Happy New Year! Thank You, Friends for these End of Year Resources!

Photo of sparkler with heart shaped core by Katheryn Laible

Photo “New Year’s Love” by Katheryn Laible

Happy New Year! We thought you might appreciate the following:
 
Let’s start with this fascinating piece on the history of New Year’s and its traditions from History.com
 
Then, let’s reflect on our own recent history. Here’s a blog post on a 7-Step Year in Review from Strength Leader Deb Ingino to help guide us! Deb is great at quickly boiling things down to key takeaways. Here, she picks a particularly timely nugget out of a great podcast from John C. Maxwell, while offering the link to his full 7 steps. I found it well worth carving out time for!
 
Many of us are still doing year-end giving! Today, my dear friend Nancy brought this New York Times newsletter: A giving guide to my attention. There’s a lot of useful stuff in here. As we might expect, it offers resources from a much more global viewpoint than we do, but also noted that LOCAL giving — including to local news sources —  is really important.
 
Along those lines…this piece written with David Okorn of the Long Island Community Foundation,“Foundations for the Common Good — A Call to Action” remains timely. If you want to quick-update it to account for the impacts of the last few years, just underline the sense of urgency in triplicate. The article explains growing holes in the LI safety net and how we might fill them. It also shares how the LI Community Foundation itself helps givers make the best use of their philanthropic dollars, as well as how it serves issues they’ve identified as critical directly.
 
Here’s a list of JUST A FEW incredible local organizations that could use our support...use it as a starter guide. We look forward to sharing many more in the New Year!
 
We’re also going to keep repeating this: The idea that a not for profit organization should be judged primarily by the % going to admin and fundraising is just plain wrong! Find out why in this article written with Marian Conway of the NY Community Bank Foundation: “Stop the Nonprofit Budget Fantasy. It’s Not Right!”  Marian’s run a foundation for years and in one way or another served and studied countless organizations. She literally has a Ph.D awarded for her dissertation on “What are the general operating expenses for nonprofits and who pays them.” She knows what she’s talking about. Please listen to her!!!
 
Finally, New Year – New Beginnings. Let’s talk a little bit about resolutions. Considering joining the Dry January tradition? Dr. Jeffery Reynolds, CEO of Family & Children’s Association has some great tips that I think can also be applied to helping follow through on other pledges, especially when paired with this good advice from Forbes.com on how to actually keep your resolutions.
 
Among mine, resolutions tend to involve committing to lifelong learning and development. Toward that end, I find the Farnam Street Newsletter to be something I regularly open and intend to dig more deeply into next year. This week, among other things, they offered snippets from their most downloaded podcasts. As for just a few favorite sources of local guidance, I really appreciate the Fair Media Council channel on YouTube, and everything Vision Long Island puts on its Vimeo.
 
I also resolve to more deeply appreciate our wonderful local treasures. Thank you, Cindy Mardenfeld, for sharing this Newsday article on the membership perks of Long Island attractions(it’s Newsday, so, please forgive the paywall). It covers all sorts of great museums, theaters, kids places and parks. The best part is knowing they’ve hardly scratched the surface!
 
Let me know your year-end reflections and resources, and what you’d like to see focused on in 2022. Thanks!!!

Firefly Lights! Local Artists Celebrate the Season of Giving!

Photo of Firefly Michele Miroff Felting away at a recent trunk show...

So many unique, perfect presents to be found at our Main St., Northport Gallery! The people themselves, though, really are the best gifts of all.

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A Local Independent Bookstore Closes, Three New Ones Open!

Photo of former local independent bookstore Book Revue storefront.

“At the End of a Chapter, Turning the Page: Thank you for 44 Years” by Katheryn Laible

As I look at the list of favorite shops that you dear readers have suggested, there is one entry I still can’t quite bring myself to remove: The once deep and starstruck haven that was Book Revue. My heart still aches at how quickly it emptied. It hurt even more to be right out front as someone began to pull the “Thank You for 44 Years of Business” sign from the window.

There is good news, tho! While Huntington’s incredible, beloved, local independent bookstore is now but a memory, former staff member Mallory Braun is determined to write “The Next Chapter.”

With passionate fanfare, she and so many lovers of this amazing, some would say sacred, place have rallied to make it happen. Even Kurt Vonnegut and Henry Miller – knowingly or not! – have been involved!

 

The Next Chapter

I have never met Mallory but hear VERY good things. That she managed to raise the $250,000 needed to follow in the Klein Brothers’ footsteps is a Christmas present from and for the whole Town. Passing the $200,000 mark on Richard Klein’s birthday was another poetic gift. They had wonderful raffle prizes and a kickin’ band at the very cool Industry Makers the night I got to contribute my little bit. While I deeply appreciated the loud, live music, I sure wish I could have heard what the band’s name was!!!

Proverbial sugar plums dance through my head as I dream of Mallory boldly carrying that glorious banner forward. It’s hard to wait, tho! It doesn’t feel quite like Christmas without Book Revue and I’m eager to see how this manifests. Fortunately, my grieving impatience eases a bit as I smile to see another haven for bibliophiles, this one a used bookstore, pop up in East Northport!

 

 
The Dog-Eared Bard’s Book Shop

The Dog-Eared Bard’s Book Shop  was created by folks who have been running literary events throughout the Island for over a decade. Among activities, they publish a “Bard’s Annual” poetry collection for which they’ve fittingly hosted events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. I look forward to sharing the next time they seek submissions. They are now hosting “First Friday Poetry Readings.” On January 7th they will feature Robert Savino. I believe they also offer literary alternatives to the Superbowl.

If your own shelves are running over, please know they gladly welcome donations of used books!

This is NOT Book Revue. It does seem to be something wonderful in its own right, tho, and also elicits faded memories of the earliest stacks of that legendary store… It would have sufficed for now….

But then..Lo! What did my wondering eyes behold, but a third new independent bookstore!!!

 

 
Theodore’s Bookshop

The kids and I recently popped into the barely-a-month-old “Theodore’s Bookshop on Audrey Avenue in Oyster Bay. Founded by former US Congressman and Huntington Town Councilman Steve Israel, the shop pays deep homage to the former President and local resident Theodore Roosevelt, as well as to Steve’s love for history and current affairs. Here, he can bring all sides together with pop culture, classic literature, children’s books and other standard bookshop fare. There’s also a healthy dose of folks we’ve dearly missed since Book Revue closed. It seems to work!

Said Steve, “I served 16 years in Congress and it was a place where people would draw battle lines. I got tired of that. I wanted to create a place that would be of value to the community. We have books that are conservative. We have books that are progressive. We have books in the middle. I just wanted to create a platform for respectful discourse and the pursuit of curiosity, and a place that is just serving the community in which I live.”

You can see the rest of my mini-interview with Steve Israel and a few images from his shop below.

 

There Will Only Ever Be One, But Still…

It’s still not Book Revue, but it’s a unique and lovely assortment Steve and his new “family of book lovers” are crafting that does pay deep homage to that bit of history, too. I look forward to seeing how the Dog-Eared Bard grows in it’s own way. I still can’t wait for Mallory to get rolling, and know that I’m still coming to terms with the fact that her endeavor — no matter how wonderful —  will never be Book Revue, either. 

Still, the idea has been planted that maybe…just maybe…some great spirits never really die, but live on in all so inspired.

At least that seems to be the case for three new unique and personal local independent bookstores on Long Island.

More or less just in time for the holidays.

I am grateful. Thanks!

Pal-O-Mine Equestrian: Celebrating a Season of Miracles in a Place They Happen Every Day

Photo of stable wall with uplifting messages posted

I was so happy to be invited along with my family to Pal-O-Mine Equestrian’s  “Winter Wonderland” on the last day of the J-STEP Holiday Market (they’ve since added a few more days…see below!) The childlike delight on my teenagers’ faces made it even better.

This is a deep, yet quiet celebration. It is not a day for the horses to strut their stuff. In fact, they seem to be on holiday themselves, enjoying the beautiful weather and occasionally approaching visitors to say “Hello.”  

PalOMine Horses at Rest
Pal-O-Mine horses at rest

It is the smaller animals — fancy chickens, sheep and ponies — that have center stage. Children of all ages pet and walk the gentle creatures as they learn about the farm and its residents.

“If you really need some TLC, though,” says an instructor named Danielle, indicating an enormous Belgian Draft Horse standing by one of the fences, “Go see Boomer. He’s the best. He’ll fix you right up.”

Photo of Boomer & Friend
Photo of Boomer and Friend by Ellen Lear

“This is the day we give back to our volunteers and funders,” she continues, “Today, they get to come and enjoy, and we get to work.”

The way she phrases this is intriguing, “Ummm….Aren’t you usually working when you’re here?”

“Yeah,” she smiles, “But our volunteers donate so much of their time, and our donors make it all possible. Usually, I’m working with clients. Today, I get to give back to our supporters, hang out with my coworkers, relax and enjoy.”

“Isn’t that right, Lovie?” She nods to the sheep whose line she has just handed off to an older girl. That girl is now guiding other children in petting him and feeling for the lanolin deep in his wool. Danielle offers Co-Worker Lovie a snack and strokes his head.

Photo of Lovie the Sheep
Lovie the Sheep photo by Katheryn Laible

I have yet to meet a staff member here who does not exude love and deep appreciation for their job.

“I met my best friend here,” says another instructor named Eve. She’s talking about Deb who is standing next to her. With them are two miniature horses whom we’ve been strolling with. They go on about funny coincidences and sweet simple fun. We marvel at the healthy 40-year old little horse named Honey and her dear friend, Darla. We breathe in the whole atmosphere and smile.

“We’re not snorting fairy dust here,” says Deb. Quite the opposite, actually. We laugh, thinking about the stuff inevitably in the air of a farm, even one as remarkably clean and well-kept as Pal-O-Mine. There is hard work being done here every day with a broad range of clients who are generally dealing with serious issues. The energy is overwhelmingly positive, though. Those involved speak of earthly miracles.

Photo of Deb and Eve with miniature horses Honey and Darla

Miracles and peace. “Among so many blessings, this place offers the beautiful gift of being present,” Deb reflects, “Whether you work here, or are served here, or are just visiting there is nothing you can do but slow down. The animals require it. The clients with the deepest connection to them need it, too.

“We’re all about the ‘Power of the Pause’ here,” she says. “It’s magical.”

Peace, positivity, and appreciation of what’s possible. “There are so many good people and great stories here…and everywhere, really,” Deb says. “I see it every day. I think more people need to be shown.

“Yeah,” she continues, “we have to face and deal with the tough things, but people need to see the good stuff that is happening, too. Then, they know what can be done.”

I know I’m sure grateful for everyone showing me.

Thank you!!!

J-STEP Holiday Shop invitation and images of crafts

Pal-O-Mine’s added more days to their 2021 J-Step Holiday Shop!

Stop in at the front office if you would like to go to the shop

December 16-18

Thursday and Friday from 10am-4pm

and

Saturday from 10am-2pm

at

The Classroom at Pal-O-Mine

829 Old Nichols Road, Islandia, NY 11749

Cash, Card and Check Accepted!

 

Face Masks Are Required While Shopping Indoors

Last chance for the J-Step Holiday Shop! 

She Who Served: Rosemarie Highlights Female Veterans

Photo of mural with Statue of Liberty against a US Flag
Thanks, Rosemarie!

I am grateful for my friend Rosemarie Kluepfel, who is endlessly endeavoring to serve those who served. She does much of this work through the foundation run by her employer, The Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation. She has also found her voice as a musician, performing with the Chuck Evans Band throughout Long Island (They’ll be at Honu Kitchen & Cocktails in Huntington on 12/30 from 6-9pm if you want to catch her there!).

Here’s a song she wrote that fits both her passion and the season, “A Soldier’s Christmas”


Raising Awareness

Rosemarie recently saw her daughter enter the service. Being the mother of US Army Lieutenant Alexa Kluepfel only adds to her care for those who sacrifice so much for our Nation. It also draws more of her attention to the experiences and issues of women in the military.

Please check out this profound video that Rosemarie helped coordinate and run with the Melville Chamber of Commerce: “Women Who Served: A Veteran’s Day Tribute!” It features three female veterans, one who served during WWII, another in Vietnam and the third in Afghanistan.


Serving Human Beings

Rosemarie also wants you to know that the Fairway Foundation is currently focused on providing financial and practical assistance to one particular veteran. This individual has experienced significant trauma and is currently homeless while struggling to balance work, school and raising a 1 1/2 year old daughter alone. To protect her privacy, they are keeping her name confidential. They also want folks to know they are endeavoring to make sure their donation is a “leg up” rather than a “hand out.”


You Can Help!

The Fairway Foundation welcomes cash donations to assist this cause. All funds raised will be earmarked specifically for this veteran and her daughter. There are NO Admin fees. Checks may be made payable to “The Fairway Foundation” and mailed to the Fairway Independent Mortgage branch c/o Rosemarie Kluepfel at 1200 Veterans Highway Suite 102, Hauppauge NY 11788.

The Foundation is a 501c(3) charitable organization. The donation may be tax deductible. While it must be understood that the veteran has no place to store things until she has a home, in-kind donations may be welcomed, especially clothes sized 2t-3t. Please contact Rosemarie on her cell at 631-662-4576 to discuss this option.

Thanks!

Help Jayette Send Care Packages to “The Forgotten People”

Photo of Jayette Lansbury and a Rose by Katheryn Laible

Photos of Jayette Lansbury and a Rose  Katheryn Laible

The very first feature article Synchronicity published was about Jayette Lansbury: Tireless Champion for People who are Impacted by Mental Illness and for Compassionate Criminal Justice Reform. In that piece you can read about how Jayette responded to a most unfortunate circumstance by determining to mix the education she had started with a driving passion to be a part of the solution for all families.

“Is it hard to talk about these things? Sure it is,” says Jayette, “but I don’t care about stigma anymore. Things are hard enough without worrying about what people think. People have to remember that mental illness knows no cultural or socioeconomic boundaries. Any one of these people could be your child, your spouse, your friend. We’re all God’s children and we’ve got to help everyone.”
 

Right now — you can help her send love and practical care to “The Forgotten People.” She’s collecting:
 
1. Brand New Socks
 
2. Puzzle Books
 
3. Signed Cards — A simple hand-written “Happy Holidays” will do to make it personal.
 
4. Candy Canes
 
She needs them all by December 20th.
Arrange drop off by emailing lansburyhunt@aol.com or calling her at 631-988-7619.
Thanks!


You can hear the love in Jayette’s voice when she talks about the 200 pairs of socks and crisp holiday cards she annually sends to the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center. You can also hear the pain when she explains why it’s so important:

“There are roughly 2,000 people in forensic psychiatric facilities in NYS. They are called ‘The Forgotten People.’ So many of those people have been abandoned and really do feel forgotten. One of them happens to be my son, but I’m not going to let him be forgotten. I’m not going to let ANY of them be forgotten. This helps them know there are people outside who care.”

Also! If you will, please set aside magazines and books that might be shared with people held in that facility. She’ll be collecting those in the New Year. Thanks.

Firefly Lights – 11/21

The Firefly Artists Logo

Come to our community-oriented gallery created by and for local artists at 162 Main St, Northport. We’re open Tues-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri and Sat 11am-8pm and Sun 11am-5pm. There is ALWAYS something new on the wall, and often being created on site! Send Katie an email if you’d like to meet up down there!

Like elves themselves, Fireflies are planning all sorts of wonderful things for the Holidays. We can’t wait to share! Visit our beautiful new website, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for emerging details.

Now’s the Time! We don’t wish to rush things, but if you want to ask an artist to make something special. NOW is the time to order it! Come on in, see what strikes your fancy and ask to be put in touch with the artist!

Welcome New Firefly Diana Anton! Diana Anton’s work “reflects the process of its making,” yielding beautiful, enigmatic pieces. Check out her Website. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Better, come see at the Firefly!

Firefly Friends & Family Exhibition We reserved our beautiful upstairs Darcy Arts Center for the Fireflies for the holidays, and invited them to invite other artists to join them! Some are freshly emerging creators whom Fireflies are encouraging to get their work out there. Others are established artists whom they’ve invited in. All together, it’s marvelous!

Exhibition Date: November 12 – December 31

Reception: December 4th, 3-5pm

Masks are warmly welcomed (we have some beautiful ones for sale!) and required for those not vaccinated.

We’ve Been Nominated “LI’s Best Gallery” in the annual “Bethpage Best of LI” contest! One of our Fireflies, Kirk Larsen, has been nominated as well! You can vote for both of us – and other great local treasures – EVERY DAY between now and December 5th!

Here’s the link To VOTE for The Firefly Artists

Here’s the link To VOTE for Kirk Larsen

Jewelry Making with Rachel Kalina! Want to make a very special gift? Or do the holidays just make you want to hit something with a hammer? Perhaps both? Rachel Kalina of The Wood & Watch is here for you!!!

She can guide in stamping a phrase onto metal for a very special token, or help you commence your own full-on jewelry smithing adventure. See her work on Instagram @thewoodandwatch. Inquire further by emailing thewoodandwatch@gmail.com

We’re being honored! with a “Special Citation for a Business Award by the NYS Art Teacher’s Association (NYSATA). It’s all Beth’s fault, really, what with all she does to keep teaching teachers and advancing young artists, supporting NYSATA and so much else. Her and all those other amazing teachers we get to call our own…Grateful…

More classes, holiday events and specials are coming! Check our website and social media often!!

Puppies with Purpose: The Guide Dog Foundation & America’s Vet Dogs

Two Service Dog Trainee Puppies

Photo provided by The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s Vet Dogs

Let's Talk About PUPPIES!!!

Back before COVID turned the world upside down, we were grateful to tour the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown with Chief Growth Officer Jennifer Gisler and Philanthropy Officer Karman Pun. This organization gives loyal “eyes” to people who are blind or have low vision. Its sister organization, America’s VetDogs offers the same and so much more to veterans and first responders overcoming a multitude of physical and mental health challenges.

If you’re looking for something hopeful and heartwarming — who isn’t? — the newsletter, event pages and other materials of the The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs are wonderful, filled with inspiring stories about the extraordinary impact these amazing creatures have. You can also check out their Puppy With a Purpose® program. Their collaboration with the NHL, MLB, and other sport organizations to raise awareness about their mission has made America’s VetDogs one of the most recognizable names in the service animal community.

Providing Support, Companionship, and Purpose

What these dogs provide to the folks they serve is extraordinary. In addition to physical support, a 2018 Purdue Study indicated that veterans with service dogs had significantly reduced PTSD, depression, and anxiety, and an increased willingness to engage socially.

“Veterans tell us their dog gives them purpose,” explains Gisler, who serves as chief growth officer of both organizations, “and a really good incentive to focus on the here and now.”

It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “Thank you for giving me back my spouse.”

These folks have many incredible stories, which they love to share. Some are on video here. We strongly recommend taking some time with them, both to better understand the experience of the organizations’ clients, and the incredible ways they are assisted. One favorite is about a veteran who suffered severe PTSD. He now no longer takes any medication save what he calls his “Big Black Pill,” the Labrador Retriever who now serves him.

Photo: Service dog accompanies a veteran with a prosthetic leg up the stairs.
An America's Vet Dog at work. Image provided by the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs

Brief History

If you’d like to delve into the history of dogs assisting people with disabilities, you can check out this article from the International Federation of Guide Dogs. Briefly, the first known record of a dog serving as a dedicated human assistant appears to have been depicted at around 100 AD. The first systemic attempt to train for this occurred around 1780. The modern story of guide dogs begins during the First World War in Germany.

In Smithtown, while its sister organization, America’s VetDogs, wasn’t founded until 2003, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind has always helped blind veterans. That full history is here. To summarize, in 1946, five community leaders saw a great need to assist those who were blind or visually impaired and committed themselves to finding a way to provide service animals at no cost to those in need. They started out in Forest Hills, Queens. The first trainer was a man named William Holzmann, who helped develop an effective training method. The first to receive guide dogs were Vito Vero and Arthur Torgensen.

The endeavor was a success. By the 1950s, they moved to Smithtown where they were able to develop a full-fledged facility.

Growing Interest

The most famous recipient of an America’s VetDogs service dog was probably President George H.W. Bush. At his request, his dear Sully continues to serve the nation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He’s also a master of PR, having done an excellent job of elevating VetDogs’ profile.

“Sully has put us on the global stage,” says Gisler. “He’s sparked BIG INFLUX in interest in our programs!”

We actually got to see Sully when we were visiting! He was getting a little R&R — not because he was tired from helping service members, but because he’d just been honored by the Animal Medical Center of New York and named “Top Dog of Year” two weeks prior at the ASPCA. He needed a little break after all that limelight.

As the organizations work to meet growing requests for their dogs, they renovated their training facility. While some expansion is involved, they’re working to be as efficient as possible, increasing functionality and using what they have as optimally as possible.

Of course, as they continue to meet the needs of the individuals they serve, they will need additional funding for their continued growth. They are exceptionally grateful for any gift large or small that they receive!

Where They Serve

 

The organizations receive 150–200 applications per year for their guide and service dog programs. In their most recent fiscal year, the Guide Dog Foundation and Vet Dogs placed 135 dogs, mostly locally. Among these were 49 guide dogs for the blind and 89 to serve veterans dealing with PTSD, loss of limbs, hearing loss and other disabilities. There’s a one-year wait for guide dogs, and a two-year wait for a service dog.

There are a few key requirements. Veterans must have been honorably discharged. No recipient may have felonies on their records or history of animal cruelty.

It costs north of $55,000 to breed, raise, and train each dog, in part because it takes a special dog to do this job, and you have to raise and train him or her to know if the animal is suitable. To the recipient the dog is FREE. Given the ability it grants the owner to participate in life, the actual value is immeasurable.

Generally, the puppies are whelped at the Foundation headquarters in Smithtown, where they spend their first 6–8 weeks of life. At this point, you may volunteer to be a “puppy camper.” Puppy campers may take the dogs for two weeks at a time, helping them to become basically socialized. Next, a volunteer puppy raiser steps in to care for, teach and socialize the dogs until they are between 14 and 18 months old.

As a puppy raiser, you teach basic puppy obedience including how to behave in a public setting. You’re also encouraged to take these animals wherever you go to help socialize and familiarize them in as many new and diverse surroundings as possible.

Once raised, it’s hard to leave the puppy, but many find the fact that they can just keep doing this helps a lot. Those involved in the raising are also invited to the celebration (pre-Covid) that occurs when graduate and full-fledged guide or service dogs have completed their training. Getting to see the huge difference the dog they raised makes on someone’s life helps, too. It’s a very special day.

The organization also maintains a relationship with 14 prisons in 8 states, hosting a special prison puppy raising program that is mutually beneficial to both the dogs and those incarcerated. Becoming a prison puppy raiser is earned by the inmates and there is an in-depth screening process. The strict schedule provides a good environment for training. The experience, it turns out, has also been proven to help inmates with reintegration into the community.

Photo of service dog puppy at the grocery store
Service Dog in Training. Photo provided by the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs

Formal Training

On average, half of the dogs make it to formal training, which lasts from three to five months. Some turn out to be better suited for other careers, such as working in law enforcement, or perhaps in service to individuals with autism. Others are adopted, usually due to medical issues such as an elbow displacement or allergies. For one, the animals have to be fit to serve their function. For another, they want to make sure recipients aren’t saddled with large medical bills. In these cases, the volunteer who raised the puppy gets first option to adopt.

Trainers are all paid, and they earn it! Roughly 20 trainers are employed by the Foundation and VetDogs, each assigned to their own groups of four or five dogs. The way each dog is trained is a little different, depending on the needs of the client. In addition to helping with blindness, the animals can assist with hearing, other physical disabilities, balance, and emotional support. The dog may be trained to pick up keys or open a door. Some may alert their owner about a microwave going off, a fire alarm or a doorbell, assessing the situation then tapping their person to respond.

Building the Relationship

Once a dog is fully trained, it’s time to introduce the client. The two are uniquely matched to suit size, pace, temperament, and other considerations.

Normally, the organizations host 15–20 classes per year. For the client, ALL expenses are covered, including transportation. A full-time chef is also on staff, which is important for helping accommodate many clients’ special dietary needs.

Service dog class lasts for two weeks. Traditionally, on Sunday, the client would arrive on campus and get settled, starting bright and early on Monday with training and orientation. On Tuesday, human and dog finally meet. From there on in, the dog stays full time with his or her person.

What happens next depends on the needs of the client. The facility itself has several special areas where dog and human can acclimate and learn together before trying their skills out in the real world. One such facility is a “relief area,” where one learns to curb their dog. Cement helps, especially for the vision impaired, so dogs are trained to go on command on concrete. There is also a guide dog obstacle course, as well as a “McDonalds” room, where one can learn how to navigate such experiences, starting with finding an empty seat. Once dog and client have some practice together, they are ready to go to town.

There are lots of field trips based around training in different environments. Guide and service dog teams will visit busy towns, take a trip to Manhattan and even the airport to prepare for their future work together.

By the next Saturday everyone is ready to CELEBRATE!

Photo of Service Dog Puppy sitting in the grass
Another puppy with a purpose. Photo provided by the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs

COVID Accommodations

Of course, nothing has been normal since last March of 2020. However, the organizations have long taken pride in their ability to innovate and adapt. At first, they had to shut down like most everyone, and were exceptionally grateful for the wealth of caring volunteers who helped house the dogs while the facility was closed. By July, guide dog mobility instructors were able to resume on-campus work with their guide dogs in training. In August, they began home placements with guide dog students, some of whom had been waiting months for their new guide dogs.

In a home placement, student and instructor work one-on-one in and around the student’s home community. It’s nice, in that the experience is therefore specifically tailored. However, it’s expensive as this process incurs additional costs such as lodging, meals, and more as the guide dog mobility instructors must be on the road for two weeks.

Service dog instructors have also continued to train and work throughout the pandemic. In August, VetDogs was able to host two veterans on their campus to begin training. Success required restructuring the traditional two-week class to begin with virtual training over several days. Then, clients were invited to the campus for eight days of in-person training and support. Students and instructors are masked, and all participants maintain appropriate social distancing. Again, it works but it’s expensive, especially as class size must be so limited.

The organizations will continue to safely host these micro-classes and home placement in an effort to place as many of these special dogs with those who have been waiting so patiently.

They are grateful for long-standing supporters and anyone new who is willing to stand by their side as they continue to serve the community during these uncertain times. Like all of us, they look forward to being able to return as soon as possible to close-to-normal operations, and to get back to fully doing what they do best: Training and placing these very special dogs with those who need them.

YOUR SUPPORT IS NEEDED! — Puppy Starters, Raisers, and Other Volunteers

The Foundation ALWAYS needs puppy raisers. This can range from a few weeks to a 15-month gig. An important criterion is that you have to be able to limit crate time to no more than 4–6 hours per day. Weekend puppy raisers take the dogs on a part-time basis. Prison puppy raisers keep their dogs Monday through Friday. Some college campuses, such as the University of Georgia, have established puppy raising groups.

It’s not just puppy caretakers that are required. More than 1600 volunteers across country serve as raisers, bathers, walkers, and drivers. Each volunteer role is vital to the organizations’ success!

MAJOR GIFTS — Sponsorship is Key. Business Partners Welcome!!!

Sponsors enable the entire program to happen and are particularly needed now that things have become so difficult. Financial support at any level is deeply appreciated.

The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs are especially grateful for the partnerships they have developed with a growing list of corporate sponsors for their corporate puppy with a purpose program. There are two levels of major corporate sponsorship: $25,000 if the sponsor provides the puppy raiser, $50,000 if the organizations do. Sponsors earn the right to name the puppy and are expected to assist in outreach through dedicated social media campaigns.

Sponsors like the New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals report that this is a wonderful way, not only to support the organization and its work, but also to raise company morale, especially as the experience involves so much hands-on time with the puppies.

ANY LEVEL OF SUPPORT HELPS — Smaller Dollar & Supply Donations

The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs gratefully accept any financial gift. They also maintain a list of needed supplies, such as towels, approved dog toys, and more.