walks, but these walks have become much slower.

We took the whelping supplies to Diane's house on Monday - whelping box, blankets and towels, medicine, syringes, gloves, a kit for taking care of the umbilical cords, warming box for the puppies, rick rack for puppy collars, puppy scale and boxes of toys. These supplies took up all of the space in the van!

We make sure to have the whelping supplies at the breeder caretaker's home at least a week before the puppies are due. That gives the mother plenty of time to get used to the whelping box, where she'll be delivering her puppies. Diane has set up the whelping box on her sun porch. It's a cozy, quiet room that stays at approximately 78 degrees - the perfect place to have puppies!

In addition to these whelping supplies, Diane has stocked up on trash bags, newspaper and ... vanilla ice cream! The ice cream is for Midge during labor. She'll need lots of calcium and glucose so she can keep up the hard work of giving birth to all those puppies!

Diane has started taking Midge's temperature four times a day. Her temperature will indicate when she's going to go into labor. A dog's temperature usually stays around 101-102 degrees. When Midge's drops below 99 degrees, we'll know that she'll go into labor within 12-24 hours. When Diane notices this temperature drop, she'll notify the other members of the whelping team - our head trainer and another volunteer.

Diane will also be watching Midge's behavior. If she starts panting, nesting or refusing food, she may be going into labor soon.

Because this is Midge's first time, Diane plans to take lots of notes so that the next litter may be more predictable.

Starting on Friday, Midge will have constant supervision as it gets closer to her due date. We'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Beginning of a Journey

Congratulations to all the new service dog teams!

On Friday, we held our annual Celebration and Graduation. This is the time when we recognize all of the new service dog teams. In a wonderful ceremony, each dog's puppy raisers officially presented the service dog to their partner.

As we honor each service dog team, we play a slide show of photos of each dog from the time when they were a puppy through their placement as a working service dog. From the time they are puppies, each dog is on a journey that will take them through many different experiences - puppy class; puppy outings to places like the casino, Chocolate World and the mall; advanced training; and finally, placement with their partner.

Joining their partner as a working service dog team is not the end of the journey. It is just the beginning. We created a video of the Susquehanna Service Dogs' journey. Although the video ends with Team Training, where partners learn to work with their new service dog, it is really just the beginning of a wonderful journey and a new life.

Watch the video of the Susquehanna Service Dogs' journey.

Congratulations to all of our new service dog teams! And thank you to all of our volunteers. Without you, we wouldn't be able to do what we do.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

Nubble is hard at work practicing his skills. Donna and Lindsey have started to focus on targeting with him. They put a piece of duct tape on the end of a stick, and Nubble is supposed to touch or target it with his nose. Well, Nubble gets very excited, so for a while he just wanted to maul the duct tape. Since he targets to Donna's hand very well, she started putting her hand behind the duct tape. What a difference! Nubble seemed to realize that targeting the duct tape was just like targeting a hand. He also does well when Donna puts the duct tape against the wall or couch.

Targeting is an important skill for the dogs to learn. We use targeting when we teach the dogs to do things like push buttons. For example, when we train the dogs to push the button to open an accessible door, we will put a piece of duct tape on the button.

Nubble is also making progress with go on through. Although he doesn't wait at doorways inside the house if the door is already open, he will wait patiently for the cue if Donna or Lindsey open a door. To help him be successful with go on through when they're going outside, Donna removed the cat food from the front porch. That will reduce the distractions for Nubble.

Managing the dog's environment is an important part of training. Distractions in the environment make it much more difficult for a dog to give behaviors successfully, and when the dog isn't successful, both the dog's and the handler's frustration level can increase. If there's something in the environment that is very distracting to a dog, it's perfectly okay to remove it. Here, Donna removed the cat food from the front porch, making it much easier for Nubble to focus and do the behavior correctly.

Stairs are still a challenge for Nubble, although there are some days when he does fairly well on them. Donna recently found a nice flight of stairs outdoors, and Nubble did well. By the end of the session, he wasn't bolting up or down them. He still doesn't want anything to do with Donna's basement steps. He won't even bolt up and down them. To try to make it easier for him, Donna and Lindsey tried putting treats on each step, but Nubble wouldn't do more than move his feet off the top step. It's definitely a challenge for him.

In our last post about Nubble, we mentioned that he now has a comfort trainer. Donna and Lindsey have progressed from simply clicking and treating him for just looking at it to actually having him wear it. They put it on him when he eats, to help him associate good things with the comfort trainer. He does well with it on while he's eating, but once he finishes, he paws at it. Right now, Donna is waiting until he stops pawing at it before she takes it off.

Nubble has started giving some behaviors automatically. When he and Donna go to the bank, he automatically goes under the desk while she fills out her deposit slip.

He's also getting much better with crowds and noises. When Donna and Lindsey go places with him, it takes him a few minutes to settle, but once he does, he's able to get down to work.

He does have his funny moments. Donna and Lindsey took him to a different pet food store this week. There were stairs leading down to the entrance, and he did pretty well with them. Inside the store was a life-size stuffed dog, and Nubble was convinced that it was a friend to play with. He kept barking and trying to get it to play with him, and he couldn't figure out why it wasn't responding. There was a real dog behind the counter who wanted to play, but Nubble wanted nothing to do with him. He just wanted that stuffed dog to play with him!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rock and Roll Star Puppies!

Midge thanks you for all the encouragement and well wishes you sent to her! She sends you lots of doggy kisses and tail wags. She is one very happy mother-to-be.

She has even more reason to be happy. Her puppies are going to be rock and roll stars!

All of our litters have a theme, and the puppies' names have something to do with that theme. Our most recent litter was the Crayon litter, with names like Shamrock, Lavender, Sienna, Onyx, Rusty, Denim and Slate. We've had Royal puppies named after Disney princes and princesses and Tree puppies named after, of course, trees.

It's a tradition in SSD that the breeder caretaker or the mother's puppy raisers choose the theme. Midge's puppy raisers have chosen, and the theme is...

...Rock and Roll Stars of the 60s and 70s!

Naming the Puppies

How would you like to help us name the puppies?

Before the puppies are born, the breeder caretaker or the puppy raisers compile a list of possible names for the puppies. Would you give Midge's puppy raisers a hand and suggest some names for her puppies?

This is not a contest. We're just looking for some suggestions. Midge's puppy raisers will use your suggestions when they choose the puppies' names.

All of the names must have something to do with the theme, Rock and Roll Stars of the 60s and 70s. You may suggest more than one name. Make sure you list both male and female names.

We'll announce the puppies' names when they are born. Midge is due to give birth between May 23 and 25.

Just leave your puppy names in the comments!

We can't wait to read your suggestions!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Two More Weeks Till Midge Is A Mom!

You can definitely tell that Midge is going to have puppies soon. She's at day 48 out of 63, and she's really starting to show. For dogs, most of the puppies' growth before they're born occurs between weeks six and eight - and Midge is right in the middle of the puppies' growth spurt.

Her breeder caretaker, Diane, has increased her food to 150% of her normal intake, and she has also added salmon oil. (Midge is eating for at least seven, after all!) Her food will remain at 150% until the puppies are born, and then it will be increased even more.

Midge will need calcium when she's delivering her puppies, but we don't feed our mothers-to-be any calcium supplements while the mother is pregnant. To keep her in peak condition, we will only give Midge additional calcium during labor and after the puppies are born.

Midge is still exercising every day. Diane takes her for walks, but they're much slower walks than they used to be. Diane and her family have other dogs, and Midge is not allowed to jump or rough house with them.

We have a special whelping box for the mothers to use when they give birth. Although Midge won't get her whelping box until next week, that hasn't stopped her from looking for a good place to nest! Right now, it looks like she has decided that the best nesting spots are Diane's daughter's bed or the large hold that she's digging in the backyard with the help of the family's beagle.

Watch for a special announcement tomorrow - we'll be releasing the theme of Midge's litter!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Don't Forget the Walk

In two weeks, our service dogs and service dogs-in-training will be walking in the Walk for a Healthy Community!

There's still time to sign up and join us. Just visit to register and start raising money for the service dogs!

All of the money raised goes directly to Susquehanna Service Dogs. So far, we've raised over $2,000! We still have far to go before we reach our goal. Will you help us?

We want to raise $20,000 - the cost to raise and train one service dog - a service dog that will change a life.

If you can't join us for the Walk, would you consider making a donation to help train a service dog?

Thank you for all of your support! We'll see you at the Walk!

Walk for a Healthy Community
Saturday, May 22
City Island in Harrisburg, PA
Registration begins at 7:45 a.m.
5k Walk begins at 9 a.m.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Are there more puppies in our future?

Will it be puppy time again in a few months? We hope so!

SSD Pearl was bred to SSD Fire for the first time yesterday. What a gorgeous day to make puppies! They were able to spend time together out in the sunshine in a small, enclosed portion of the SSD field.

They will be bred again on Friday and Sunday.

Pearl is the beautiful pale yellow lab smiling in the sunshine, and Fire is the big, handsome dark yellow lab.

Send good thoughts Pearl's way!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Onyx at the Winery

Onyx visited a winery. No, she wasn't allowed to taste any of the wines.

When Mark and Carol first took her into the winery, she wanted to sniff everything. Right now, when Onyx goes to a new place, it takes her a few minutes to get acclimated. Carol was able to get her focused, though, and they headed toward the wine tasting area.

One side of the wine tasting are was close to a wall, so Mark and Carol were able to remove Onyx from many of the distractions. This is a great example of setting the dog up for success. By removing Onyx from distractions, she was better able to focus and perform the behaviors Mark and Carol asked for.

At first, Onyx seemed like she wanted to taste the wine! She kept putting her paws up on the table. But her puppy raisers soon got her settled on the floor, and she relaxed.

A successful, positive experience for both Onyx and her puppy raisers!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nubble: Still Growing and Learning

Nubble is growing in leaps and bounds! He weighs 60 pounds already, and he's starting to get taller, too! He even needed a new SSD harness because his old one no longer fit around his ribcage. Nubble is now much bigger than Gizzy, his puppy raisers' dog, but he still listens when she lets him know that he's playing too roughly. And if he doesn't listen, she goes into her crate and pulls the door closed with her paw!

Of course, since Nubble is getting bigger, he's also getting stronger - and he loves to bolt to the end of his leash. He has been doing much better with loose leash walking and not bolting, but when he does decide to bolt, he can pull Donna and Lindsey off balance or even pull them over. To help prevent him from pulling, we gave Donna a comfort trainer, which is a head halter. The leash attaches to the halter below the dog's head, and if the dog pulls, he will pull his head down. Although some people mistake comfort trainers with muzzles, they are NOT muzzles. The comfort trainer is comfortable for the dog to wear, and the dog can still eat, drink, pant, bark, yawn, etc. The comfort trainer is a training tool to train the dog not to pull, and it's part of our positive training techniques. We never pull on our end of the leash when the dog is wearing the comfort trainer. We use communication, giving the dog cues and using the clicker and treats. To get Nubble used to the comfort trainer, Donna is using classic conditioning. First, he gets clicked and treated for simply looking at it. Eventually, they'll work up to him actually wearing it. We'll keep you posted on his progress with the comfort trainer.

Nubble loves to skip! Well, he loves when Donna or Lindsey skips while he's on leash. It's a great new movement for him to get used to. As a service dog-in-training, he needs to get used to all sorts of movements. His future partner may move in different ways, and he will need to stay calm and continue to assist his partner.

Donna has been working with Nubble on not jumping on people, and he has gotten much better! When someone comes to visit, he sometimes starts to do little hops of excitement, but he doesn't actually jump. To help train him to keep all four paws on the floor, Donna asked her brothers to completely ignore him if he starts to jump on them when they come to visit. If he keeps all four paws on the floor, he gets lots of praise and attention. This method has been working! "It's so much easier to teach," says Donna, "when everyone is on board about ignoring him."

Heel is coming along quite nicely as well. He now knows both the hand signal and the verbal cue. Sometimes Nubble gets so excited that he hops and scoots into heel. Donna and Lindsey are still working on place (similar to heel, only on the right side). So far, Nubble is off the purple training box and is now working on the hand signal.

He loves to retrieve...when he wants to. Sometimes he just ignores his puppy raisers when they try to practice retrieves with him. Donna is working on figuring out why he does this. Other times, though, he loves it and does a fantastic job! He now sits and waits for Donna and Lindsey to throw the bumper. They started putting him in a sit first because he would get so excited that he would try to jump for the bumper while it was still in their hand.

Nubble went on a puppy outing with the other dogs-in-training in the Northeast Division. They went to the roller rink! In our next post about Nubble, we'll tell you all about his adventures with roller skates.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Meet Midge's Midwoof!

SSD Midge has an important job. She had to take care of her puppies both before and after they are born. But she isn't the only one with an important job.

The breeder caretaker plays an important role in the mother and puppies' lives.

During her pregnancy, Midge is staying with a breeder caretaker, who will care for her during her pregnancy and help take care of the puppies and Midge for seven weeks after the birth.

Midge joined her breeder caretaker, Diane and her family, in April after she was bred. She fit right into Diane's household, easily adjusting to living with Diane and her husband, two young adults, one teenager, and several animals. Her puppy raisers did a wonderful job socializing her and getting her used to all sorts of different environments and experiences. She adjusts so well!

Diane and her family have been involved with SSD for about five years. They joined our family when her daughter because a puppy raiser for SSD November as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. November is now a demo/interview/therapy dog and still lives with Diane and her family. They are also puppy sitters for us, and they volunteer at PawsAbilities and our other events.

But how did they go from puppy raisers to breeder caretakers, or "midwoofs"?

SSD November became a mom.

When our dogs become breeding dogs, many times they stay with their puppy raisers, who then become breeder caretakers. (Although sometimes, like with Midge, the mother-to-be will go to live with a separate breeder caretaker family.) After November had a litter, we asked Diane to attend a weekend conference to learn more about being a midwoof, and since then, she has become a skilled breeder caretaker. Midge's litter will be Diane's tenth delivery! She's always learning because each delivery is a little different.

We like to give our volunteers as many resources to draw on as possible, and we have a breeder caretaker manual for Diane to follow. The manual lets her and her family know what to expect as Midge nears her due date, and includes guidelines for what to do after the puppies are born. When Midge is ready to give birth, Diane will call us, and the whelping team - our head trainer, another volunteer, and of course, Diane - will be at Diane's house. They will work closely with the vet to make sure that Midge has the most natural and safest delivery possible.

Right now, Midge is approximately 42 days into her pregnancy, and she is just beginning to show. (For dogs, the gestation period usually lasts about 63 days.) Diane and her family don't have a whole lot to do at this point in Midge's pregnancy. They have increased her food by 25% - which Midge loves! They are also continuing to make sure Midge gets enough exercise. These past few weeks, Diane has taken her for 30-35 minutes walks in the morning. However, now that Midge is starting to show and the humidity is increasing, Diane has decreased those walks to two shorter 20 minutes walks in the early morning and late evening. She and her family have also opened their pool early so Midge can swim. She loves that! And since the weather has been so hot and humid lately, they have turned on the air conditioning to keep Midge cool.

As the writer Corey Ford said, "Properly trained, a man can be a dog's best friend," and Midge has trained Diane and her family well! They are doing everything they can to take good care of her.