Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 Spirit of Volunteerism Award



Susquehanna Service Dogs would not be what it is without all of our dedicated volunteers. Our volunteers raise and sit our puppies, help train the dogs in advanced training, give demonstrations, make harnesses, maintain our kennel and property, help with team training and public access tests, and so much more.

This spirit of volunteerism started with our founder, Nancy Fierer, who served as our volunteer director for over 20 years. When Nancy retired, we couldn’t think of a better way to honor that legacy than by creating the Nancy and Robert Fierer Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

We’re pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the award is Dr. Nancy Dreschel, who runs our puppy raising program at Penn State University.

Below is the presentation given by Director Pam Foreman at our annual Graduation and Celebration.

From Pam Foreman:

When an organization like ours has so many talented people dedicated to supporting its mission, it is challenging to identify the most worthy recipient of an award like this.  There are so many people deserving of it and once again we had great nominations. 

We want to say a special thanks to the three people who reviewed the nominations and chose this year’s recipient.  I know they had a hard job. Thank you to Samantha Jacoby, Nick Liermann, and Darrin Silbaugh.

It gives me great pleasure to announce Dr. Nancy Dreschel as the recipient of the second Annual Nancy and Robert Fierer Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Dr. Dreschel – Nancy – is a Dr. of Veterinary Medicine and Professor of Animal Science at Penn State University.

She began her association with SSD several years ago and is the reason SSD is able to have a Campus Puppy Raising program at Penn State in State College, PA. Because of Nancy’s dedication and extraordinary hours of commitment to our program, we are able to have a strong base of interested, dedicated, and talented puppy raisers in that area. At any given time there are approximately 10 dogs being raised in State College. (Currently there are 11.) In fact, some of the puppies raised by that group of students are graduating tonight.

Nancy is the advisor for the Roar for More club, which is the club that was formulated to support SSD with raisers, education about service dogs, and fundraising efforts. Because of their presence and Nancy’s respected reputation, the club and SSD have become well-known in the area. This visibility has been instrumental for SSD regarding new raisers and fundraising efforts.

The first years of developing this puppy raising program program took quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears until it was structured in a way that worked for everyone – communication from a distance, necessary support for both Nancy and the raisers and club, vet care, and so on. Nancy’s willingness to hang in there during the challenging times as we muddled through the collaboration is one of the reasons the program is so successful and strong today.

In addition to teaching weekly classes, she oversees special outings and also continues to teach classes through the summer for the raisers that stay in the area. She is the first responder for raisers’ vet concerns and nurtured a lasting and beneficial relationship with a vet clinic in the area who have continued to provide great care for our dogs at a greatly reduced fee.

Nancy also mentors the student raisers and gives them guidance as problems and issues come up while raising – and that guidance and mentoring ends up being in a variety of areas. The students raising at Penn State often express the benefit they get from being part of the program – responsibility, thinking beyond themselves, learning about disabilities, socialization that requires a degree of maturity while having a dog in training, and the ability to educate others about service dogs, persons with disabilities, and about SSD specifically.

Nancy is also the reason that SSD is involved with Dr. Allen, the Director of Mental Health Services, Center for the Protection of Children, Penn State Children’s Hospital and the project and research that Dr. Allen is conducting regarding the benefit of having dogs in counseling sessions for children. Nancy became involved with that study to do her own research on stress levels and the welfare of dogs providing their service in that type of setting.  She remains an integral part in the study, and alongside SSD, has developed a great partnership in this very important research.

Overall, Nancy is the type of person anyone would want on their team. She is personable – everyone likes Dr. D. She is willing to work out the glitches of processes to make things better because she so deeply believes in the work. She provides an enormous amount of hours to SSD’s mission in addition to her already busy schedule as a professor. She is a great resource and mentor for all of SSD’s Roar for More raisers, as well as a tremendous ambassador for SSD in the State College area and beyond.

Nancy has become an essential part of SSD and is deserving of being acknowledged for that work through this Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Friday, February 9, 2018

From Puppy Hugging to Puppy Sitting


Guest blog post by Vanessa Sobotta, volunteer puppy sitter

My history of volunteering with Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) began about 5 years ago. I had watched a friend of mine, Jane Jackson, raise SSD Topaz from a puppy, and was very intrigued by the process. Our family Golden Retriever had passed a few years prior, and my kids were begging for another dog. While our schedule wasn’t necessarily conducive to adding another pet to the family, I knew SSD had several programs that my family could partake in. Among these was puppy hugging.



The first litter we puppy hugged was the Czech litter. From the moment we sat in the pen with puppies practically rolling over us, the entire family became hooked. Any puppy is a bundle of joy—multiple puppies, however, is pure heaven.

I was subsequently introduced to their puppy sitting program. As I began to learn more about it, I felt sure that it was something my family wanted to do. I registered to be a puppy sitter, and anxiously awaited our home visit to be cleared. In the meantime, I attended the necessary classes. These classes taught the basics of puppy handling (it’s not as easy as it looks) and clicker training, a necessary part of the puppy’s training process. Once the home visit was completed and we were cleared for the program, my family and I were ready to go.


Over the past 5 years, we have been lucky enough to have a dog stay with us over the Christmas holiday. Our first, SSD Meade, was so much fun. He really got us hooked on the program. Every time we welcome a pup into our home I am in awe of the amount of love and work the puppy raisers give to their dogs. When the dogs are staying with our family, we try to take them on typical outings to help increase their comfort level with a new daily routine. Examples of these outings include kids sporting events, grocery shopping, or to work with me. Depending on the dog, they sleep in either my son or daughter’s room.  





The most surprising part of working with so many dogs is how different each of their personalities are. Some love to cuddle, while some prefer to keep to themselves. Some are goofy and playful, while others are very eager to work. If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that no two dogs are ever the same.  



We have been lucky enough to watch over 30 SSD dogs in training, some of them more than once. It’s always wonderful to hear when they move up from their raisers into advanced training, or where they have been placed, whether it be with the CIA or with their partners.  

While our family has not decided to become full time puppy raisers, we love meeting the numerous dogs and volunteers that make SSD the outstanding program that it is.

If you’d like to join Susquehanna Service Dogs as a puppy sitter or puppy raiser, you can apply online.