Dogs in My Life

Dogs: Truly Man's BEST Friend!

Dogs have been a huge part of my life. When I was about 4 years old or so, we found and rescued Bear – she just appeared in our backyard one day! She approached us with no fear and was really friendly. I have no idea what breed she was, but she wasn’t with us for too long. My parents’ landlord said no to dogs; one of my aunts took her in, and she lived to be quite old! Of course, a kid is going to be disappointed, and continue to ask for a dog throughout kid’s life. 

It wasn’t until years later the parents bought their first house, that we adopted Lakota – a German Shepard/Labrador Retriever mix. She wasn’t with us for too long, either – she was extremely protective of me (probably because I spent the most time working, training and playing with her) and ended up biting my parents and brother. The parents got a dog psychologist, and they decided to surrender her to a military/police dog trainer – if she was trainable, she’d live… otherwise she’d get put down. I never found out what happened to her – hope she got to bite some bad guys’ sixes! That’s us to the right. Yup, I was that kid who thought it was cool to get a cap with a lightbulb on it, all because I was full of ideas! Obviously, I was extremely distraught over losing Lakota, as I felt protected by her, but she was not a safe dog to keep around a family with children. Fortunately for us, the shelter where we rescued her from were sympathetic to our cause, and we got to bring home another dog.

Jesse and Lakota
Pepper (in front of my 1st car)

Enter Pepper: a wilful, stubbornly independent Border Collie mix. Her tail was already cropped, and we estimated her age to be between 1-3 years old. She had been abused and neglected, and did not like most dogs. However, she took an immediate liking to us, so of course we brought her home! She was smart and picked up quickly in her obedience courses. Being part Border Collie, it was inevitable we’d have a well-trod, grassless path in the backyard along the fence! I would take her on walks to the park nearby, where often she would run around on a long lead. There was this one time that I’ll never forget – fall had arrived, the two mini man-made lakes were still full of water and had a bunch of, I’m not sure – ducks or geese, floating around, chillin’ and relaxin… ’til Pepper saw them and made a

I can’t recall when, but at some point a few years after we got Pepper, Kathy and James – along with Grandpa – adopted Luke from a reputable breeder of hunting dogs. He was a German Shorthair Pointer, and yes – they did crop his tail. James was to raise and train him, Kathy was to finance his food and vet needs, Grandpa wanted another hunting dog but didn’t want to invest in another dog himself. Pepper HATED Luke for a good while, and it took her a couple years to accept him in her life. I’ll have. to hunt down my physical photos to find a picture of him. 

Right before I graduated from Union County College, I was recently engaged to Lauren, who suggested at some point I consider a service dog, as most apartments don’t allow dogs, and also I’d have more assistance with sounds outside of my Cochlear Implant (CI). After extensive research, I reached out to Nancy at Susquehanna Service Dogs, who then put me through the application progress for a service dog. It wasn’t cheap, either – I believe it was, at the time, $5,500 for a trained dog that is matched to your needs. Fortunately there were low-income programs I qualified for, and SSD’s Xylia ‘Lia’ was the first and only pup I met. I believe she was around 4-5 months old, and she was already highly trained beyond belief! We hit it off so well, and she was extremely responsive to me, even with my deaf accent/speech mispronunciations. The staff were all, “She’s yours, no question about it!” I was then asked what I wanted her trained to assist me in life. Alert me to phone calls (quickly retired with the advent of the Sorenson VP-100 and ensuing successions of Video Relay Services). doorbell/knocking, fire alarms, timers, my name, and wake my dead, deaf six up in the mornings! (back then, it was DIFFICULT to wake me up early. I literally died every night and was reborn when I felt like it the next day…) No problem, come back in several months! Shortly after I graduated, and right before I moved to Philly to live with Lauren and start at Drexel University for Physics, Lia’s training was mostly completed. It was time for… THE TEST. 

Lia atop a foundation, next to Jesse

While I was living in Philadelphia and a student at Drexel University, the parents moved from NJ to PA and bought their second house with an even bigger backyard. I had to drop out of Drexel due to lack of tuition (parents refused to pay for more than 2 years), and moved into their new house. Shortly before a wedding, I was playing with Lia and Pepper, going back and forth – I must have startled Pepper, and she snapped at me – left a small scar above my lip near my nose on the right side of my face. My beard has never penetrated the scar tissue, so when it’s short – you can see the scar line. She lived to be quite an old dog, passing away of natural cause after living with us for about 14 years in 2008, shortly before I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University, State College campus. 

The Pack

8 week old Akita mix puppy, mostly brown-tan with light tan-white chest and belly area is sitting on a couch with blue and white PSU blanket

Captain Kathryn Janeway of South Fork Mountain

Akita mix

Mama Marley's 2nd born, and still a wild pup learning her way, forming her silly personality...

1.5 year old tan with brown snout Akita mix laying on couch with blue and white PSU blanket

Fluff's Marley of South Fork Mountain

Akita - American Pit Bull Terrier

Part of Mama Fluff's 2nd litter, Harley slowly approved of her... and she grew onto him! South Fork Mountain has been home for her entire life, and she sure LOVES the snow!

9 year old tan with black snout pitbull mix missing its front left limb, laying on couch with blue and white PSU blanket

Harlequin Raku of West Oakland

American Pit Bull Terrier

Adopted off the streets of West Oakland at 3 months old, one righteously loyal and crazy doggo who has issues with most other dogs yet gets along great with only certain dogs.

SSD's Xylia "Lia"

British Labradator Retriever

Susquehanna Service Dogs bred and trained Lia to assist me by alerting me to sounds such as doorbell, fire alarm, my name to name a few. Never one to miss out on a dip in any body of water, she was a people pleaser and great at her job!


Border Collie mix

Rescued from the shelter, she was abused and trapped in a crate for most of her youth. We got her when she was about a year and half old. True to her Border Collie personality, she would run the border in our backyard, guarding it from devious squirrels. Not a fan of other dogs, she would tolerate Luke... after biting him on countless occasions; however, she took a liking to Lia the first time they met, and never had a problem with Lia.


German Shepard - Lab mix

We only had her for a few months, she was very smart and passed obedience classes easily. However, she was overly protective of me, and bit my mother and brother; we had to give her up to a trainer of K9/military dogs. We never found out what happened to her.