Northaven Rider on the Storm aka “Rider”
DOB 12/21/2003
Owner: Eileen Santarlasci
Nominated by Sarah Stebbins
Breeder: Sarah Stebbins

I would like to nominate Northaven Rider on the Storm TDI, “Rider,” as FSSA Service Dog of the Year.

Rider is a Tail Waggin Tutor.  Two days a week he joins his owner, Eileen Taubman Santarlasci, at the A. Russell Knight Elementary School, where third and fourth grade students improve communications skills by reading to him.  Eileen is a guidance counselor at the school.

The Tail Waggin Tutors program is a national program developed by Therapy Dogs International that pairs service dogs with children learning to read.  Reading to the dogs, children gain confidence and practice with reading skills.  Reading to a dog is particularly helpful for children who are shy about  reading in front of a class.  Dogs are eager listeners, and they don’t care if children make mistakes.  Visiting Rider makes reading practice fun, as well, and children look forward to their sessions with him and learn to love reading.

Rider is six years old.  Eileen adopted him at four months, always planning for him to become a therapy dog.  He earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate at two years old and went on for TDI certification at five.  He joined the Tail Waggin Tutors program in October.  It is the best of luck that he and Eileen found each other.  Rider’s first placement with a family in Toronto did not work out, and he lived in Canada with Peter Archer for a month until he could be returned to us.  Eileen called us looking for a puppy the day Rider came home.

Eileen says that Rider loves the children and they love him.  In addition to helping them build reading skills, Rider offers the children emotional support and the opportunity to learn social skills.  By learning not to rush up on Rider, one little girl has learned about personal space.  Rider comforted another little girl who was upset by going to sit at her feet after she gave him a tearful hug.  A little boy whose sister has cancer gets a chance to have special attention by having extra time with Rider.

Rider has become the school mascot.  He goes everywhere with Eileen and is greeted by “Hi, Rider!” everywhere he goes.  The children are proud of him and proud to be in a school with its own dog.