DogFest Returning To Massapequa Park


DogFest LI Highlights The Importance Of Service Dogs

Brian Bard being presented the leash of his new service dog, Radcliff, by Radcliff’s volunteer puppy raisers Kelsey Thornton (L) and Leslie Neely (R). (Photos courtesy of Canine Companions)

“The human-canine bond is truly unique,” proclaims the homepage of DogFestLI. “On our happiest and hardest of days, our dogs love us endlessly. They are our everyday heroes in so many ways. Whether as assistance dogs, working dogs or pet dogs, there are countless tales of man’s best friend doing amazing things.” There is definitely no argument to be made about the special connection many of us share with our dogs. They are members of the family, companions, one of the few responsibilities in our lives that also makes us smile. And for some individuals, a dog may vastly increase their quality of life, if not save it.

One in four Americans live with a disability. While these individuals often have the support of loved ones or their community, it can be frustrating to feel less independent. Service dogs help bridge this gap, assisting people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, stroke, hearing loss, developmental delay, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Tasks the dogs are trained in can vary from picking up a dropped item, turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors, to disrupting trauma-related responses, such as nightmares or panic attacks.

Many service dogs show up alongside the owners they help.

September is National Service Dog Month, and what better way to celebrate than to bring your canine friends to a fun event for a great cause? DogFest Long Island is returning once again on Saturday, September 23rd to Marjorie Post Park in Massapequa, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This annual event supports the mission of Canine Companions to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing expertly trained service dogs, free of charge! This is an invaluable service, as raising and preparing a service dog can cost an excess of $50,000.

Aside from costs, demand for dogs remains high. John Bentzinger, Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator for Canine Companions’ northeast region, reports that their office receives 15 or so applications every week. This is why DogFest will also offer opportunities to get involved with the process of raising these life-altering animals.

Service dogs can provide a lifetime of assistance and smiles!

Bentzinger explained, “The dogs are bred and weaned at 8 weeks old and sent across the country to volunteer puppy raisers. These are individuals who raise them in their homes for a year and a half. The puppy-raisers are responsible for basic commands — sit, stay — and to socialize the dogs and expose them to a variety of environments. These are the building blocks for the more advanced training they go through afterwards.” Puppy raisers differ from trainers because no prior experience is required, meaning the everyday dog lover is fully invited to help change the life of a person with a disability.

Bob and Pam Goldfarb from Massapequa are two such people. The newlyweds met through the Canine Companions puppy classes and events, and are currently raising their 11th dog together. “People ask us, how can we give up the dogs,” said Bob. “Pam’s attitude has always been ‘we want the dogs, but the people we give the dogs to actually need the dogs’. When you see the dog helping their recipient, it really is very heartwarming.”

Bob and Pam Goldfarb.

At one and half years old, the dogs are brought back to Canine Companions for six months of advanced training, before being introduced to their potential partner-in-crime. Four times a year, people on the waiting list are invited to come stay with Canine Companions for two weeks to work with the dogs and bond, connect with them on a personal and caretaker level. At the end, the leashes are passed officially in a graduation ceremony from puppy raisers to their new owners who they will work for. “The hardest part is giving up the dog, but it’s such a great cause that you shouldn’t let [those feelings] get in your way,” Bob said. “It got in my way for 20 years. Even though the turn-in is so difficult, it is so rewarding at the same time.”

At DogFest, eager participants prepare for the costume contest.

Whether you are interested in being a puppy raiser, have an interest in donating, or just want to spend a day surrounded by furry friends, DogFest is a fun event, and a great way to show support for the important work of both service dogs, as well as those who raise and train them. Join the fun in person, or participate virtually as we celebrate the joy dogs bring to our lives. Registration is free, fundraising is encouraged. There are sponsorship, volunteer and vendor opportunities too! When registering, be sure to indicate you are bringing a dog to get your free DogFest dog bandanna. More information is available at

Previous articleRosh Hashanah Message
Next articleHow Well Do You Know Your Neighbors?
Lauren Feldman is the Editor of the Nassau Observer. She is a Long Island native, who received an MA in Media and International Development from the University of East Anglia.

Leave a Reply