Humans of BluePath: Pat & Rylee Wisker

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Pat and Rylee are an incredible father / daughter duo.  At just nine years old, Rylee already has a deep passion for philanthropy.  Together, Pat and Rylee volunteer at events and seminars and Rylee is a regular helper in our Formal Training Program.  Pat also leads numerous fundraising initiatives and has brought in thousands of dollars to support BluePath’s mission.  We’re extremely grateful to have these two on our team!

Where They Live: Croton-on-Hudson, NY

How it All Began (Pat): My cousin Chanci had a service dog from the Heeling Autism program. I watched my aunt struggle to keep her safe – until they received Yale.  Then everything in their lives changed for the better.  I met Michelle Brier at a BBQ one day and she told me about BluePath.  I told her that I wanted to get involved and help in any way possible.

Words of Wisdom for Prospective Volunteers (Pat): There are so many different ways you can volunteer. You can commit as much time as you have available and know that your contribution will be a great help to BluePath and its mission. You also get to meet cool people and hang out with puppies all day long- who doesn’t want that? 

Teaching Classes (Pat): I help Michelle teach classes to first responders on working with service dogs in emergencies. We talk about different topics such as the safest practices of how to secure them, what your best options are and how to care for patients with disabilities.  More info on BluePath’s training for first responders.

Fundraising at School (Rylee): Daddy let me bring in some stickers and bookmarks for autism awareness day. My friends wanted to help BluePath but they didn’t know how. Since we are doing something with recycling at school, we decided to go in there and see what we could find. We picked a jug, cleaned it up and colored it. We decorated it with stickers and BluePath logos and began collecting donations!

Fast Facts - Pat:

Favorite Part of Volunteering for BluePath: The ability to go out and spread awareness about autism and BluePath’s mission.

Favorite Food: Mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Dream Vacation Spot: Florida. My fiance’s mother lives down there. It’s beautiful; it’s the perfect place to sit back and relax.

Favorite Hobbies: I’m a volunteer fireman and EMT. I also work full-time at a police department. And of course, I love hanging with my two kids and my fiance!

Fast Facts - Rylee:

Favorite Part of Volunteering for BluePath: My favorite part is spending time with the dogs. It makes me feel really happy.

Favorite Sport:  Horseback riding.

Favorite Food: I have quite a few. But tacos!

Dream Job: I think I’m going to stick with BluePath for as long as I can.


Humans on BluePath: Jill Holtman, Puppy Raiser

Jill and Ali

Jill and Ali

How it All Began : I had the pleasure of meeting a child and his autism service dog five years ago. When I saw the connection they had, and what the dog was trained to do it really left an impression on me. I wanted to do something to help. The child’s mother led me to BluePath. I was a puppy sitter for just over a year when there was an opportunity to raise Ali. The decision to raise her is one of the best decisions that I have ever made!  

Favorite Part of Volunteering for BluePath: The overall community of volunteers is a special one that I love being part of. It’s been interesting to meet new people along the way in various roles… the trainers, the staff, other raisers and fosters, the drivers, the photographers, and the person writing this article too! Everybody has the same end goal of making a difference in the life of a child with autism. It’s awesome!

Favorite Part of Puppy Raising: It is hard to pick one thing as there are many... The way that Ali has changed my life and knowing that same exact thing will happen with her forever family. Ali has connected me with wonderful people I would have never met and taken me to places I probably never would have gone to. She has brought such joy and life into the household. When I think of Ali changing the life of a family as an autism service dog, it’s hard to put into words just how beautiful of a thought that is.

Words of Wisdom for Prospective Raisers: I’m a first time puppy raiser and if you’re interested and think you can’t do it, you should know that you absolutely can. There is a fantastic community of volunteers, other raisers and trainers to support you and your puppy along the way. Yes, it’s a big decision that should be given a lot of thought. There’s a lot to learn and a commitment of your time to a puppy, but a very rewarding one!  The reward from raising a puppy makes the effort worth it.

Fast Facts:

About Jill:

Where She Lives: Upper Dutchess County, NY

Dream Vacation Spot: Italy. My Grandfather is from Italy. The history, the culture… and I would love to see Mt. Stromboli! It looks beautiful. My daughter did a report on it a few years ago and I would love to go there.

Favorite Hobbies : Anything related to nature. Being outdoors, bird-watching, photography, volunteering.

About Ali:

Newest Skill: Heel. She has it mastered!

Unique Talent : She’s often spotted crossing her front paws. She just does it on her own. Usually, it’s the left paw over the right.

Quirkiest Trait: The way she likes to sit and lay on the steps. She will sit on the steps with her back legs on the higher step, and her front paws below her on the lower step. She lays on the steps with her legs sticking out to her left side.


BluePath receives $4,500 grant from H.O.P.E. for Youth Foundation

H.O.P.E. For Youth Foundation is dedicated to facilitating positive change in the lives of children, adolescents and families. The organization provides stable, nurturing, residential care, foster care, preventive and out-patient programs which educate, motivate and empower individuals to become self-sufficient and achieve their full potential.

BluePath is the proud recipient of a $4,500 grant from the H.O.P.E. For Youth Foundation. These funds will help support our Formal Training Program.

We are extremely grateful for the Foundation's continued support of our mission. 

BluePath service dog, Autumn

BluePath service dog, Autumn

Humans of BluePath: Cathy Capasso, Superstar

Cathy and Ranger.

Cathy and Ranger.

How It All Began: My husband and I are involved with BluePath through a group of car and motorcycle enthusiasts we started called “Team Michelangelo.” We got together in 2009 to do a car and bike show to raise money for animals. It was there that we met the founders of BluePath. When I saw what amazing work they did, I wanted to get involved. (Don’t miss this year’s car show, to be held on Sunday, October 13!)

What Does it Mean to be a BluePath Superstar?: I will do anything they need me to do! Whatever it is, I just love helping out in any way that I can. So far, Team Michelangelo has provided sponsorship for three BluePath vans. I remember when we got the first van wrapped with the BluePath and Team Michelangelo logos. I still get chills thinking about it! Every time I see those vans I get giggly.

Favorite Part of Volunteering for BluePath: There’s a professionalism that you don't often see in organizations, let alone nonprofits. It’s rare to find a group of people as good, kind, and intelligent as the ones at BluePath. They’re open to your ideas and are willing to help you every step of the way. Right now, I’m learning how to help work with the dogs; it has been incredible to see what the training process entails.

Advice for Prospective Volunteers: Try it. You can’t fail. If you’re thinking about joining, have a conversation with them. Have a conversation with some of the other volunteers. Ask about their feelings and experiences with BluePath. You’ll never know what you’re missing unless you try.  

Fast Facts:

  • Favorite Way to Relax: Making jewelry or taking pictures, especially pictures of rescue cats (Cathy’s expert advice: Don't be afraid to use your phone to take pictures; the best camera is always the one you have with you!)

  • Favorite Book and Movie: Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz

  • Ideal Celebrity Walkathoner: Rod Stewart or Richard Gere


Disaster Planning for Dogs & Cats

It’s important to plan for how your family - both humans and animals - will safely make it through a disaster situation. When considering housing during an evacuation scenario, be aware that many shelters only allow service animals.

Supplies: These items should ideally be packed and ready to go at all times.

Photo by Melissa Davis

Photo by Melissa Davis

  • Leash, collar with ID

  • Appropriate-sized pet carriers with bedding and toys

  • Food (in airtight waterproof containers) and water for at least two weeks for each pet

  • Food, water bowls, manual can opener if needed

  • Plastic bags for dog waste, litter box and litter for cats

  • Cleaning supplies for accidents (paper towels, plastic bags, disinfectant)

  • Medications for at least two weeks, instructions and treats used to give the medications, pharmacy contact for refills

  • Flea and tick medication and heartworm preventative for 1 month

  • Documents

    • Photocopied veterinary records (rabies certificate, vaccinations, recent FeLV/FIV test results for cats, prescriptions, etc.)

    • Registration and microchip information

    • Recent photos of your pet

    • Contact information for you and friends or relatives

    • Boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems

  • A pet first aid book and first aid kit

  • Documents, medications, and food should be stored in waterproof containers

New addition to the BluePath Fleet

Our transportation needs have evolved in alignment with our growing program and mission delivery.  We’re proud to introduce the newest addition to the BluePath fleet - our custom-fitted, temperature controlled training van.  Among other special modifications, the generator and AC unit will ensure our dogs are safe and comfortable during training outings.

We are infinitely grateful to Team Michelangelo for their ongoing sponsorship of our vehicles.  Additional thanks to the Hyde & Watson Foundation for their support of the van purchase, to Paul Rubino for his design work, to Dana Van Bourgondien and Melissa Davis for their photography and to Putnam Window Tint for the wrap installation.

Team Michelangelo is a group of car and bike enthusiasts who believe in giving back. In 2009, Team Michelangelo came together to plan an annual fundraising event - a charity car and bike show. All proceeds raised go to help local rescue efforts and charities that work with animals and people.

The Hyde and Watson Foundation supports nonprofits with capital projects such as hard costs related to the construction or purchase of new facilities, capital equipment and furnishings, and other one-time capital needs.


Ranger’s Path


Ranger was born on January 31st, 2018, in North Carolina at Project 2 Heal.  He was drafted to New York on April 2nd to begin his BluePath journey.  He accompanied puppy raiser Saxon Eastman to Madison Square Garden daily and grew up alongside the New York Rangers hockey team.

Ranger (the “OG hockey pup”) started a trend for NHL teams to foster service dog puppies - raising enormous awareness for how service dogs support individuals with disabilities.

Dan Zarro and Ranger

Dan Zarro and Ranger

Ranger ultimately decided not to be a service dog, yet found incredible purpose as a skilled companion for 16 year old Dan Zarro. Ranger will be Dan’s best friend - and a provider of love and joy for an entire family.

As Saxon describes below, “Ranger’s skilled companionship will immeasurably improve life for the whole family. There is no doubt that with [the Zarro family], Ranger will live his best and most purposeful life.”

Congratulations to our sweet Ranger, to Saxon and to the Zarro family!

A Perfect New Beginning

by Saxon Eastman


I know it’s the offseason, but really big things have been happening in Ranger’s world.

As you all know, Ranger is a super sweet, loving, intelligent, deliciously derpy Meatball. He can learn a new skill in the blink of an eye, nap like no other, and when he’s happy he rubs up against your legs like he’s a cat. Despite all of this and so much more, Ranger doesn’t have the correct temperament to be a full autism service dog. This determination is something that I have been expecting for awhile now.

If my past experience as a puppy raiser has taught me anything, it’s that the right path will reveal itself if you let it. I can’t stop smiling because Ranger has found a new “job” and the most perfect adoptive family. This family has a child with autism. And though this particular child does not need a service dog, Ranger’s skilled companionship will immeasurably improve life for the whole family. There is no doubt that it is with this family that Ranger will live his best and most purposeful life, and for the first time in my years of puppy raising, all the dogs I’ve raised are placed and where they’re meant to be. It’s a pretty incredible feeling.

I love you 24 trillion times more than you could ever possibly imagine, Rangey. My happy ending is your perfect new beginning. 💛

Get Involved with BluePath

Ranger with the Zarro family

Ranger with the Zarro family

The dog he will be for someone else

Ana and BluePath Colby

Ana and BluePath Colby

by Ana Montoya

I’m a feeling human. Dogs are special creatures. Once I met Colby I knew I wanted to raise him. My heart stepped in and said, “yes, I’m up for it.”

So far most people’s reaction is to tell me how hard it will be when it’s time for him to move on. Which makes perfect sense to me since our minds leap to find the problem before it is in front of us. We want to anticipate issues! Brain does that all day long.

I can assure everyone, I understand in the core of my being that I will form a very deep and personal attachment to him and it will be one of the hardest goodbyes I have to say. I expect to feel heartbroken. I am also expecting to feel like a piece has been filled in a way I never knew was possible. 

Because I am also forming an attachment to the dog he will be for someone else one day.

The end goal isn’t about me. It’s about the child he may mean the world to in 24 months. That will remain in my focus throughout our time together. He is not mine; he is theirs. I’m first mom. I’m the foundational experience that makes him a wonderful dog, so he can change a kid’s life. 

Thank you all, but trust me, I get it. I will be giving up a piece of my soul by the end of this. It will break me and it’s guaranteed I will cry for many days following our separation.

But I have faith that my why makes it all worth it in the end. 

I thank you for your love but I am remaining anchored to the present. It will be a blessing to see him graduate from BluePath.

Ana is a coach at  CrossFit Bedford Hills  and Colby is the newest addition to the ‘box’ family.

Ana is a coach at CrossFit Bedford Hills and Colby is the newest addition to the ‘box’ family.

Puppy Yoga

Puppy yoga was perfect. To our 85 attendees, 10 volunteers and 7 super star yoga-pups – THANK YOU. We raised thousands of dollars to help children with autism along with incredible awareness of the BluePath mission.

To our generous host, Club Fit Briarcliff - thank you for your openness to our zany idea. We are so appreciative of your partnership and kindness.

An enormous thanks to BluePath Board member and today’s yoga teacher, Neva Goldstein, who ended class with one of our favorite quotes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So much love and gratitude.

See photos from the event.

Read a happy blogger’s review of the day.


Walkathon Raises Funds for Life-Changing Service Dogs

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BluePath is gearing up for its third annual walkathon fundraiser, to be held on Saturday, May 18 at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights. The event raises funds in support of BluePath's mission to provide autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence. 

The family-friendly fundraiser, held from 10:00am to 2:00pm, is open to all ages and begins in Lot 4 of FDR State Park. Walkers can choose between a 1.7 mile or 3-mile loop. Kids will be entertained with a variety of activities including a bouncy house, lawn games, face painting and costumed characters. Friendly dogs are welcome on leashes 6' or shorter.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, with 1 in 59 children receiving a diagnosis. BluePath dogs and ongoing professional follow up support are provided free of charge, ensuring that finances are not a barrier to receiving a life-changing service dog. 

“Many children with autism exhibit bolting or wandering behaviors, which can make trips outside the home extremely frightening,” said BluePath Vice President and Co-Founder, Michelle Brier. “BluePath dogs are connected to children via a specially designed tether system and trained to ‘anchor’ in response to a child bolting. This immediate, emotionless reaction keeps the child safe – and often helps to reduce or eliminate the bolting behavior.”

BluePath dogs significantly reduce parents’ safety concerns and help children to lead fuller lives. Reduced stress, improved sleeping routines, and more meaningful social interactions can allow families to feel a renewed sense of hope and empowerment.

Nancy Hughes recently received BluePath service dog Benni for her son, Matthew.  Matthew is highly impacted by autism and was prone to bolting into dangerous situations.  Life without a service dog was becoming increasingly difficult, often meaning the family had to adopt a “divide and conquer” strategy or miss out on community activities. 

“Benni came into our lives just a few short weeks ago and he instantly has made a positive impact on our family,” said Hughes.  “Matthew loves holding onto Benni versus having us hold onto him.  We see the pride on his face as they walk together through the world.  If Matt could speak, we are certain he would say thank you for his increased independence.  His brother Danny is thankful for a new best friend, and my husband and I are grateful that Benni keeps Matt safe while profoundly improving all of our lives.”

“We believe the human canine bond is uniquely powerful and possesses few limitations,” said Brier.  “A well-trained service dog makes an enormous difference in the life of an individual with a disability - an impact that becomes exponential as an entire family experiences freedom and reconnects with their community.  We are grateful to the many supporters who make it possible for us to fulfill our mission.”

BluePath’s third annual walkathon has gained major support from many sponsors including:

Presenting Sponsor: Croton Lions Club

Platinum Sponsor: Empire BlueCross BlueShield

Gold: CLG Construction, Elite Carriers, The Neva and Howard Goldstein Family Charitable Fund, Suzanne Hatfield Philanthropy Fund, Team Michelangelo
Silver: 3 Up 3 Down Organization, Au Pair in America, City of Rye Police Association, G.S. Bounce, NexGard / Heartgard, Peekskill Rotary Club, Shrub Oak International School, State Farm - Ken Lemenze, Volz Auto Group
Table: Animal Specialty Center, Decker Tool Rental, Guardian Veterinary Specialists, Hudson Highlands Veterinary Medical Group, Middletown Veterinary Hospital, PepsiCo, Putnam County Savings Bank, Tompkins Mahopac Bank, The Westchester Bank

Walkathon registration includes a BluePath event t-shirt. Adult walkers are $30; children under 13 years old are $20. Visit to learn more or register. Those unable to participate on May 18 also have the option to support walkers with an online donation or become a virtual walker with a personalized fundraising page. Sponsorship opportunities are still available; for more information, contact Erica Stanzione at 914-804-4023 or


About BluePath Service Dogs, Inc.

BluePath Service Dogs, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2016 to provide autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence. The organization transforms lives by providing families with expanded opportunities to unlock life’s potential. BluePath dogs are provided free of charge.  The organization receives no government funding and relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to fulfill its mission. For more information, visit Follow BluePath on Facebook at or on Instagram at @BluePathDogs.