North Star Foundation

Rating: 4.31 stars   45 reviews

Issues:

Location: 20 Deerfield Ln Storrs CT 06268 USA

Mission: North Star Foundation was formed to help children who have developmental differences such as autism, or who must face challenges such as the loss of a parent, through the use of a specially bred and trained Assistance Dog. Our mission is to help children reach their social, emotional, and educational goals through the use of Animal-Assisted Therapy. We work with the children's existing therapists to help them incorporate their North Star dog into a child's therapeutic program. We travel to childrens' schools to present a program to their peers that promotes tolerance and understanding, as we believe there is no better way to teach tolerance than through the avenue of an Assistance Dog that is trained to help. We also work with children's families, teaching them how to use their North Star Dog to help smooth transitions and soothe anxiety for everybody on the homefront.
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

North Star Foundation assisted us in acquiring a therapy dog for our son who has autism. They were very easy to work with and we have had a wonderful experience integrating a service dog into our home. The dog has assisted our son by decreasing stress and providing emotional support, but he also is learning to track and perform other tasks to assist our son.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Rating: 5 stars  

North Star foundation changed my family's life!!! My son has autism and we received Bailey our therapy dog when my son was 8. She brought him back once when he wandered off and stopped him from wandering once too. Priceless! Along with the unconditional love she gives all of us, the peace of mind she creates in our home and her beautiful sole our lives have been forever blessed. Words can not express what Bailey means to us and how wonderful North Star Foundation is!!!

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Rating: 5 stars  

Our relationship with North Star began in 2008; it was a few months after our son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (on the autism spectrum). Patty believed adding a North Star dog to our family would help our son with his social and emotional challenges. How right she was! We added Radar to our family and the changes started to happen. It was subtle at first. Some eye contact here, a brief word to strangers who approached us while out in public there. Then one day, without prompting, our son took the lead in speaking to strangers who approached. Despite me backing off a few yards away, he continued to speak to these ladies on his own for more than ten minutes. How far he's come! My initial goal with out North Star dog placement was for our son to "live in the moment"; to notice the world around him. This goal was met years ago and our placement has far exceeded our expectations. I have, on several occasions, recommended North Star to people for a variety of reasons. I keep a stack of North Star pamphlets at home and have distributed them when I've felt someone might benefit from their services.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

We began our relationship with Patty and North Star in early 2008. As a Mom of a child with Asperger's, I hoped adding a North Star dog to our family would help our son see the world around him; to live in the moment. Having Radar join our family has done that and so much more! This placement has exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Just recently, not only did Jason (our son with AS) talk to strangers about what his dog provides for him but he continued to speak to the strangers despite me walking away. This was a huge step forward and not something that had ever happened. Having Radar there gives Jason a certain level of confidence. He knows people find his dog really cool and Jason doesn't miss an opportunity to educate the public! We have recently become even more involved with Patty and North Star by puppy-raising. It was a wonderful learning experience and a labor of love. Patty is always available to her families (both those who have received dogs and those raising puppies for other families) as a valuable resource and wealth of information. She personally answered my many questions without ever making feel inadequate. This work North Star is doing is so important. I only wish more rescources were available to them; they could help so many more families like ours!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

YES!

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Find a way to recruit more volunteers and find ways to raise more funds as this is everyone's biggest obstacle.

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

The North Star Foundation, lead by Patty Gross, is the one of the oldest service dog organizations for children with autism and other disabilities. Patty has worked very hard to establish an outstanding line of golden retrievers to perform this work and has established herself as an authority in the use of service dogs for children and their families.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

About 7 years ago, I first heard about North Star. As a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with kids on the autism spectrum and someone who has worked with various service dog organizations as a puppy raiser, it was a perfect fit and I was able to raise a puppy for a child with autism! I was very, very impressed with all North Star does for the families it works with.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

The family I raised the puppy for! The puppy changed all of their lives in many ways. The dog helped the mother and siblings as well as the child with autism by providing them all with unconditional love and acceptance. He (the dog) helped the child with autism become more verbal and more social.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

give North Star more resources to be able to shorten the waiting list.

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Rating: 1 stars  

5 people found this review helpful

We originally posted a positive review of NorthStar within hours of receiving our puppy. Since then we have been consistently disappointed by NorthStar and Patty Dobbs-Gross. Let’s start at the beginning: after some emails and phone calls between our family and Patty, she offered us a dog for which “the adoption had just fallen through.” When we visited NorthStar in Storrs, CT, we were appalled by the conditions: the house was filthy, the kitchen where we first met the dog was not fit for human use, and a litter of puppies was penned into a makeshift plywood enclosure in the garage. We understood from Patty that her autism dogs were part of a special program intended to bring out “forgiveness,” which was managed reputable breeders. On the second visit, we left with the puppy, a used cage, some paperwork, and some brochures to share with other ASD families. We paid $5,000 for the dog over two installments—at first we were told the dog, vet care and training cost $10,000 and that we could get her help raising the other $5,000 from family and friends online, but somehow we got the bargain price of $5,000 for this dog that magically was available when we called.

As we settled into life with our autistic seven-year old and a new puppy, working with Patty became frustrating in the extreme. It took multiple calls, voicemails and emails to get her response to simple questions, or movement on promised training support. The dog’s paperwork consisted of a blurry fax of a litter report dated 4/20/2011 with some vaccine stickers taped to it. It was impossible to tell if this was in fact a report for our dog, or for someone else’s entirely. The only place our dog’s name appeared was on the fax coversheet, and even then her name was communicated as something different. The technician at our vet said she had never seen such shoddy paperwork, and as a result we had to repeat the full round of shots supposedly done by NorthStar. To top it all off, the NorthStar credit card that was supposedly on file with our local vet never materialized, and each time we went for checkups or shots or the very expensive spaying procedure, we were literally left with the bill. NorthStar’s lack of attention and follow-through cost us thousands more on top of the initial $5,000 for the dog. In short, our carefully bred super autism dog was actually of unknown pedigree with no useable paperwork or records and a non-responsive partner in the venture. This was not helping our autistic son, but instead causing us to divert our attention away from him to deal with Patty.

A few more annoyances and inconveniences: the first in-home trainer provided by Patty walked off the job with no warning after less than a month’s total training time. We had to pester Patty for weeks to get our dog signed up for good puppy classes, where we met another NorthStar family that had similar complaints. Patty at one point let slip that she bred the puppies herself, presumably in her garage. We repeatedly asked for breeder paperwork and have never received any. The last straw was when our dog was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at six months old. She will require a special diet, medication and more frequent vet visits for the rest of her life, and even more care when her hips start going for good.

Add the financial and time losses to the fact that the dog is supposed to help a child with autism. If you’re reading this, you probably have a child with ASD, and are familiar with the research about the positive effects of dogs on autistic kids. Take it from a family that has suffered through months of aggravation, half-truths and broken promises at NorthStar’s hands: go to a reputable breeder and get a good dog. Get to know the puppy lemon laws in your state, and if they apply to breeders (CT’s apply only to pet stores). In our opinion, NorthStar is fly-by-night at best, and outright fraudulent at worst. Patty Dobbs-Gross was paid $5,000 for a dog any reputable breeder wouldn’t sell for $500, and we got none of the support or training we agreed to in her contract. That contract also clearly states that no refunds will be provided if the relationship between the family and NorthStar ends prematurely. Caveat emptor!

Let this bad experience serve as a warning to anyone who flirts with this organization. Run as fast as you can from NorthStar and don’t look back.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A little

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

No

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Badly

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Christina, I have already corrected your many lies and misperceptions that you posted on Yelp, a site that took down your post as it was full of inaccuracies, but I will leave this post up here on my own site to serve as a document that is posted and responded to for the last time,for I just won't let you take up any more of my time with your personal vendetta... But first, here's something you got right: my kitchen was probably dirty the day you came to visit...it frequently is, at least according to the standards in my own Connecticut neighborhood and probably in your own Massachusetts neighborhood...it is never fun to be judged, naturally, but I want you to know that I could have a cleaner house if I didn't work seven days a week (unpaid) on developing this nonprofit concept for families of children with autism. And I want you to know that if I could have afforded a housekeeper the day you visited I would have done so in order to have you be more comfortable in my home the day I invited you there to see if an assistance dog might help you son Matthew with his autism. And you weren't lying, but ignorant, about the fact that I breed most of the North Star dogs we place. I didn't "let that slip" but brag about this as our breeding program is actually a huge strength for us at North Star, and I'm sorry I somehow failed to communicate this to you: Ruby's breeding is stellar, and she actually doesn't have hip dysplasia; for anyone reading your post and this reply, this is the "missing link" of information that will explain why you are so scathing in your review: you believe Ruby has hip dysplasia based on a Penn Hip you gave her at six months of age; I asked (and paid for) a second opinion, to have her given an OFA at Tufts when she was a year old and told you that I would have been prepared to pay for surgery had she been diagnosed as dysplastic there at Tufts, but as you well know, this isn't what happened...the vet at Tufts, Dr. Brenda Salinardi, said: "Ruby likely had some joint laxity which caused the clinical signs seen six months ago, but with age the join capsule tightens, which is likely responsible for much of the improvement noted." You didn't want to hear this, and began to slander me and North Star on the internet immediately after this report was issued, with information that you know to be lies. Your trainer left due to a death in her family, and I think you are being pretty rotten to leave this fact out, along with the fact that I got you a replacement trainer of very high quality within a month of your old trainer having to leave, and I prepaid her for your lessons; you were the ones to drag your feet here, and then finally rejected this paid for training without even meeting the trainer. Yet you complain you got "none of the support or training" agreed to in the contract? You know that is a lie, Christina, and I'm not really sure how you sleep at night with your penchant for telling lies in order to cast ugly stones when you are actually angry about something else (ie, Ruby's nonexistent hip dysplasia). You also withhold important truths here in addition to telling lies, such as the fact that Ruby has a fantastic disposition and is working well with your son, Matthew...in fact, here's what you wrote to me last summer when your son Matthew responded so well to her, and vice versa: "Here's another copy of the picture... unbelievable, eh? Was this the same kid who couldn't sit still at your dining room table? We are speechless!!!!!! You can view these photos in a full-screen screen slideshow and download full-resolution copies for free. Enjoy!" The second outright lie you tell is that I "sell" North Star dogs for $5,000...if this was so, Christina, that why on earth would I have been paying Ruby's vet and training bills this past year? The $5,000 you were asked to raise, half the true cost of the work we do on North Star placements, is both for training/insurance/transportation/taxes/equipment/food/toys & purchase price of the dog ($1,500, a rock bottom price for this clean of a pedigree and commitment to early work with the litter...you can see me working with Ruby and her siblings on this You-Tube page in my "dirty" kitchen: www.youtube.com/profile?user=northstarvids to prove the work I did with Ruby and her siblings). You call us a "fly by night" organization, but what does this say about your perceptions when I tell you we've been working to develop this nonprofit service for 15 years now and have over 150 successful placement in progress around the world to show for it?Does this sound like we're "flying by night"? In closing, I am going to let your meanspirited post serve as my reminder that you just can't please them all... Regards, Patty Dobbs Gross Executive Director North Star Foundation

Rating: 5 stars  

I cannot tell you how much Patty and the North Star Foundation has changed our lives for the better. There is nothing like a friendly, polite, well trained North Star dog to bring peace to a family with autism.

Our dog, Sam, has brought so much joy and hope to our family. Sam is so calm and caring and her demenor really brings a lot to our home. Her presence just completes our family in such a special way.

Please consider donating to North Star so that more children and families can be blessed as we have been.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

by the inhancement of the quality of life of our family unit.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I honestly cannot think of any. Keep up the amazing work!

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Rating: 5 stars  

Our journey with North Star began in May 2010. Patty has been a real pleasure to work with. She has been so caring, thoughtful and helpful throughout the whole process. She selected the most amazing yellow lab, Rudy for our son, John who has PDD-NOS. Does Patty know how to pick those pups!!! Rudy is an amazing boy. He brings so much love and calmness to our family. I truly can say that we are a happier family now. Our son, John loves his dog so much. They adore each other. Rudy enjoys watching John play with his cars and trains and every now and them will try and join in the play! Since Rudy's arrival, John is talking so much more and loves to tell everyone that this is his dog Rudy. He wants to take Rudy everywhere with him. John looks forward to having his buddy watch him get on the bus and greet him with lots of kisses when he returns home from school.

I am always quick to tell people that North Star is a wonderful organization to work with. The trainers and puppy raisers are so nice and great to work with. I am proud to say that they were all very helpful in the training of our Rudy. He just passed his CGC and I could not have done it without there help and support.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Great people to work with and so helpful every step of the way.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

No changes needed. They are a wonderful organization

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Rating: 4 stars  

As a long time raiser of service dogs, I am very familiar with the benefit that a dog can provide to a person with disabilities. Several years ago, I came across North Star Foundation, an organization which provides service dogs to children with Autism. I have trained 3 dogs for this organization and I am continually amazed at the impact that these dogs have on the children and families. Each family has different needs and requirements but the dogs always adapt. Children that normally run off stay with the dog because of the bond that has been created and a concern as to what would happen to the dog if they wandered off. These well trained dogs not only assist in this manner but they improve the social skills of the child. Many autistic children have problems verbalizing yet by learning the dog's commands and vocalizing these commands to the dog, the child becomes more confident in their communication skills. This is a small organization but they have a huge impact on many lives not only in the United States but worldwide by serving the needs of group which are often overlooked by the larger service dog organizations.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Watching a child who wouldn't even speak in a whisper, giving commands and speaking to the dog without hesitation.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Find a way for it to obtain more funding so it could help even more children.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am a Certified Dog Trainer hired by the North Star Foundation. I had the privilege of working with a wonderful family and their son. It was my first hands on experience with autism so I was a little nervous. More of making the little boy afraid or uncomfortable. It was amazing how much information I was given between Patty Gross and the family I worked with. My job was easy compared to the struggles this family went through on different levels. Watching as the dog, Bach, took care of the mom was a huge impact on my training experience. Bach would pick up on her needs as well as the child's.
There were two moments I specifically remember when working with Bach and his family. One was the first time the little boy made eye contact with me and hugged me. From what I gathered, it was rare and well, I appreciated being the rarity.
The second moment was when we were trying to help with the little boy's bedtime schedule. I had recommended Bach do what the little boy do, including brushing his teeth! It was during this week that the mom had spoken with me and said, "---- slept in his room for the first time since he was born." The whole night. For me, I just was ecstatic to be a part of something so BIG. We as "normal" everyday people take so much for granted and through this experience as with others, my appreciation grows. I loved being part of the therapy with this family. I loved being educated on autism and it has really helped me personally since my nephew and niece have been diagnosed in the passed year with autism.
There is a relief when I read success stories of clients matched with these dogs. The dogs are like new pair of legs or arms for physically disabled people. Meaning, it is freedom and independence. Not only for the child, but for the parents. Simple things that we take for granted are difficult for these parents and with just a simple addition of a puppy that is trained to assist... It is a huge difference. I have seen transformation in different ways and it is rewarding for me to be a part of that. The North Star Foundation is a gift to these families. I am so proud to be a part of it. To see lives change. Even mine.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

See above.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would not make any changes.

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Rating: 5 stars  

Our incredible journey of working with North Star began almost 3 years ago when I read about North Star in the Council for Exceptional Children newsletter. If there was ever a life-changing moment, that was one. In my soul, I knew that our daughter could benefit from a deep and meaningful relationship with the kinds of dogs that were described in the article. What I didn't know, at that time, was the extent of thought, dedication, caring, wisdom, and commitment that Patty's brings to North Star s a foundation, the dogs, and the families with whom she works. I called her, she listened. And then she asked thoughtful and challenging questions. In fact, she talked with me on the phone and via email a number of times, getting to know us, getting to know our daughter Lily. We applied for a North Star dog and on a day when it seemed that every member of "the village" that was helping to raise Lily had let us down, there was a message on our voicemail: "I am bringing Lily a puppy." Patty's care and involvement continued through the birth and puppy testing of Rosie's litter, to the puppies' socialization before she got to us, to the trip to our home in California, to the sensitive and excellent trainer we were assigned and throughout the two and a half years we have had our North Star dog, Popsicle. North Star, Patty, and Popsicle have never let us down but instead are a constant and invaluable gift. I believe our daughter has learned to experience love and empathy in meaningful, healthy, and rewarding ways. She has become more empathetic, solid and strong. She has a growing sense of her own self-worth amidst the tumultuous journey of a childhood confused by prenatal toxins and critically high stress. And a growing sense of competency as she helps groom, train, and take care of Popsicle. Patty and North Star are a part of our lives and our family. We could not ask for more.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in myriad ways but most of all -- North Star dog and Patty's wise advice have helped nourish our souls, heal open wounds, and continue to grow with love and hope.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Help them obtain more funding so more families/children/individuals could benefit from their invaluable work.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

How did you find this group?

Council for Exceptional Children newsletter

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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