Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Natalie's very special birthday dinner

I've been trying to think of something meaningful to do for Natalie's 2nd birthday (and last with me) for a while now. Finally, I realized the answer was right in front of me the whole time- Natalie herself! So, I decided I wanted to figure out a way to celebrate Nattie's successful journey to becoming a service dog, her birthday, AND her new partnership all together.

The answer was Isaac's. Isaac's allows you to host "community nights" where 25% of supporters' food and drink bills go to your cause. The total cost to raise and train service dogs from puppies to adults is $20,000. Through SSD's personal grants and fundraising, this is reduced to about $5,000 per partner. That's still a pretty hefty price, though well worth it, therefore I decided to raise the money at Isaac's for Natalie's new family. It may not end up being much, but I hope it helps some.

Below are the emails between me and the coordinator of the community nights at Isaac's. I'm very excited to get this all set up!


Hi Debra,

I'm hoping to be able to team up with Isaac's in order to fundraise for a cause that's very dear to me. I am a volunteer Puppy Raiser for Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), located in Harrisburg, PA. For the past year and a half I have been raising SSD Natalie for them. Natalie has been a special part of my life. I brought her home at 8 weeks old, when "home" at the time was an apartment off-campus at Penn State, University Park. Natalie grew up as a true Penn Stater; she accompanied me to classes, visited friends' dorms, rode the jam-packed campus buses, showed her Penn State pride on football weekends by donning a jersey, and even walked in my graduation with me. She was well-received by faculty and students alike as a much-needed doggie stress reliever and a welcomed break from the almost dog-less campus. In July, Natalie entered Advanced Training at SSD, meaning she went on to the SSD kennel to learn the tasks she would need to know in order to help her future partner. Natalie comes home to stay with me each weekend, part of SSD's kennel stress-relieving program, and though I've missed having her by my side all the time, I've known for a while now that she is ready to become a full-fledged Service Dog for someone in need. Happily, a few weeks ago Natalie was matched with a little boy who has Autism. As his certified Service Dog, she will accompany and support him through his life. In February, Natalie and her boy will go through "Team Training," a rigorous two-week training period that readies both the human and dog partners for their future working life together. I know this is the perfect match for Natalie as she has always loved children and will be ecstatic to have her "very own" little boy.

Natalie turns two on December 1st and in thinking of a special way to celebrate her birthday, I thought of what I could do for her new family. The total cost of raising and training a puppy to become a Service Dog is $20,000. Through SSD's personal fundraising and grants, the price is reduced to about $5,000 per client. Although this reduction is significant, the cost is still a lot for many families. I would like to host a night at Isaac's in honor of Natalie's birthday, her successful journey to becoming a Service Dog, and her little boy in which the money raised will go to the boy's family to help with the cost they will have to pay for her. I would like to do it on or near December 1st and at a location in the Harrisburg area. If possible, I was thinking of potentially hosting another night at your West Chester (where I'm from) location so that friends and family in that area could attend as well.

Please let me know if any of this is possible and if you have any questions for me. Feel free to check out SSD's website at for more information on them. I've attached a couple pictures of Natalie as well. :)

Thank you,
Alicia Gautille

Hi Alicia,

Thank you for your email. I have organized thousands (literally) of fundraisers and your email brought tears to my ears! We would be delighted to partner with you and what a wonderful way to celebrate Natalie’s birthday and new life.

In a nutshell, here is how our fun and easy Community Night fundraiser works:

1. Isaac's donates 25% of food and beverage sales, from 5:00 p.m. through 9:00 p.m., on a Sunday through Thursday night, at the one Isaac's restaurant of your choice. (Our Granite Run, West York, Lionville, and Lemoyne Isaac’s do not do fundraisers on Mondays.) We send the check to your charitable organization within 2-3 weeks of your fundraiser.

2. Each participant hands in a flyer that indicates to our server they are part of your fundraiser. (I am attaching a sample flyer. You can revise this one or make up a new one...either way, I need to approve it before distribution.)

3. You do not receive credit from our regular diners (customers dining without your flyer) and you may not hand out your flyer in our parking lot or in our restaurant to customers not associated with your fundraiser.

4. Please follow this link to our fundraising calendar to pick your date and restaurant: and then let me know.

5. The more participants you bring into our restaurant, the bigger our 25% donation is to you. YOU are responsible for promoting this event (posters, flyers, emails, contacting local news media, if desired, etc. etc.)....we do not do it for you. So, the harder you work, the more money you will make. How much you make is really up to you!

This entire fundraiser is really quite simple and lots of fun for your organization...and everyone needs to eat! I look forward to your reply and the privilege of working with your organization.


Debra M.
Community Care Coordinator
Isaac's Restaurant & Deli

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, October 23, 2009

Praise from her sitters

Service Dogs don't only need to learn how to work for their partner, they also need to learn how to relax and be as well-behaved at home as they are in public. For this reason, the trainers at SSD like to send the dogs in-training to a different sitter other than the dog's regular one (usually its Puppy Raiser) for 2 weekends in a row. This allows them to see how the dog behaves around someone it doesn't know. Does the dog still have good house manners and will it respond to someone it hasn't previously trained with? These are things they like to find out before the dog is placed with its partner.

Recently Natalie went to a family for two weekends in a row, who happen to own her uncle discharged SSD Steele. I was fortunate enough to receive from them the report they handed in to SSD after the two weekends were up. The following is that report and it sounds like Natalie had a great time! :)


Natalie is a delight. She is well behaved, attentive and very affectionate. She loves (needs) to be with you, touching you, on your lap, pasted up against you at night,etc. She is a cuddler at night in bed.

She did very well at work. She never barked, would lay down at my feet if I stopped to talk to someone and spent the day in my office chewing on bones or resting on the big dog bed.

She left us know when she needed to go out. We could leave her alone in the house without being crated and she didn’t get into anything.

She immediately bonded with Steel and us and showed no signs of stress even that first weekend we had her. No panting, excessive drinking, whining, chewing, loose bowels, nothing.

She is very playful and likes to chase balls. She loved the dog park (we went 3 times) and got along with everyone.

She did not chase our cat or eat cat poop.

She loves to train and learns fast. I was working with Steel on the Easy button and unless someone else has done this with her she picked it up faster than Steel when I added the cue.

She does hump Steel. I have not seen her do it to any other dog and it is probably a dominance thing. He could care less.

We worked on elevators, stairs, entering and exiting doors without pulling and loose leash walking. I used her head halter in public but spent a little time each evening at home going in and out of our front door without it. I also worked her without it going into the dog park. It took us a very long time to get from the car to the park because of it. This is hard for her. We also took one walk a night without it. She actually is doing 100% better on our evening walk then the first time we had her. She generally pulls only when she has to go to the bathroom and then walks fairly nicely the rest of the way. We usually walk about 2 miles.

We worked her on both sides but she prefers the left and does better on the left. I have to admit we worked left more than right because that is what I am use to with most of the other dogs.

I only had her bark once coming out of the car when she saw the neighbors on their bikes. She also barked at me when we were working on getting to the dog park entrance and because of her pulling it was taking a long time.

She showed no signs of fear at the office, church, traffic or PA Ren Faire. We went to the Ren faire on 10/10 and she was great. She was not bothered by the greyhounds, elephant, noise or costumes. She laid at our feet when we watched shows or ate. For one show, she laid in Aaron’s lap while he sat on the ground. with people all around them. The only two spots that were a little challenging was the area where they were shooting marshmallows at people. However, she had her head collar on and it wasn’t really a problem. Then a man ask to pet her and unfortunately he was wearing a rabbit skin (real) codpiece which she found very interesting and sniffed him. We had to end the greeting. She did very nice greetings. We were there about 4 ½ hours.

On Sunday we took her to church and she stayed with Steel in the pew while we took communion up front. We ate at Isaac’s and she laid by my feet and then we took her swimming at the indoor pool in Dillsburg. She loved that. Both dogs swam and retrieved for about an hour.

She still has a lot of puppy in her but as I said, she is a delight. She loves people and loves being with them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


About a month ago, Barely was matched with a little boy who has Autism. Due to circumstances relating to his disability, her name was changed to Natalie. Natalie, fondly referred to as "Bratalie" by myself and those aware of her bratty tendencies, will be placed with her partner in February. She has been in Advanced Training at the SSD kennel since July and will continue learning her Service Dog tasks until she is placed.

I am very proud of little Nattie and know the team of her and a little boy will be a perfect fit. She's always loved kids and will be in Heaven to have her very own boy! :-)