Two tweens in the house

By Jeannie Fleming-Gifford

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There are two tweens in my house. One just asked me if I had any concealer to cover up a pimple and the other doesn’t have a care in the world about puppy acne. One of my tweens broke down in tears as a molar came loose and was fearful of it falling out. The other tween walks around with a constant smile showing her new adult pearly whites and one last baby tooth on the bottom ready to fall out any day. One of my tweens is growing a bit self-conscious. The other tween loves everyone...maybe too much at times.

A human and a pup. An eleven-year- old child and a 6-month- old dog. Yes, there are two tweens in my house. Though there are differences, they both show strong potential and desire to do good in the world. One’s future career is unknown; the other’s future has been planned since her birth. Izzy’s purpose is to impact the life of a person with autism. Izzy is a BluePath pup.

Izzy came into our lives nearly four months ago. Four months of puppyhood and a quick journey through multiple stages of development, from that teeny tiny new puppy who had just mastered “sit,” to this adult looking dog that can now sit, stay, heel, come, down and more. Her vocabulary and skills grow every day.

Six months old, old enough to listen and respond, but still with so much puppy in her that at times she has a hard time making good choices. Lovable and wanting to be loved, Izzy lights up and grows excited with every person she meets. Individuals recognize her puppyhood and her excitement to say hello. And just like my human job as mother, it’s my job with Izzy to help her use her good manners and all the skills she has gained to greet people appropriately. Not an easy feat when it comes to this 45-pound ball of energy.

The tween “years.” Every day our focus is on enjoying the days of puppyhood. Like when our children are young, the days are long, but the months are short. I know that adulthood and Izzy’s future career as a service dog for a person with autism is growing nearer. My time with her as puppy raiser is growing short. Our days are about refining skills and repeating experiences to build confidence. Days are about new experiences. Days are about patience and trying again. Days are about meeting people with differences and allowing her love all of them. Days are about recognizing the mischief of a puppy and creating learning lessons from each challenge. Days are about playing and cuddling and joyful puppy playtime. All days are about preparing her for her future.

There are two tweens in my house and it is a joy watching both grow.

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Service Dog Training for First Responders

BluePath is proud to offer service dog training for local first responder agencies.  The 1.5 hour course covers ADA guidelines, types of service dogs, strategies for transport and best practices for treating patients with disabilities, with a specific focus on autism.  

It's important for every agency to have a plan of what to do when encountering a service dog in an emergency situation.  Review this brief fact sheet to get started, and contact us to schedule a class.  


Integrity, dedication and a whole lot of fun

When we founded BluePath, we agreed on a set of principles that would govern the way we operate.  To share just a few... everything we do is grounded in integrity.  We are tremendously dedicated to our mission and do our work with a spirit of collaboration and innovation.  We have a strong sense of camaraderie and we like to have fun. 

It’s that last sentiment that brings us to today’s post.  Our puppy raisers recently challenged us to recreate a photo taken in January 2017.  The original photo shows Caroline, Jody and Michelle holding the Pearl Harbor litter at just six weeks old. 

Challenge accepted.

That said… our puppies have grown, along with our team.  

Even with the best assistance in the world, mass hilarity ensued.  Below are a few of our favorite moments. 

The original photo: Caroline, Jody and Michelle with JP, Sammy, Pearl, Miller and Benni - January 2017

The original photo: Caroline, Jody and Michelle with JP, Sammy, Pearl, Miller and Benni - January 2017

Kate with JP, Caroline with Sammy, Jody with Pearl, Michelle with Miller and Erica with Benni - April 2018

Kate with JP, Caroline with Sammy, Jody with Pearl, Michelle with Miller and Erica with Benni - April 2018

Then this happened.  No dogs or humans were injured in the making of this photo.  

Then this happened.  No dogs or humans were injured in the making of this photo.  

Of course we had to get the Pearl Harbor siblings on their own.  L-R: JP, Sammy, Pearl, Miller and Benni.  We're so proud of these beautiful dogs.  

Of course we had to get the Pearl Harbor siblings on their own.  L-R: JP, Sammy, Pearl, Miller and Benni.  We're so proud of these beautiful dogs.  

Our one "serious" photo.  We love what we do. 

Our one "serious" photo.  We love what we do. 

A Match Made in Blue

On World Autism Awareness Day, we join the global community in lighting it up blue to raise awareness and support for individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorders. 

Through the end of this week, all donations will be generously matched by Carol Parish and Marty Zeldin – up to $5,000! Give on our website, towards a walkathon team or send a check by mail. Every gift counts. 

Please make a donation to unlock life’s potential for children and families touched by autism.

Blue today... Blue every day.  

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My son pointed, clapped his hands and said a few words until he was about 15 months old. Then autism happened, and he just faded away. Instead of playing with me or his dad or sisters, he stared out into space. We were heartbroken, and the joy in our home was replaced with worry. One of our many concerns was that we would not be able to keep him safe, as he seemed to wander and “elope” often.

When we received our autism service dog, light began to shine in our lives again. I now had a tool that I could use to keep our son safe and to make him laugh, and my family started to experience joy and laughter again. She healed us then - and she still does every single day.
— autism mom

Registration is open for BluePath's Walkathon!

BluePath will host our 2nd Annual Walkathon on Saturday, May 19th from 10am - 2pm at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights, NY. Join us on the path and unlock life’s potential for families touched by autism.

  1. Register to participate.  Visit Click register, then tickets and follow the prompts. Note that each registration comes with a (totally awesome) BluePath Walkathon tee shirt. Once you click “complete registration,” move to step two, below. 

  2. Help us raise funds for autism service dogs!  Select “I Want A Fundraising Page” and choose to join a team, create a team or fundraise as an individual. 

  3. Once you’ve set up your Crowdrise page, it’s time to spread the messageClick here for tips on gathering support. Have friends or family who would prefer to donate via check?  No worries!  Checks should be made out to BluePath Service Dogs and sent to 8 Country Club Rd. Hopewell Junction, NY 12533.  Please note the team name and individual you are supporting on the memo line so we can add the contribution to your Crowdrise total.

  4. Take note of this year’s fundraising incentives… We have a plethora of BluePath goodies for our top fundraisers - as well as some surprises along the way! 

  5. Questions?  Any sort of confusion?  Reach out to us anytime – we appreciate your support and we’re here to help!


CLG ConstructionCo-CommunicationsElite CarriersEmpire BlueCross BlueShieldShrub Oak International School


The Neva and Howard Goldstein Family Charitable Fund, G.S. BounceHudson Valley Men's Adult Baseball LeagueNexGuard / HeartguardQuinn Law Firm, Peekskill Rotary ClubState Farm - Ken LemenzeVolz Auto


Animal Specialty CenterAu Pair in AmericaCity of Rye Police AssociationHudson Financial Group - Deborah BeckerHudson Highlands Veterinary Medical GroupKolmar Americas Inc.Middletown Veterinary HospitalTaconic Route 202 24 Hour Veterinary CenterThe Westchester Bank


Interested in sponsorship opportunities?

Reserve your spot now and maximize the partnership potential - contact Erica Stanzione at for more info.

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Baby steps...

By Jeannie Fleming-Gifford

Puppies and babies. Both are awesome, and both can rock your world. Different schedules, instant needs, less sleep, and a whole new outlook. I often compare the two. Yes, I do understand there are major differences. But both bring joy and new perspective. Both can change a life.

Izzy was born to change someone else’s life. Specifically, she was born and is being raised to become a service dog for a child with autism. Izzy entered our life a month ago, arriving on a flight from North Carolina and a long car ride across the state of New York into northeast Ohio.

Our journey started in early January and it has been baby steps ever since. Unlike babies, puppies walk into your home mobile...a squishy, playful, energetic explorer on four legs. Curious and quick, they are often into anything and everything in the blink of an eye. And so, my days began with Izzy.

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Our first few days were filled with baby steps, finding our rhythm together with everything being new. Like with a newly arrived infant, days seemed long and somewhat surreal with constant “busy” (potty) breaks outside in the darkest days of winter, short spurts of active play, and time sitting on the floor cuddled with this new pup on my lap while I attempted to steal a few more minutes of sleep to recover from the previous night’s interruptions. These early days are all about survival in a sense. It’s getting to know each other, introducing the basics of good household manners, and again, going outside for another busy break.

After the first few days passed, we started to find our groove. The words “baby steps” are more significant than ever.  Now, every little thing provides her big opportunity to learn and to help her reach her potential, changing a child’s life.

Baby steps as in...

The success of seeing Izzy signal that she needs to go outside and knowing she will have good manners to easily adjust to a new family’s household.

Standing on the sidewalk and letting Izzy watch as a car goes by, its headlights casting shadows in the dark road before us... praising and reassuring her when the engine grows loud and she looks unsure. Realizing that these moments prepare her to have confidence in other new situations.

Making a trip to the local home improvement store to slowly walk through the aisles, just to let her meet all new kinds of people and experience a new place that is appropriate to her young age.

Taking 50 minutes to walk 2 miles (when my running pace would allow me to do it in 20), only because Izzy needs time to explore, process and be rewarded for her curiosity and check-ins (that moment when she connects with me from the end her leash). Thinking that one day a parent will be on the other side of this leash, a child holding on to her vest, and being able to move at just the pace they need.

Sitting on the floor of my kitchen, this sleepy pup curled on my lap. Massaging her paws and stroking her back...knowing how important it is for her to have that comfort in being touched and how important that will be to a child with autism

And so, it will continue for nearly the next year...Izzy and I moving forward. Slowly, but with effort, curiosity and a commitment towards the mission to make a difference in the life of a family.

Baby steps. “Let’s go, Izzy.”

Go get ‘em Millsy

By Anne Garretson

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A short time from now Miller will move along from his puppy training with me to his service dog training with Caroline. He won’t be my sidekick anymore. The adorable puppy stage is over far too soon. Why does it all go so darn fast? Wasn’t he a squirmy, little imp in my arms just a few weeks ago? It makes me sad, yes, very.

Well, sort of.

I’m so excited – I can’t wait for this 70-pound mass of energy to go!!!

Am I excited to give him back because he’s gotten big and strong? No, that’s not it. It is true that he’s no longer the little pup I can carry away from danger, but we made a pact early on - I only ask him to do things I know he’s capable of mastering and he always tries his best to succeed. He gets it that we’re on the same team. So when we see another dog we work together; we can calmly go on our merry way without a distraction interfering.

Am I excited for him to leave because of my favorite pair of hand-knit socks that he used as a tug toy? It was morning playtime and he was too quiet that day. That’s when I discovered the reason why.  Little puppies are just like little human kids; they make mistakes, and that’s when we teach them right and wrong. He leaves my things alone now, so that’s not it either. Now that he’s grown-up, he endures the frenzy of my morning routine with a hearty chew on his bone - a canine equivalent to a relaxing cup of coffee.

Am I excited to say goodbye because of his silly counter-surfing attempts as a young pup? Miller got tall at a pretty young age and discovered he could reach a whole new world. It took a little work, but now when my bank teller tries to get him to put his paws up on the counter so she can give him a treat, he politely sits instead. He learns these lessons quickly and is really responsive to my cues. That’s a great thing for a dog whose job will be to pay attention to the mood of his kid.

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Am I excited to rid myself of this licking machine? He takes in the world around him by kissing it. Germaphobes, be warned. Recently, on a visit to my local special needs pre-school his kisses were transforming. A little boy who’s non-verbal and very disengaged stood near Miller. He was just barely close enough for that giraffe-like neck and tongue to reach the boy’s hand. Instead of jumping away he turned his hand up, stepped a wee bit closer and the party began. Miller licked and licked that little kid, who faced Miller, smiled, laughed and made eye contact with him. The teacher nearly burst into tears. So there we have it.

All his lessons in good manners and partnership are my lead for this…

That moment with that little boy is why I’m so excited for my pup to leave me…

He’s ready.

Go get ‘em, Millsy. Show us what you can do.

Walk for BluePath!

On Saturday, May 19, we'll host our second annual walkathon at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights. The family-friendly fundraiser will raise funds in support of BluePath's mission to provide autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence. Stay tuned for more information!

A special thank you to the sponsors who have already committed their support:

PLATINUM: Co-Communications, Elite Carriers, Empire BlueCross BlueShield

SILVER: Kolmar Americas Inc.

Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Reserve your spot now and maximize the partnership potential - contact Erica Stanzione at for more info.

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BluePath receives $25,000 grant from The FAR Fund

The FAR Fund was established in 2001 to provide grants to non-profit organizations that promote healthy social and emotional development in children and families. The Fund's generous $25,000 grant will assist us with our Kids and Canines Learning Together Program, an essential component to the training of BluePath dogs. 

The Kids and Canines Learning Together Program allows service dogs in training to spend time in educational settings where they’re exposed to children with a variety of special needs. The dogs learn to remain calm and focused despite a high level of distraction, while the kids learn important life skills through interaction with the dogs. 

We are deeply grateful for the Fund's support.

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