Guest post by Valerie Hodge-Williams
I am writing to celebrate Nancy Fierer and to congratulate her on her retirement.
I met Nancy at a time in my life when my world was being turned upside down, by one devastating onslaught after another. Even though we were erstwhile strangers, Nancy, supported by Robert, reached out to help my daughter Samantha and me as we grappled with our chaotic health problems and shattered lives. She supported and encouraged us, going the extra mile in several ways, to ensure Sam and I would become successful SSD partners and teams.
Nancy once told me that she started SSD because she became involved with dog training and realized there was an unmet need for service dogs in the Harrisburg area. She described herself as being at a point in her life (with the unfailing support of her husband Robert) where she ‘could give something back’ to the community… and so she did. She found others with a similar interest and together they started SSD.
As I write this, I think back to the way Nancy described her experience in those three short sentences. For her it was as simple as seeing a need and doing something about it (which she continued to do, day in and day out for the next twenty years) … because she "COULD." However, SSD would never have come into being the way Nancy describes it. It wasn’t because she COULD. Most of us are in that position, one way or another, yet nothing happens. SSD came about, not because Nancy COULD see the need and COULD do something about it, but because she WOULD. She took the first step and then the second and kept on doing that. She had the will and therefore, slowly found a way.
When all is said and done, the total impact of Nancy’s legacy at SSD can never be accurately assessed. Even now, its two-decade ripple-effect has a life of its own, changing and transforming lives as it touches them. For example, in our own small arena, my daughter and I have each been partnered in an SSD team for the past fourteen years. We each have successor dogs. I do not think we could have continued to live independently without the help of our dogs. Consequently, the lives of those who love us and would have to care for us are improved. We are often home-bound, yet I am amazed at how many people in our local town recognize us by our service dogs and can relate stories (often ones that I have forgotten) about watching each of us work as a team. Not only are our lives improved by the SSD dogs, but our working team always brings a smile to the faces of those surrounding us.
In conclusion, my loved ones and I have benefitted on a daily basis because of Nancy’s vision, personal effort and generosity in founding, supporting, and directing SSD for the past 20 years. She is a powerful example of someone who not only “COULD,” but “WOULD” improve thousands of lives through service. An example and a legacy indeed!
Nancy and Robert: With love and very best wishes to you both as you start your next adventure!
… And… once more with feeling…. Thank-you!
Valerie Hodge-Williams has been a partner of Susquehanna Service Dogs since 2000 when she was initially partnered with SSD Spirit. Following his retirement, she was partnered with her current successor dog, SSD Phoenix.