Hello everyone, I am Nicole Slabonik and I have been a puppy raiser for Susquehanna Service Dogs for about five years now. I started raising service dogs when I was 10, but a few months before that my mom and I did puppy sitting for raisers.
SSD is one of the most amazing programs to be a part of. Many times you might hear some of us say we are a big family. Since my mom and I started in 2010, we have raised 5 dogs. We have had Discharged SSD Tanzanite, Discharged SSD Rizzo the Rat, SSD Nitrogen, Discharged SSD Drizzle, and currently we are raising SSD Elwood.
I usually get asked in public why I raise these dogs or how am I able to give a dog up after having them for about two years. Since I’ve been with SSD for 5 years now, the questions are easier to answer. I raise service dogs because of the partners and the puppy raisers I get to meet along the way. Before my mom and I started raising service dogs for SSD, we helped out with team training. We were hesitant about becoming puppy raisers, but after we spent our time volunteering, there was no more hesitation about whether we wanted to become raisers. Being able to spend a week watching partners interact with their service dogs and work together was so amazing to experience. We were certain we could give these dogs up because we knew these service dogs would help someone in need.
On May 16, we’re going to participate in an event called the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community to help support and raise money for SSD. My mom and I walk to help create a better life for the adults and children with disabilities. I also walk to help support my family members with disabilities like my cousin who has autism and is partially deaf in one ear, or my cousin who has Down syndrome, and also my grandmother who passed away with multiple sclerosis and made her way around in a wheelchair. SSD raises, trains, and places these service dogs to help children and adults who have physical disabilities, mental illness, autism, hearing loss, and we also help military veterans. Training one of these dogs takes about two years to fully train, and they are all trained specifically for their partners needs throughout advanced training. Some people never really realize this until they see a team in action, but these dogs are truly amazing and can completely change someone’s life in the blink of an eye.
Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community
Saturday, May 16
On-site registration starts at 7:45 a.m.
5K Walk begins at 9 a.m.
One-Mile Fun Walk begins at 9:15 a.m.
Harrisburg Area Community College
1 HACC Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17110