Friday, May 17, 2019

How SSD Nugget Changed a Life

“One of the ways Nugget has helped me in life is by giving me the ability to walk on my own to the pond near my house for the first time ever.”

That’s what Marissa Kitzinger says about her service dog, SSD Nugget. Nugget has been giving her the confidence to do things she never thought she could do before.

For years before getting Nugget, she dreamed of walking by herself to the local pond to go fishing. Three days after her service dog came home with her, she got herself and Nugget ready and went for a walk in the neighborhood, something she hadn’t done in the 15 years she had lived there. Since that day, they have gone on many walks and went fishing at the local pond.

Rosemary, Marissa’s mother, says, “Nugget has an effect on Marissa that is hard to explain but easy to see. She walks taller with confidence in public spaces, she is calmer in crowds, and she is more focused on Nugget and less distracted. I imagine they will have many new adventures and experiences together as Marissa continues her college journey and chooses her path in life.”

The world has opened for Marissa, with the help of the black lab by her side.

You can be part of stories like Marissa and SSD Nugget. Donate to help a dog change a life through our CrowdRise campaign. Every dollar you donate brings us closer to building a new training facility so we can continue training and placing dogs like Nugget.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

SSD Phelps Is My Lifeline to the World

Guest post by Lisa Edwards, partnered with SSD Phelps

This October, I successfully obtained a service dog through Susquehanna Service Dogs. His name is SSD Phelps. SSD Phelps is a gentle giant and he is attentive and supportive of my anxiety from PTSD due to my military service. As we embarked on our journey together, it was clear to the staff, volunteers, and other partners that Phelps was clearly allowing me to gain confidence. Without the support from his whelping family, puppy raisers Katie and Eddie, and with the army of support from staff, trainer, volunteers and everyone who make SSD the organization that it is, Phelps and I could not have made the strides that we have in changing my life. Phelps is my lifeline to the world and has opened doors that I would have never dreamed could be open again.

When Phelps was born his whelping family made sure that he got used to lots of different sounds and objects. She worked on socialization him with his siblings, essential training needed for newborn puppies. After 8 weeks, she successfully transitioned Phelps to his puppy raisers, Katie and Eddie, who were instrumental in preparing Phelps for a life of service. They helped him learn basic cues, and then things I need him to do for me. They orientated him to the public and other animals and prepared Phelps for advanced training. For 2 years, they went to puppy classes, progressing Phelps through the different stages of training until Phelps was ready for advanced training. At the SSD facility, Phelps stayed at the kennel Monday through Friday and went back to Katie and Eddie on the weekends where they continued to work with him.

Once Phelps entered advanced training, Kara (one of SSD's trainers) took over his training to do specific tasked that I needed him to do for me. She taught him lap, squish, go behind, find the phone, find me, and other tasks. Phelps knew the cues when we started team training. I believe it was easier to train Phelps than it was to train me. Kara could not do this alone. The other SSD staff made sure that Phelps was ready for training every day and after training, they took care of him in the evenings. They made sure he was fed, and had time just to be a dog by allowing him to play with the other dogs in the kennel with him.

None of this could not of happened  without the dedication of SSD staff, and countless volunteers who made sure that Phelps made all his veterinary appointments, transported him back and forth to different training sites around Harrisburg, and watched him when his raisers left town. The fundraisers that are set up throughout the year to support all the dogs in the program are critical, as well as educating the community about what a service dog is and where these dogs can go in public.

SSD Phelps has already made a difference in my life. He has become the lifeline to a world that had been closed off to me for many, many years. Phelps and I have been to state parks that I had not been to in many years. We have been to the movies, which I had not been to in 22 years. We have gone out to eat. We have gone to many stores in my area, and have many more adventures ahead of us. We even have some speaking engagements where I will educate people on service dogs, service dog etiquette, and explain what SSD does and what the process is for obtaining a service dog through them.

Phelps has given me a lifeline to the world! 

Help a dog help a veteran by donating to Susquehanna Service Dogs. SSD is in the middle of a capital campaign to build a new training facility to train and place life-changing service dogs. Your donation makes a difference and changes lives!