Each month, Central Penn Parent features a child who is doing great things. They pitch in to make a difference in their schools, places of worship and throughout their communities. They are a blessing to those around them—yet their efforts often go unrecognized. We want to thank them for a job well done! Each child receives a cape and a prize package from our sponsors.
Like many kids, Brandon Noggle wanted a dog. Even at the tender age of 10, he realized he would have to help exercise it and feed it.
But there were two things Brandon, now 17, could never have predicted: that sometimes, he’d have to carry said dog; and that he’d spend his entire school career training a dog.
Brandon, the son of Robert and Linda Noggle of Boiling Springs, is a volunteer with Susquehanna Service Dogs, an organization dedicated to raising and training service dogs and hearing dogs to help children and adults with disabilities to become more independent.
Dogs can assist individuals with spinal cord injuries, polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, stroke and similar disabilities. Some dogs can be trained to support individuals with psychiatric disorders and children and adults with autism. Hearing dogs assist people with hearing impairments. Each dog is specially trained depending on the needs of the person receiving the dog.
Brandon has been working with service dogs for seven years. He begins with an 8-week old dog and works with it until it’s about 18 months old. His job is to train the dogs so that they can follow basic commands, behave appropriately around people, behave in public places and to keep focus on the handler.
His first dog, Quinn, was 6 months old when Brandon took him to school for some socialization training. “We walked to the steps and he had no idea what to do,” Brandon recalled. “I picked him up and carried him.”
Both Brandon and the dog had unexpected homework that night to get past the dilemma.
Being able to take his dog everywhere he goes is both a treat and a trial for Brandon. “You can’t go anywhere fast,” he said. “Everybody wants to pet the dog.”
Brandon said he has to explain that the dog is always working and can’t be disturbed—it’s the first lesson the animals must learn. “If the dog is working with someone and it becomes distracted, it’s not working effectively with its person,” he said.
In addition to training, Brandon also volunteers at his school and the local library by taking his dog to help students with special needs and young learners.
And he helps with the annual SSD event, Pawsabilities, held each year in March at the State Farm Show Complex.
“He is very integral to that event,” said Kerry Wevodau, development director for SSD. “He’s like a staff person. He’s there as early as we are and stays as late. I trust Brandon as I would a staff person. He’s a very responsible young man.”
When he doesn’t have a leash in hand, Brandon can be found leading a group at church, playing on the high school golf team or working with computers and printers and such as leader of the Tech Student Association. He also holds a part-time landscaping job and does pet sitting.
The rising high school senior hopes to study engineering in college.
And he hopes to continue volunteering. “There are a lot of people out there who need help. It’s a great thing to see how happy those people are and what you’ve done for them.”
Andrea Ciccocioppo is editor of Central Penn Parent and thinks therapy dogs are absolutely awesome animals.