Stephanie Smith & Tootsie

From: Northampton, MA
Program: Assistance Dog
Minimum Goal: $8,000 | Amount Raised:$6,947

Tootsie has been a huge gift to Cathedral in the Night, an outdoor church in Northampton, MA. Our community is a blend of people experiencing poverty, homelessness, and addiction; people living with mental illness; and people seeking a social justice-oriented, progressive church. Our weekly Sunday worship services include a hot, free dinner, insuring that there is a community meal every day of the week. We serve between 80-100 meals each Sunday. During the week we have several gatherings of support and advocacy.

Tootsie has brought so much love to our community. Tootsie is a wiggly embodiment of unconditional love, non-judgement. When people see her coming – no matter what they are struggling with, they start to smile and stress and frustration fall away, if only for a moment, as they bend down to snuggle with her.

Here’s one members experience with Tootsie.

I used to come to church early and set up. I used to help to coordinate the service, assigning the roles for readers and such. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t lift anymore. I can’t stand for more than 20 minutes at a time. I had nothing left to do to help.

Then Tootsie came into my life. When I arrive at church, Tootsie greets with a wagging tail and wiggly body. Pastor and I take her to the yard before the service and play fetch with her, and allow an opportunity for others to come and play with Tootsie.

During service, I get to sit with Tootsie. During the passing of the peace, everyone comes to say hi (to Tootsie, and sometimes to me too)

When folks are lining up for dinner, Tootsie and I get to sit on the side of the line, greeting each person as they pass through the line.

I have had dogs most of my life. Because of where I live now, I am unable to have a dog. But even though Tootsie does not live with me, I feel like Tootsie is my dog too. She shows me so much love and seems to sense when I need extra love. And I look so forward to seeing her.

This is just one person’s experience with Tootsie but his words ring true for so many. Many of our members feel like they are always takers – always in need with nothing to offer. Tootsie is just one way they can see that they have something to offer as well. Tootsie needs them and loves them just as they are!

Tootsie spends time on the street corner, at coffee shops, at yoga classes that I teach at the Northampton Recovery Center where prisoners attend (some of whom have worked with NEADS dogs in the past), in the most painful moments and the most joyful. She always brings joy, love and non-judgement. She teaches me every day to be in the moment and lead with love and joy – the rest will unfold.

*NEADS clients pledge to raise a minimum of $8,000 for the organization, thus allowing us to fulfill our mission of placing Service Dogs with individuals who benefit from them the most.  Each donation ensures that NEADS will continue to change lives with our World Class Service Dogs.


On our donation form, pick the name of the client you want to sponsor under the Program Menu and check whether or not we can share your contact information with the client. Client fundraising totals are manually updated weekly (not automatically) which allows 100% of each donation to be allocated towards each client’s fundraising goal.

Read all our clients' stories here.

Find a Client

Search by program

Search by name