Nineteen-year-old Sydney Campbell says 2017 will be her best Christmas. She knows because her gift arrived five days early: Raisin, who has been specially trained by Canine Service Pals to be her mobility support dog.
For Raisin, this is the best Christmas ever because the former resident of the Beaver County Humane Society now has a real home in Stoneboro, Mercer County, with Sydney and her parents, Jeffe and Becki Campbell.
Mrs. Campbell said her daughter has osteochondroma, which causes benign tumors to grow in bones throughout her body. She currently has 100 tumors. Over the years, Sydney has had many surgeries to remove them — they cause problems as they grow bigger and, in some cases, invade joints. Tumors will continue to invade Sydney’s bones throughout her life, Mrs. Campbell said.
When Sydney is bed-bound following surgery, Raisin can bring her canned or bottled drinks, her cell phone, a pen or other items that she drops.
When Sydney’s health is good and she is mobile, as she is now, Raisin will provide other kinds of support.
“She will help me with my loneliness and depression,” Sydney said. She has been subjected to bullying over the years, she and her mother said.
Raisin is the first dog to graduate from the new nonprofit Canine Service Pals, started this year by Ivy Fodor. She and Bob Caponi own and operate Parkway Pet Lodge, a boarding, training and grooming facility in Moon. The service dogs are trained there by Dan Grachen.
The Campbells found out about the program from Sydney’s surgeon, Mark Sangimino, director of Allegheny Health Network’s Pediatric Orthopaedic Institute in Pine.
Ms. Fodor says her mission “is driven from God. We wanted to help children and help dogs, and we knew there are smart dogs in shelters. Beaver County Humane Society has been an amazing partner. They supply us with dogs and their food and medication.”
Four other dogs are in training with Mr. Grachen. They all started when they were younger than 8 months. Each is named for foods kids like: Klondike, a black Labrador retriever; Cannoli, a yellow Labrador retriever; Pierogi, a yellow Lab mix who is the only male; and Reese, who is the color of peanut butter and looks like a mix of shepherd or Belgian Malinois.
At 35 pounds, Raisin is the smallest dog in the pack, and her lineage is uncertain. She may have some Labrador and beagle in her bloodline, and her short nose hints at some pug blood, Mr. Grachen said.
“Raisin is perfect. She is smart and eager to serve and will also make a great pet.”
When she arrived at the shelter last May, Raisin was shy and scared and growled at people, said associate director Donna Bucek. After three weeks in Ms. Bucek’s office, Raison blossomed into a happy and social dog and moved out to Ms. Fodor’s program.
“We have plenty of room in the kennel, but they are raised in homes with families” who bring them to the kennel for training sessions, Ms. Fodor said. “We need puppy raisers.”
Canine Service Pals also needs money to keep the mission going. It costs $20,000 to raise and provide six months or more of training. Recipients pay nothing for their dogs.
“My family could never afford a dog like Raisin,” Sydney Campell said. “If sharing my story would help even one kid, I will be so happy.”
Go to www.canineservicepals.org for more information or to make a donation. Or mail your donation to Canine Service Pals, 66 Economy Grade Road, Coraopolis, PA 15108.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.