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The Seeing Eye is a remarkable philanthropic organization that enhances the independence of blind people through the use of guide dogs. The Seeing Eye breeds their own puppies and when they reach 8 weeks old, they leave to spend a year learning basic obedience with a volunteer. Beth Pfizenmayer, a local Seeing Eye puppy raiser and wonderful client, has brought all 6 of her puppies to see Dr. Shreiber. “Our job is to expose them to as much as we can: lighting, sounds, clouds, anything. This makes the puppies more prepared to focus when they return to train for 4 months with a sighted instructor,” Beth explained.

The puppy is then matched with a blind candidate and begins a 2-3 week training period until the pair is ready to start their own adventure. “The matching program is phenomenal, in the way they can match the right pace and temperament. The Seeing Eye is just an amazing program,” said Beth.

Hugger, Beth’s third Seeing Eye puppy, became a guide dog for Britt Raubenheimer, an oceanographer and senior scientist for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Britt grew up in New Jersey on a small farm with horses, chickens, cats and dogs and she loved physics, math and the outdoors. Britt was always an animal lover but did not have a pet of her own due to the travel constraints of her job. In 2003, Britt suddenly lost her vision due to optic nerve atrophy. She anxiously contacted The Seeing Eye and was matched with her first guide dog, Whit, who helped her with the transition of losing her sight. “I was nervous. It happened pretty fast. The first time we went out for a walk it felt like I was zooming around through the crowds. It was a crazy feeling, similar to the adrenaline you feel when you play a sport or do something adventurous,” Britt recounted.

dog walking on path

Myself & Hugger on the leisure path at the Seeing Eye (photo by Craig Garretson, Manager of Communications)


Hugger met Britt on June 30, 2016 and immediately began training. It was a tough training period, as Britt had developed a specific communication system with Whit that she had to unlearn and redevelop with Hugger. “The first time we went off the pavement into the dirt Hugger stopped immediately. She thought she was supposed to keep me on the sidewalk. It was hard to create a new language in a short period of time,” Britt explained.

Britt’s career and work is varied — she travels and goes to the beach, attends conferences, completes field work and has a slew of personal hobbies including skiing, hiking, and rock climbing. Last year, Hugger and Britt racked up a whopping 100,000 miles of domestic airline travel. When asked how Hugger helps with work, Britt said “I could change the way I do my work by sending others to the field without me, or not traveling to as many conferences or meetings. But one of the things I love about my career is the variety. And going to the beach! Hugger makes both possible.” Britt studies anything and everything that happens along the coast including hurricanes, erosion, waves, rip currents, floods, extreme events and sediment transport. Together, they spend on average 3-4 months a year working on deploying instruments and making measurements. Most of the work is done on the beach in summer and fall since they primarily use their hands, and recent work has been in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and on the West Coast. The team places instruments on metal pipes and needs to use screwdrivers and wrenches which can be difficult to do below 50 degrees.

Britt even scuba dives. “It’s typically in shallow water where the waves are stirring up sediment. A lot of time you can’t see anyway. Most of the undergrads get trained in scuba and ask me how I do it. I tell them to close their eyes. You can do so much by feel, you know the shape of the instruments and can work around it,” Britt explained.

Hugger enables Britt to get back and forth and provides a lot of freedom. There were days when their engineers and field techs went to the beach to work while she had a meeting. “Sometimes we would walk 2-3 miles to get to work. Hugger would learn places on the route and she would take me right there after the meeting. This gave me a lot of flexibility and I didn’t have to rely on someone else,” said Britt. Hugger makes it easy to be at crowded restaurants and travel through the airport. “She uses her head to to point out an obstacle ahead. She keeps me going straight to where I need to be. It’s liberating to be able to get where I want when I want. She’s also really good at finding the car.”



According to The Seeing Eye, the greatest difficulty guide dog users encounter is public interference. There are times when people approach Hugger when she’s in harness, but Britt says people are better informed each year and most will ask before doing anything. Britt’s largest issue occurs when she travels internationally. “It’s harder to communicate my issues to people. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but once they understand, they are completely accepting and respect our space,” Britt explained.

Britt is amazed by Hugger and her ability to flip back between work and play mode. When Hugger is in harness she is completely focused and direct, but she also enjoys being a normal spunky dog at home. “When she’s not in harness she’s a crazy happy, playful puppy. She loves to be off leash, play fetch, jump into snow drifts, hike and run. Even though they grow up to be obedient, they are still puppies at heart,” Britt said.



Losing her sight has been a major challenge for Britt, but her active work and personal life has kept her very busy and happy. “One plus from all this, besides Hugger, is my ability to be on boats for long periods of time. I used to get sea sick, but once I lost my vision I lost my sea sickness too,” Britt explained.

You can keep up with Britt and Hugger’s adventures on her blog, “An Oceanographer’s Guide: Adventures of a Blind Oceanographer and her Seeing Eye Dog” at web.whoi.edu/raubenheimer.

Ginny the Cat

A lost pet can be a trying and challenging experience for any animal owner. Many lost pet stories end in heartbreak, but the story of Ginny proves that a combination of luck, hard work, and determination can lead to a happy resolution.

Virginia, Ginny for short, was named after the home state of George Washington. Ginny was abandoned
by the creek in Valley Forge National Park and her sweet and shy demeanor immediately caught the
attention of the staff. Ginny spent her time snuggling into a pile of navy wool blankets inside a lifeguard
hut behind Washington’s headquarters. The park staff is full of animal lovers, including Kate, who cares
for and re-homes pets whenever possible. After taking in several strays and needing help, Kate reached
out to her friend Dona for assistance. Dona volunteered to babysit Ginny for a few days and their bond
was instantaneous. Ginny seemed standoffish at first, but became affectionate and loving and would
excitedly meet Dona at the door when she returned home each day. Ginny soon became a member of
the family and settled into her new home.

One rainy Monday in November 2014, Ginny greeted Dona and her mother Janice upon their arrival from
a weekend away. Ginny paced, walking back and forth as luggage went into the house. When Dona
called Ginny to come back inside, she bumped her head twice on the storm door and ran off. The
strenuous search for Ginny began immediately. Valley Forge National Park’s slogan reads “determined
to persevere”–which is exactly what Dona and her family did. Dona spoke to everyone she could, asking
for advice on how to find a lost pet and vowed to stop at nothing until she came home. In a stroke of
good fortune, she contacted a private investigator who happened to be nearby and agreed to come out
and help. Jamie Katz specializes in reuniting lost, missing and stolen pets with their families with the aid
of her scent specific tracking dogs, Fletcher and Gable.

They created scent packs using objects with Dona’s scent, and left food, beds and litter boxes around the
neighborhood. The community came together in the search– the local Staples printed signs and posters
at a discounted price, neighborhood children volunteered to help after school, Dona created a Facebook
page titled “Bring Ginny Home” and Jamie sent out a pet Amber Alert. Fletcher, the smallest of Jamie’s
scent dogs, played a crucial role in Ginny’s return. While most cats typically work in a triangular or star
pattern, Ginny functioned more like a dog, walking up and back alongside the creek at the edge of the
neighborhood. “Water is home for her. She was dumped where the Valley Creek met the Schuylkill, so I
know the creek seemed familiar to her” said Dona. Fletcher stopped at a small bush near the water and
was confident that Ginny had been there. Once the dog picks up the scent, Jamie asks the property
owner if they can take a look around for clues. Her neighbors agreed for the most part. “There were two
people that wouldn’t let us on their property. One just didn’t want to and the other was feeding strays and
didn’t want us to scare them off”, Dona explained. Jamie and Dona came up with a plan to set 3 traps
around the neighborhood. Due to the weather and circumstance, the traps needed to be checked every 2
hours. A few neighbors kindly agreed to check them for her and report back.

Ginny Cat Map Sightings

Ginny Nightcam

The investigation continued for weeks. Dona’s wedding was scheduled during the middle of the
heartbreaking search. “You’ve never seen a couple more sad on their wedding day. Of course we were
happy to be getting married, but we felt sad and lost without Ginny”, Dona explained. As time passed,
Dona got a call from her neighbor Jill stating that she had seen strays and a Ginny look-alike roaming her
nearby farm. Jill agreed to set up traps around her property and Dona put food, a litter box, and a bed in
the barn in the hopes of attracting Ginny. She also purchased a night vision camera to record the night’s
events and snapped a photo that would change everything. The footage provided a sense of relief, but
the next few nights proved to be discouraging for all. “Ginny would go into the trap to grab the food, but
managed to escape before it closed her in”, Dona frustratingly explained. After further devising a plan
and continuous days of trial and error, Dona’s hard work paid off.

54 days after getting lost, Ginny was caught and finally reunited with her family. At less than half her
weight, Ginny was famished, scared, and came to Valley Veterinary Hospital to recover. The doctors
and staff quickly stepped in to provide the necessary care and attention. Ginny received fluids, vaccines,
blood work testing, and medicine to stimulate her appetite and increase her weight.

Dona, her husband and her mother were ecstatic to have Ginny back home. “It was a long sad time
without her, and we are so thankful she is safe.” Since then, Ginny has settled back into her routine, but
has started creating unusual patterns with her toys. “She takes these styrofoam balls of various sizes and
puts them into deliberate patterns and shapes. It’s like a work in progress. She will work on them for
days at a time then leave them around the house for us to enjoy. She will mess them up if she catches
me taking a picture but sometimes I am lucky enough to capture them” says Dona.

Ginny Cat Toys

Valley Veterinary Hospital is proud to be part of this happy ending.

With kennel cough, an untreated skin condition and a bad case of wanderlust, Bruno was not an easy sell at a Philadelphia shelter. But Jon Schell saw something extraordinary in the handsome pit bull. The problem was convincing his girlfriend, Katie.

“I sent a picture of him to Katie and she said, basically, whatever you do, do not bring that dog home,” says Jon. So just how he ended up in their Audubon home is still something of the mystery of love. Once Katie met Bruno her hesitation vanished and her heart melted. Bruno knew how work his magic. The big, playful pit was one of the family.

“When we adopted him he was not vaccinated and not housetrained,” says Jon, 39. “Dr. Shreiber got him up to date with everything in early January 2015. He was absolutely fantastic. He and his whole staff are amazing.” (more…)

Flea-bitten and very thin, the little dachshund was in need of extreme care. Linda Herman, an analyst who lives in Phoenixville, first learned about her story from friends on Facebook. Sweet Pea 2

“Apparently she had been living with a family and when the parents were not paying attention the children tossed the dog down a laundry chute,” says Herman. The young dog suffered a severe spine injury and was left in a crate in a misguided effort to heal. That’s when Home Sweet Home Again Rescue came into the picture. The family thankfully agreed to surrender the dachshund named Sweet Pea. They dropped off the sickly, injured dachshund in a tiny box. (more…)


Cyrus, a lab-pit cross, is reunited with his family in Northeast Philadelphia after Valley Vet receptionist, Ashley Foresta, worked with her rescue to get him home safely.

This is the story of Cyrus, the luckiest dog, with a tale to tell. Thanks to Valley Veterinary’s receptionist, Ashley Foresta, her rescue City of Elderly Love, and a network of caring volunteers, Cyrus is now home and safe after an incredible journey.

Cyrus, a 12-year-old pit and lab cross, was not microchipped and had no collar when he got frightened by fireworks on his Northeast Philadelphia block. He slipped out the front door. Before his family could corral him, someone on Souder Street called the city animal shelter who delivered Cyrus to the facility. When no one claimed him, he was scheduled for euthanasia. The shelters are so overwhelmed by dogs, euthanasia is an unfortunate daily reality. (more…)

These baby rabbits were dropped off at our office Monday morning.

Please share this ‘nature note’ with your neighbors. Though it is not uncommon to come across wildlife while doing yard work, generally the best practice is to leave them alone.

“While baby rabbits may appear abandoned, the opposite is usually true,” says Dr. Shreiber. “The mother rabbit nurses babies for only a short time, at most several hours a day. Since she cannot defend them against predators, they are kept hidden, safe, and protected from dehydration from the sun in their hidden nests.”

Though we know intentions are good, it is best to leave baby rabbits alone. This is often their best chance for survival. If you do find wildlife, or have questions, call our office and we can direct you to best organization. These little cuties were brought to the Schuylkill Wildlife Center in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia and are doing fine. 

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Valley Vet has been as fantastic about handling our TNR cats as they have been with our indoor ferals,” says Jean.


Jean and Steve moved into their house with three cats of their own. But soon they noticed a few visitors. A population of feral cats was living in the woods and a nearby cemetery. They often wandered into their yard. “We began feeding one of the cats,” recalls Jean. “But we weren’t completely sure we wanted to take her in.” Soon enough, the stray made the decision for them. She brought a few extra paws, too. The mama stray returned with her kittens. (more…)

June 26, 2015 is National Take Your Dog to Work Day 

Gracie getting ready to go outside in the cold.

Dressed and ready to get to work!

There are so many benefits to working with your dog. If you’re lucky enough to work with your dog tomorrow, or any day, please send us pictures. Tell us your favorite thing about going to work with your dog. Dr. Shreiber brings both of his dogs, Cosmo and Gracie, into the office every day. “From an anthropology point of view, mankind has a long history of taking dogs to work,” says Dr. Shreiber. “Farmers and shepherds have always had their faithful working dogs alongside them. Having your dog at work celebrates this natural historical bond. Your dog will benefit from having more time with you, and by taking a lunchtime walk with your dog, you will enjoy the benefits of your canine companion and some outdoor sunshine and exercise.”

How a senior border collie inspired a retired aerospace design engineer and forged a beautiful friendship

When Ray Lisiewski agreed to take in an 8-year-old border collie named Ashley he had no idea how she would change his life.

Ray and Ashley, a great team.

Ray and Ashley, a great team.



RangerRanger spent the first years of his life living on a rooftop in Jordan. The building owner thought a watchdog would keep neighborhood kids away from his property. He chained the shepherd mix to a post and his life was contained to the small, cement roof. (more…)

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