Unleash the Spirit of Independence: A Capital Campaign

In May of 2014, Nancy Fierer, Susquehanna Service Dogs’ Founder and Volunteer Director, retired and moved with her husband, Robert, to Colorado. Prior to Nancy’s retirement, Keystone Human Services quickly moved to find a new home to ensure the future well-being and growth of The Susquehanna Service Dogs Program (SSD). Since its inception, Nancy had generously donated her time and considerable skills as Founding Director. The kennels and offices for SSD were also located at her home, with utilities being paid for by the Fierers as well. Keystone Human Services was forced to avert a crisis and committed to ensuring the success and longevity of this life-changing program. This required finding suitable land and developing plans for new facilities. With a goal of increasing the number of service dogs, facility dogs, and courthouse dogs placed each year, as well as expanding camping opportunities, initiating after-school activities for kids at risk, and providing training for families and their dogs, we searched for facilities that would allow for growth well into the future. We worked tirelessly to ensure a seamless transition, and were excited to have found an optimal location to meet the needs of the SSD program for decades to come. Our campaign, Together We Can Unleash the Spirit of Independence, reflects the difference our service dogs make every day in the lives of their human partners. Each dog provides support to offset his or her partner’s disability, while promoting greater participation in everyday life, in many cases reducing the need for the person to depend on public support. These amazing dogs also provide comfort and a bridge to friendship.

Additional information

Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) changes lives every day, assisting children and adults in the central Pennsylvania area, across the Commonwealth, and beyond. Each service dog placed assists a human partner to live a happier, healthier, and more independent life. These human partners experience a wide range of disabilities including: autism, mental illness, Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical disabilities, seizures, balance disorder, and more. • After more than 23 years of experience, SSD has placed approximately 300 dogs are currently following approximately 150 service dogs, supporting individuals and/or the entire group of persons in a facility, such as a specialized school or courthouse. • SSD is considered “one of the finest programs of its kind in the World” by Assistance Dogs International (ASI), our field’s most esteemed, worldwide accreditation organization. • SSD impacts approximately 5,000 persons each year through volunteer involvement, service dog partners, and facility placements in specialized schools, hospitals, courthouses, and other locations – as well as family relationships. • Generally, there are 10 breeding dogs and 20 demonstration dogs working as part of the SSD program team at any given time. • Over 300 demonstrations are given each year to raise awareness of the amazing abilities of service dogs and the difference they make in the lives of those with disabilities. • Approximately 80 - 100 puppies and dogs are in training at any one time, with over half of those becoming certified service dogs or facility dogs – far above the national placement average of 20-30%. The majority of the remaining dogs in training become members of the CIA, police departments, search or rescue squads, or SSD demonstration dogs. Few become family pets and companion dogs. • SSD has taken the lead in placing dogs in local courthouses. SSD’s courthouse initiative is the first such innovative program on the East Coast! • Yearly, over 360,000 volunteer hours are spent raising, training, demonstrating, and more to help the SSD program succeed! • SSD has volunteers throughout York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Cumberland, and Dauphin counties…and beyond! • SSD has placed service dogs in the York County Courthouse, the Lancaster County Courthouse, the Lebanon County Courthouse, and Dauphin County is on the waiting list! o These dogs are available for children during court cases involving abuse, neglect, and custody issues. Veterans Court also uses the dogs to aid the Veterans during stressful cases. • Susquehanna Service Dogs are placed throughout Pennsylvania, with the majority being placed in Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin, and Cumberland Counties – so many lives have been changed in Central PA! • Among those who receive a Susquehanna Service Dog are children living with autism, mental illness, or a disability. • SSD uses positive reinforcement to train each service dog – a difference that shows great success and carries over into the lives of our volunteers and their families! • SSD has a Summer Camp program for youth, where they spend each day working hands-on with a service dog in training, using the positive reinforcement training method that we use. Summer Dog camp is a unique opportunity for youth to learn a valuable skill that will ultimately assist people with disabilities. • Each dog is evaluated several times during his or her first year of life to help determine the Service Dog “job” that will be best suited. (Some are not able to continue in their Service Dog training due to body ____ or temperament.) • Once dogs are matched and placed with their human partner, they are evaluated yearly, and re-trained if necessary, to continue matching the changing needs of their partner. • Our volunteers are involved throughout all stages: “Mid-Woofers” (Whelping) who monitor the mother and puppies at their home for the first eight weeks of life, “Puppy Huggers” (socialization) at week seven, and “Puppy Raisers,” who are dedicated to training a specific puppy from eight weeks to 18 months. • There are about 75 - 85 people waiting for the independence that a Susquehanna Service Dog can provide…Please join us in giving life to the many who are desperate for independence!

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