Navigating the Pandemic

The year 2020 will long be remembered as one of challenges.   While this is true of all citizens, it is particularly true for those in the disability community, and for that subset of the community that is the SD community.  While the average citizen must worry about guarding against this virus for their own self, a SD team handler must be concerned with the health and safety of both team members.  While many businesses have worked diligently to put in place measures to safeguard the public, these measures, as a matter of necessity, must be directed at addressing the needs of the majority of individuals.  They do not always translate well for those with special needs,including:

  • individuals with muscle weakness and/or decreased stamina
  • those with compromised immune systems
  • SD teams
  • Military veterans with PTSD who have difficulty standing in long lines where they may feel surrounded

This month, we discuss some active steps that all teams can take to increase their chances of success during these difficult times.

Retail stores – during this reopening, the current guidelines limit the capacity for stores, and businesses may need to limit the number of patrons permitted to enter at any given time.  This may result in long lines outside.   Some with disabilities may be unable to stand in long lines, and seating accommodations may not be available.  Furthermore, the triple digit temperatures have arrived in AZ, and we must remain cognizant that our dogs are wearing a fur coat.  We recommend the following steps to provide the greatest measure of protection possible:

  • Arrive as early as possible, preferably before the temperatures warm up and the stores are less populated
  • Call ahead, if needed, and ask what the least busy times are for the business
  • Inquire about curbside pick-up options
  • Limit the time you and your dog will stand in line to no longer than 10 minutes in the heat, and provide a cold drink for your dog prior to taking them out of the car
  • If you arrive to discover a long line, consider returning at a different time

Though the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has reported no known cases of symptomatic Covid in dogs, remember that  your dog can pick up the virus on their fur.  It is important to bathe your dog when you arrive home.  Remember that bathing too frequently can cause dry skin and itching, so please try to limit the number of times you leave the house.  Designate errand days and try to accomplish all errands on the same day.

Physician visits – consider telemedicine visits to limit the potential exposure for both you and your dog.

Veterinary care – most veterinary offices have put some measures in place to safeguard clients.  Call ahead to learn the rules.  In some cases, we are advised that a staff may come to your car to pick up the animal, and you may have to wait in the car and speak to the veterinarian over the phone.  Be prepared so you are not caught off guard.

While we hope that all team handlers will be able to avoid infection, this may not be realistic.  Despite best efforts, some of you will inevitably become infected.  Consider leaving a note on file in your veterinary office that grant permission for your Vet to provide your SD with any required veterinary care in the event that you are hospitalized.  Also be certain that your emergency contact information is up to date, and that you have a written set of instructions in place for anyone who has agreed to care for your animal(s) if you are hospitalized.

If you are immune compromised, please avoid situations where groups of people may congregate in public or private places until such time as the CDC declares it safe to do so.

Note:  The FSDS has developed a phased reopening plan, and once we determine that it is safe to begin reopening, we will implement this plan.  We will keep our students and readers advised of any changes.   At this time, our training facility remains closed.  Didactic classes continue via our online classroom, and skills training continues via Facetime.


Classroom News

Beginner Class – our beginner class has really stepped up to the plate, and deserves much credit for keeping up with their training during this pandemic.  100% of all students are participating in ongoing lessons via Facetime, and have really gone above and beyond to cooperate and make this work. We wish to recognize all of them for being flexible during this difficult time. 

  • DeAnna & Scooby- are showing great progress with the”go find” cue and bringing back the item that was placed at a distance. They are also showing good progress with off lead work and remaining at heel side when the leash drops!
  • Keeta & Dani- have been doing a great job with the “emergency stop”,  this is a important command as it could very easily save your dog from being injured if they are from a distance and are faced with a potential threat to their safety.
  • Henry & Solomon- are doing great with their loose leash walking and also with placing items in a bucket with the bucket on its side.  This sets them up for success in future tasks, such as shopping.
  • Lindsey & Willow- have mastered cuing “heel” from a distance along with working on recalls with distractions.
  • Celia & Carloine- are showing great improvement at remaining in an “under” for a certain amount of time and have also shown great improvement in their ability to “sit and down/stay” when Celia is out of sight.
  • Brian & Mando- are doing a fantastic job at mastering sitting with coming to an halt and also with loose leash walking; they are also showing improvement with their perch work.
  • Tina & Socorro- Socorro has mastered the beginning stages of go find and has mastered sit stay and down stay out of sight
  • Yamill & Bailey- are making great progress with “go find” item while its out of sight!  They are also making progress with off lead work around distractions and with their “sit and down/stays” when Yamill is out of sight .   They are also showing improvement with “sit and down” from a distance
  • Soyini & Coco- have mastered “targeting the lid” at 20ft!  They have also mastered cuing from a distance and the “closer” command; another great improvement is ignoring distractions while in heel position.
  • John & Simari- have made great progress with the “release” cue, and have mastered “backing up”.  They have made great improvements with their perch work and “heel” command as well.

Advanced Class – this class is working to complete their required training hours, and at this stage of the training process are just putting the finishing touches on their training.  Though our program requires a minimum of 180 in person training hours, more hours are provided for those with complex needs.  

  • Irmarie & Bruno: have mastered many of their service skills such as getting help and retrieving items.  They continue to work on additional tasks such as applying pressure on his recipient by laying his head on the lap or chest.
  • Nicole & Dakota- this team has now completed their minimum required 180 hours of skills training and are working on getting ready to be tested for certification, once social distancing restrictions are lifted.  Congratulations to this exceptional team for this accomplishment.  Job well done!
  • David & Samson-  have mastered their alert command.  Samson is now able to alert David to an impending medical crisis, to reliably call for help and remain with David to watch over him until help arrives.  David is a military veteran, and we are excited for him that he now has the help he has needed.

Spotlighting the Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand

The Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand (AFSG) has been a long time community partner with the FSDS.  The hard work and generosity of these wonderful people has been instrumental in helping us to fulfill our mission to serve our community.  This month, we are proud to spotlight this group.

The AFSG started in 2009 as a conversation between Barry Curseadon and another golfer at the end of our round. His son was serving in Iraq and it was a time when too many soldiers were returning home injured physically and psychologically with very few support systems in place.

Many people, military and nonmilitary, wanted to help support these Veterans and their families, so the Sun City Grands Armed Forces Support Group (AFSG) was founded. Currently they are a Charter Club in Sun City Grand with over 100 community members. Only because the AFSG has been blessed with many hard working Board Members and membership have they been successful in supporting our vetted Veteran Support Groups that are 501 C 3 foundations.

The Sun City Grand and the City of Surprise community have also been outstanding in their support for our Veterans and their families since our initial fundraising event in 2009 when we raised $27,300 with a raffle. Since 2009, our total contributions to Veteran Support Foundations as of 2020 has been over $684,000! Never underestimate the power of an idea!

Our partnership with the Foundation For Service Dog Support began in 2012 through 2020 and we have been proud to help raise over $100,000 for FSDS! FSDS has honored us as a participant in the Passing of the Lease ceremony as well as their ribbon cutting ceremony at their new training facility. FDSD has been a one of our featured sponsors at our annual Veterans Fundraising/Golf Event and they have also participated with members bringing their dogs to the Golf Event opening ceremonies.

Dr. Betancourt and her staff continue to do great work not only with Veterans, but First Responders and many others in need of service dog assistance with the highest degree of professionalism!

The AFSG is very proud and honored of our partnership with the FSDS and wish them continued success moving forward.


Barry Curseaden, Pres./Founder

SCG Armed Forces Support Group


If you are seeking a volunteer opportunity with a credible group and wish to learn more, please contact the AFSG at the email address above.

Wellness Tip

Fire, hurricane and monsoon seasons have arrived.  This month we provide some practical tips to keep your animals safe.

Scan all veterinary records to your Drive or Cloud, so that they are available remotely; if you must be evacuated to a shelter proof of vaccination for your SD will be required and you must be able to retrieve these documents with ease.

Prepare an emergency evacuation bag for your animal(s) and keep a list of those items that must be packed at the last minute, so that you do not forget anything important:

  • Enough food for at least a week to 10 days
  • Any prescription or routine preventive medications (ie: flea/tick and heartworm treatments)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Bedding
  • Working booties, your vest / ID badge and harness (if applicable)
  • A comfort object, such as a favorite toy
  • A properly fitted life vest if you are in an area prone to storm surge

Update your family emergency evacuation plan as needed, and ensure that your current plan includes your 4-legged family members.  Designate a meet-up place in the event that your family is separated.  Rehearse your plan with family.

Thank You

This month we wish to express our sincere thanks to those who have supported our program in the past month.

  • DAV Auxiliary Unit 1 / special thanks to Tom and Sharon Linton
  • Valerie Schluter
  • Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand
  • Subaru of America Foundation, Inc.

Photo Gallery

Our teams continue to work from home,with skills training continuing via Facetime. We hope that you enjoy these photos that were provided by our students.

bruno photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4 yamill yamll2