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Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs Graduate



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Among the canines mingling with guests of honor at The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs program graduation on July 18 was a black lab puppy.

The puppy, whose name is Piper, was donated to the program by Patten Labradors of Antrim, N.H., in honor of Baron, a yellow Labrador who, after training and qualifying to become a service dog, was diagnosed with and died of cancer, as previously reported in The Newtown Bee.

As attendees at the July 18 event gathered under the pavilion at Dickinson Memorial Park, The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs founder and Director Abby Hill announced that the nonprofit organization’s leaders and supporters could not be more thrilled for the graduation party.

The party was made possible by the efforts of many, including all who acted as puppy raisers, trainers, and supporters.

“These dogs would not be who they are without their effort and they love they put into them,” said Hill.

Dogs sat patiently next to trainers at tables across the pavilion as Hill spoke.

According to The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dog’s website, the organization’s mission is to provide “psychiatric service dogs to disabled teens and young adults to empower handlers to complete their education, opening up their world to the life they want to live.”

Service dogs in the program are trained to perform tasks that support their handlers’ needs.

One by one, Hill called the graduating service dogs and their trainers up to be recognized.

“I’m very proud of you,” Hill said to one trainer.

Later, after each trainer and graduating dog had been recognized, Piper arrived with Laura Roche. Roche’s family had been Baron’s primary trainers, and will fill the same role for the new puppy.

After the event, Hill posted on the The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs Facebook page, “Congratulations to our amazing graduates! We can’t wait to see everything that you accomplish as you find your way in this world. Thank you to the puppy raisers, volunteers, donors, and families that supported our clients and the dogs over the last year. We all need help in this world, and somehow we have the most selfless helpers. Thank you for being as passionate about our mission as we are.”

For those who would like to follow the adventures of the new service dog in training, Piper has an Instagram account, @exceptionalsidekickpiper.

For more information about The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs and ways to support the organization, visit exceptionalsidekick.org.

Education reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs trainers and dogs stand together at the July 18 graduation party. From left are Courtney Kolodziej and Octo, Anika Ledina and Delia, the organization’s founder and Director Abby Hill, Abby Tanzer and Paco, Natalie Lombardo and Lila, and Dawn Schneider and Caymus.
The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs trainer Laura Roche holds her family’s new charge Piper, a service dog in training.
Mara and Griffin Reynolds interact with The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dog Winslow. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
Paco, a smiling service dog, rolls on the ground near trainer Abby Tanzer. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs trainer Rashi Ray and charge Hamilton were all smiles at the graduation event. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
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