In 2012, I was working for SSD and was staffing an informational table at a Harrisburg Senators game, where SSD Gideon was “throwing out” the first pitch of the game. A lovely family stopped by our table with their daughter, who was in a wheelchair, and we quickly began talking about whether a service dog would be a good fit for her. The more we talked, the more I knew a service dog would change this girl’s life. Unfortunately, just a day before, we had announced that we would temporarily stop adding new client names to our waiting list because it was getting so long. As I talked to her mother, one of the SSD dogs that had come with its handler to the game walked up and gently placed his head on her lap. It was immediately clear that there was a connection, and the way she lit up was amazing.
Fast forward nearly two years, and I am no longer with SSD but still believe in its mission and volunteer when I can. As I waited in line at the PawsAbilities snack bar this year, I noticed a girl in a wheelchair with a service dog walking closely beside her. She was accompanied by her mom, dad, and grandparents, and I recognized them right away. I couldn’t help myself and tapped the mom on the shoulder to ask if she remembered our conversation at the baseball game. Not only did she remember the conversation, but was so excited to see me and remembered my name. She profusely thanked me for all of the information and for introducing her to SSD. Turns out, the right dog had found its way to her daughter.
I learned that her daughter takes the dog everywhere, even to her school, every day. It’s made such a positive difference in her life. Before getting their dog, the entire family even became involved with SSD by puppy hugging and dog-sitting so they could learn everything they could about service dogs and clicker training.
Kelly Hitz is a former SSD employee who now volunteers on special projects. She currently works for the Commonwealth of PA and oversees the state's annual fundraising campaign. An avid animal lover, she lives with her husband, son, dog, two cats, and goldfish in the Harrisburg Area.