Passing by Old Main lawn or behind the HUB, you’ll most likely see eager students huddled together and hear a resounding chorus of “awww.”
What’s so adorably irresistible? Let us introduce the Susquehanna Service Dogs.
Based in Grantville, Pa., the Susquehanna Service Dogs pair their pups with “puppy raisers,” Penn State students who bring the dogs with them everywhere they go. Raisers are committed to training their dog for one and a half to two years, where they prepare the dogs to become service animals for people with disabilities or other cases. Those eligible for SSD trained dogs include the hearing impaired, people with Down Syndrome and even military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once the dogs have been trained by their raisers, they are sent back to the SSD training center to begin their advanced training and eventually become full time service dogs.
Valley was lucky enough to meet a couple of the many SSD pups here on campus.
Cooper, a male Yellow Labrador Retriever from the Cheese Litter, is the only male from his litter of eight. Five of his sisters are also being trained here at Penn State!
“Cooper is turning into a very vocal, independent adolescent. He’s very smart and listens well. He is extremely rambunctious and he definitely has a mind of his own,” says Cooper’s human and trainer, Katie Keith, a junior Animal Science major. “He is the biggest puppy of his litter, and yet he still lets his sisters beat up on him. Cooper has yet to find a stick he doesn’t love, and he never fails to make everyone’s day a little bit more joyful!”
On top of being playful and ridiculously cute, Cooper will also make a difference in the life of someone who truly needs him.
“Service dogs can completely change someone’s life for the better, and knowing that Cooper and the other dogs may one day do that is the biggest reward,” says Keith.
Like Cooper, Marcus is a male Yellow Lab pup who will turn one in December. Despite being a yellow lab, Marcus can be distinguished by his predominantly white color and golden freckles along the edges of his ears. Marcus’s human and trainer Devin McCoy, a senior German major, gave Valley the inside scoop on her precious puppy.
“Marcus is incredibly well behaved and incredibly responsive to his commands. He’s pretty quiet, too. You’re much more likely to hear him snoring than to hear him bark!” says McCoy. “Although we won’t know what kind of job he’ll have until advanced training, I think he could be a seizure alert dog. I’d also think he’d be a great companion dog for someone with a psychiatric disability like autism, because of his even-temperedness.”
But, just because Marcus is obedient, that doesn’t mean he can’t show his silly side, too.
“Marcus really loves pillows. He’s been known to sleep on my pillows or even pull them off the couch so he has them on his bed!” says McCoy.
So, next time you see these overwhelmingly lovable pups, remember they are helping to improve people’s lives, and not just with their adorable faces.