Raising a Superhero: Sue Feit and Knight

“It’s really rewarding to help prepare a dog to be a superhero,” muses NEADS board member and volunteer Sue Feit. And she knows: as Weekend Puppy Raisers, Sue and her brother, Andy, have worked with five NEADS dogs, including Service Dog Knight. Knight, says Sue, was a special dog the moment she met him.

Knight was several months into his training at MCI-Norfolk, going home with Sue most weekends, when the pandemic forced the prison into lockdown. Sue recalls, “I got that call—’can you pick up Knight tomorrow?’ And just like that I was a Full-time Puppy Raiser.” There’s a considerable difference between bringing a puppy home on the weekends to experience family life and excursions outside prison, and taking on the full-time obedience training and socialization that prepares the dog for a Service Dog career.

“We called it Operation Prison Break,” Sue says with a laugh. She and Andy worried whether they could take on this larger role, but agreed that they were committed to Knight and to doing everything they could to ensure his success. Knight became Sue’s constant companion as she began working from home.

Finding socialization opportunities in the midst of a pandemic required creativity. “We walked the beach, we walked empty malls; we pretended Andy’s house was a ‘restaurant’ we’d go and visit. Learning to be comfortable in noisy environments is important, so I’d seek out bad weather—we’d go to the beach to watch big waves and listen to the storm.”

Sue glows with affection when she talks about Knight. “He’s such a calm, happy dog. He’d settle down anywhere but he was always ready to go and happy to work. He’s a sweet snuggler, too, so he was the perfect Covid companion.” Although it’s a wrench to say goodbye to a dog who’s become such a big part of your life, she says, seeing Knight with partner Patrick Cogan at their graduation affirmed that she and Andy had met their goal: they’d helped Service Dog Knight become Patrick’s superhero. “I could not have been more proud,” Sue says softly.

Her wistfulness vanishes, though, as she goes on to share stories about the two dogs she’s helped raise since Knight was matched. There was Rigby, who she calls Mr. Congeniality, and then serene, hardworking Velma, who reminds her of Knight. Sue calls these extraordinary dogs superheroes, and clients like Patrick agree wholeheartedly. We are profoundly grateful to superstar Puppy Raisers like Sue and Andy who help our NEADS heroes get ready to don their capes.