Marcia starts Advanced Training (AT)

Wow!  This came as lot sooner than I thought, but Marcia is 20 months old!  It’s just that we have had her for only 4 weeks, and are  enjoying having her with us 24/7.  Beginning Monday, May 6, she starts a 6 month routine of 5 days of Advanced Training (M-F) with weekends off.  We pick up a tired puppy for weekends of R & R in her nice comfy bed.  She even gets to use us as bed sometimes (see picture below).  She will often ask to come up and lie beside us, but occasionally she just wants to be closer and takes a nap on top of us.  We will have to wait for our weekends to feel that soft bundle of love curled up near us!  Advanced Training for Marcia will go until October, at which time she will have a partner (our ultimate goal).

She really is ready for AT.  She knows most of her basic cues, and those she has not learned to date, she will learn at AT.  Some of her cues for certain desired behaviors are different from the ones she had learned at Guiding Eye for the Blind (GEB), and she has had to transition to ours. But she is a smart dog and has been doing really well in that department in the short time we have had her.  Her adventure continues….stay tuned to follow Marcia as she proceeds through her AT!

Remember, there is still time to support our Highmark Walk…only need $15 to make my goal.  No amount is too small (link is at the right under “Sponsorship Opportunity”)!  Thank you for those already on board

(Click on picture below to enlarge)

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Marcia goes to church and is loved by all!

Marcia has become very comfortable going to church!.  I haven’t told our pastor that he puts her to sleep (not us, just the dog), but then, he doesn’t “bark” out his sermons!  OK, that was my feeble attempt a humor.  Actually, Marcia does exactly what she is expected to do…goes under the pew, and relaxes…and, yes, she does go to sleep, but on her own accord, not because of our pastor.  I was a bit apprehensive about how she would be received, but everyone knows and loves Marcia now.  They refer to her as our newest member (sounds like we’re going to the dogs……there I go again).  She has wonderful temperament, and she just loves to have the children gather around her and pet her endlessly while she is laser focused on me!  Again, just exactly what she is expected to do! She has excellent greetings out in the public.

When not at church, Marcia enjoys making the rounds with us almost every where we go…stores, malls, restaurants, grandkids events, walks…she has a good life and loves to be with us.  She still is that spry 18 month old puppy in the morning, ready to eat and ready to play!  She has really gotten the hang of “clicker” training and understand what the “click” means….TREATS!….only because she was behaving on cue!!  Like Maggie, she is a fast learner.  We are working on “back” (for when she is in tight spaces) and being invited up to lie beside us (called “all the way up”).  We are introducing her to “visit” where she will eventually put her head on our knees on cue, and “lap” where she will drape herself over our legs to apply pressure (this has a very calming effect, particularly on autistic children).  Visit and lap also allow a disabled person to examine the dog’s mouth, eyes, ears, nose, legs, and feet.  Everything we teach her has a purpose and endpoint towards helping a disabled person.  

Remember, if you would like to help support our efforts, please click on the link to the right of this page (under SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY Heading).  Your contribution of any amount would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

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Phil and Marcia are going to walk in May 18th to help SSD – You can “walk” with us, too!

Marcia & I will be participating in a fund raising walk for Susquehanna Service Dogs.  We invite you to join us to support our efforts to raise money for SSD (we get NO government funding)…please go to Link to the right of my blog page titled “SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY” and click on “Phil’s…..” just below it.  This will take you to my contribution page where you have an opportunity join us in our effort to help raise much needed funds for Marcia and many other cute puppies.  Marcia is begging you to help…just look at that face and those eyes.  Any amount will help, it all adds up.  I would love to exceed my modest goal!  Contributions are tax deductible.

Please help Phil raise money for me and my friends at SSD!

Please help Phil raise money for me and my friends at SSD!

Look at my can you resist helping Phil raise money for on the link at the right...please!

Look at my eyes…how can you resist helping Phil raise money for us…click on the link at the right…please!

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Marcia settles in with Phil & Sue

Maggie retreats to her crate with "Ducky"!

Marcia retreats to her crate with “Ducky”!

We have not heard anything about Maggie yet, but it has only been a week.  We hope she has adjusted to 24/7 “kennel” life at Guide Dog Foundation.  I am sure she thoroughly enjoys the company of all of the other dogs at the facility (I believe they have about 100 dogs onsite).  As soon as I hear about Maggie, I will let you know how she is doing.

Now for Marcia…she just steals your heart and makes you laugh.  It is impossible to wake up to a bad day with Marcia!  First thing in the morning, she is the happiest dog I have ever seen, and just has the sweetest greetings. When she wags her tail, her whole body wags, and those perky ears just make you smile.  She has her routine down already…up when we get up, goes out to greet the morning and do her business…then a mad dash back to the door already salivating at the thought of eating breakfast.  She follows me to the laundry room as I fill her bowl, then watches as I put her bowl down.  She sits there until I give her the “OK” command to eat…very polite.  Marcia has had to learn several new commands that we at SSD use vs. what she learned at  Guiding Eyes…but she has adapted and learned well.  Her biggest learning curve has been learning “clicker” training…but it didn’t take long for her to figure out that a “click” means “I get a treat”, then to associate that with doing what I want her to do.  She has it down pat now!  She is very smart!  

Since Marcia’s walk in the woods, she has had lots of other experiences.  Marcia has been to church (every one now knows and loves Marcia), to the mall, to BJ’s, Target, TJ Maxx, out to restaurants, and visiting relatives.  She was even introduced to my daughter’s family dog…Jingle Belle.  Everyone loves Marcia (including Jingle Belle), and she is very, very good with her greetings.  She hardly ever takes her eyes off of me (maybe just to give a kiss), even if she is surrounded by children.  It is truly amazing to watch, but that is very good service dog behavior.

Marcia loves to “play/retrieve” with her tennis ball and rubber ducky (some of Maggie’s favorite toys).  She is very good in coming when called if she decides to take a detour and explore.

I would say Marcia has adjusted very well to her new surrounding, and I am sure is happy to once more have some stability and consistency in her life.  She had a wonderful year of stability with Colleen  then off to the kennels at Advanced Training at Guiding Eyes where she finally let them know I won’t make a good guide dog; then off to a new state, new home, new people…you get the picture…Marcia had a rough and confusing few weeks, and now it is time to settle down for awhile.  We really love her and are enjoying her immensely.

Below are some pictures of Marcia playing with Jingle Belle at the grandkids’ home.


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Maggie goes to Guide Dog School and Marcia comes to Service Dog School

Saturday was an emotional roller coaster day on many levels.  We had our last hours with Maggie in the morning playing retrieve with her favorite ball, taking her to see some of her favorite places to “stroll”, saying good-bye to the many people who have gotten to know and love her over the past 15 months.  When we arrived at the kennel where the “doggie-swap” was to take place, Maggie was right at home (this was her training grounds for the past several weeks).  Our grandson, Bram, took her out to the fields to enjoy some playtime with her, and keep her occupied while we waited for her ride to Guide Dog Foundation.   During that time, we met Marcia’s raiser, Colleen.  As we were processing losing Maggie, Colleen was fighting with those same emotions concerning giving up Marcia.  We got the scoop on Marcia (as she waited patiently in Colleen’s SUV), then, Maggie’s ride arrived.

Now it was time for the Maggie to hop in her van, and Marcia to meet us.  I have to say, Maggie had no second thoughts about getting in the Guide Dog Foundation van.  It was almost as if she knew she was off to a new adventure, new people, and a new life.  That actually made me feel a whole lot better.  As a bonus, Maggie got to travel with “George”, an 8 week old Chocolate Lab that was also going to Guide Dog Foundation (as a stud fee).  I am sure the two of them were happy to see they were not alone!  Then we met Marcia!  Marcia is one month older than Maggie, and of course, the resemblance to Maggie was striking….that proves to be a challenge when addressing her…”come Maggie, I mean Marcia”, “sit Maggie, Marcia”…you get the drift.  Occasionally we even come out with a “Martha”…but Marcia takes her human handlers in stride, and just waits to hear her name.  🙂

Marcia has adapted very well.  Her first day or two was exploring her new environment,  but now, 3 day later, it is old hat to her.  She is very comfortable in her new digs.  She  likes her new soft beds when sleeping and resting, and loves to stick close to us during the day.  She is VERY affectionate, and gets a lot of love in return from us and the 6 grandkids!

Yesterday we went hiking at the Pinchot National Park…she was in her glory hiking with me (something she enjoyed doing with Colleen).  Pinchot has a very big lake, and I was warned by Colleen that Marcia loves the water.  I thought I would take a leisurely stroll by the lake with her…in about a nanosecond…she was in the lake and almost had me in there with her (she is a lot stronger than Maggie).  I kept her on the leash, but let her splash around a little (fortunately it was in the mid-70’s yesterday), then called her out.  She came out immediately upon being called.  I can see she is going to enjoy the water this summer.

Stay tuned as we begin this new venture with Marcia…you’ll get to know and love her as we already do!

Below enjoy the picture of Maggie on her last ride with us, and new pictures of Marcia at home and at Pinchot (click on thumbnail to enlarge).

Maggie's last ride with us!

Maggie’s last ride with us!

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Maggie’s latest update

Well we thought we would have Maggie until Monday, but SSD called today, and said they need her to be transported tomorrow (Saturday)!  Nothing like change.  We did get a little more information about where she is going.  I am including links to their FB and Website for you to peruse (below).   The facility is located in a L.I. New York (Smithtown) and is on 8 beautiful acres with state-of-the-art facilities!  SSD said it is top notch and the dogs are very well treated.  As mentioned before, we will be receiving regular updates on Maggie’s progress.  The training facility is a “centralized” facility, and Maggie can be placed anywhere in the USA.  We wish our dear Maggie well and will always cherish our memories of her.  “May God be with you sweet Maggie!”

Please check back for future updates and news on our new trainee, Marsha (whom we pick up tomorrow as well).

Guide Dog Foundation FB:

Guide Dog Foundation Website (tour):

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Maggie gets a New assignment!

Today, Wednesday, April 3rd, we got the word that Maggie is being re-assigned!  She has done quite well in her training, in fact, too well!   Her advanced trainers said she is very smart.  The training supervisor said she is the smartest dog she has ever trained…what a compliment to Maggie.  Because she is so bright and energetic, SSD feels that a better placement for her would be as a Guide Dog for the Blind.  She will be going to the Guide Dog Foundation on Long Island…a long way from here…on a trial basis to see how she does with their organization.  They will keep us posted on her progress and have invited us to attend Maggie’s graduation service where we will meet her new owner and, of course, get a few kisses from her (and get to cry all over again).

Many of you have stated over the months that you could not do this just because “this day” would eventually come.  We always answered, “We knew going into this, that this day would be coming” and we felt the greater purpose would override any attachment issues we would have.  Well “this day” has arrived…and I am here to tell you the “greater purpose” has not overridden our attachment to dear Maggie.  We know in our hearts that Maggie is happiest when she is working and serving others, but boy have we had our bouts of crying…alone and with others!  We love this little girl and will miss her greatly, but God has other purposes for her, and that gives us the deeper peace.  I think every puppy raiser has these emotions when the time comes for good-byes, and some have the good fortune of having their dog placed locally enabling them to keep in touch (with the permission of the client) while others don’t have that good fortune.  I think for us, the suddenness of the news of Maggie’s soon departure made this a little more difficult emotionally.  We were thinking we had at least 6 more months to process the arrival of this time, and then to get a phone call that we had just days to process this, adds a bit more pain to it…we have her for the weekend, then she leaves for NY on Monday, April 8th.  Maybe it is because she is our first trainee that our separation is so painful, but I don’t think so.  When you pour your heart into this, and the dog “shadows” your every move, and she goes everywhere with you, and you spend 24/7 with them for over a year…there is bound to be a lot of bonding going on.  Nevertheless, we know why we do this, and the end goal is still to see her placed with someone who is not whole without such a helper.  Our emotions will take care of themselves, and Maggie will transfer her affections to others, and we have the satisfaction of knowing we were part of a bigger picture and plan to help others in need.

So, good-bye dear Maggie…we are grateful for the privilege of raising you and experiencing your unconditional love for everyone (especially children)…and expecting nothing in return.  You will be greatly missed, but we know you will serve others well.

Today, we were offered a 12 month old lab who “failed” the Guide Dog training (she couldn’t tolerate the harness they have to wear) who will now become a SSD Service Dog.  Her name is Marsha, and we will pick her up when we deliver Maggie, so we are still in the game.  Marsha will probably enter SSD’s advanced training within 4 – 5 months.

Finally, you have two reasons to stay tuned to Maggie’s (and Marsha’s) blog:  1) Updates on Maggie’s progress at Guide Dog Foundation, and 2) News & pictures of Marsha.  Thank you for your faithful following of my blog…I hope you are enjoying sharing our experience in Service Dog Training.  Please feel free make comments and to pass the blog link onto friends, relatives & neighbors who would be interested in our service dog training experiences. (Copy and paste into an email:

Maggie at Father-in-law's

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