I trained my rescue dog, Tilly, through the owner trainer program at Exceptional Sidekick. I am fortunate enough to be one of the few clients who owns my dog. Several of my peers share partial ownership of their service dogs as they were donated from Guiding Eyes after being demoted from a seeing eye dog program. I cannot speak for others but can give unbiased views compared to my peers who are reliant on Abby and are hesitant to share theirs. I do believe that this organization and the owner, Abby Hill, started out with good intentions but could not keep up with demand. It seems as though quantity took precedence over quality and proper support was not provided. For being an organization who regularly deals with people with mental disorders, they do not compassionately or appropriately handle their interactions with clients with disabilities. The service contract over-promised and under-delivered; the program was not adaptable. I was supposed to receive 10 private one-on-one sessions but only received a handful and had to initiate scheduling them, often not talking to Abby for several months unless I reached out to her. I found the public access group classes helpful at times but as soon as my service dog passed the public access test, I was surprised to be told “You are impeding the opportunity for new handlers during the class due to large numbers”. A graduate public access class was created but no trainer was provided, with no guidance it soon ended. I have heard from several clients and agree that Abby’s public access test standards are lower than other organizations. The majority of us as responsible handlers understand the importance of holding our dogs accountable to higher standards. Due to this consensus, several of us have sought out support from other trainers. For the price that we have already paid, this is unacceptable. Unless there is major reform, I would not recommend this organization.
The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs is an amazing resource to the community. Providing teens and young adults with the means to improve their lives is a true gift to everyone involved. I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of the this organization!
The Exceptional Sidekick is an amazing organization. Since the program focuses on psychiatric service dogs, many people that are owner training their dogs are struggling in one way or another. This can create challenges since the combination of the owner’s personal struggles and the mental demands of owner training a service can prove to be a lot to handle.
The trainers at The Exceptional Sidekick are extremely supportive. They have helped me work though many mental blockages during my training process. The way they have supported me doesn’t make me feel like a nag/bother/annoyance. I appreciate that very much. Overall, the trainers are very kind and supportive.
Personally, I find it difficult to compare the trainers at The Exceptional Sidekick to other trainers. This is because the majority of dog trainers do not specialize in training service dogs. Training service dogs is a specialized skill that is very different from training regular dogs. For this reason, trying to compare service dog trainers and regular trainers is like trying to compare Apples to oranges.
When assessing The Exceptional Sidekick‘S trainers skill set, I have found it to be good. They are very knowledgeable in the area of training service dogs.
In addition, The Exceptional Sidekick holds their service dogs to an extremely high standard. Much higher than the average service dog training organization.
Overall, I would recommend the Exceptional Sidekick to anyone who is looking to owner train service dogs or searching for a fully trained psychiatric service dog.
When one of my children left for college, we could never have predicted what would soon totally derail her plans and dreams. In 2012, our small town was ripped asunder by a gunman entering Sandy Hook School and murdering 26 kids and adults. In its wake, many here were left with PTSD, particularly kids who were in school that day. Once out of this safe and compassionate bubble, she began experiencing debilitating anxiety and panic attacks and felt very isolated and scared. After a semester she had to come back home so we could get her appropriate help. We reached out to
Abby Hill at The Exceptional Sidekick (also known as the lady who always has a puppy in a work vest with her!) to find out more about her service dogs. Abby reacted quickly and my daughter was fortunate to be paired with an amazing, sweet, smart, trained dog that was then trained for tasks that fit my daughter's specific triggers and needs. They are partners and whether at college, home, work, they are a team. The training both my daughter and her service dog have received and continue to receive is invaluable. Now after 2 1/2 years being part of The Exceptional Sidekick family, I've seen many teens and young people, all with their own story of trauma, medical or psychiatric challenges, thrive, survive and take big steps to move their lives forward, with a steady partner. Its impacted and impressed me so much that I now serve on the board!
When my daughter had to leave college due to PTSD, she was devastated. She tried to get appropriate help there but they couldn't offer her what she needed. We had heard of Exceptional Partner so reached out to Abby immediately. Abby explained what she does as far as selecting and training service dogs, the pertinent laws, and how the service training and ownership process works. In short, Exceptional Partner changed my daughter's life and has given her independence back and we are forever grateful. Abby and the Exceptional Partner team are very involved with the community and very supportive our teens in particular. Knowledge, professional, and compassion- - That's Abby Hill and Exceptional Partner!
The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs provide much more than mere certification services. These stellar professionals recognize the importance of teaching dogs for their owner’s medical needs. This is clearly their passion and the results are obvious. My dog Hazel has been trained to be my first line of defense in the event of a medical emergency. There are no equals to this fantastic team.
I first learned about exceptional sidekick through a coworker. Our family has been raising a puppy to become a psychiatric service dog since Feb 2020.
As raisers, we have been supported through all the challenges of puppyhood and training in basic obedience and service dog skills. The most special part of Exceptional Sidekick is being part of an organization that not only advocates for mental health awareness, but also makes a positive contribution to the mental health needs of youth and young adults in its community.
I am so happy we found our way to the Exceptional Sidekick, and look forward to seeing our pup change someone’s life for the better.
As a board member for The Exceptional Sidekick, I have a unique perspective on just how much this organization cares about our mission. The impact that our dogs have is truly changing our clients' lives for the better. Kids & young adults are able to leave their homes, go back to school, get jobs and live the lives they want to live, with these amazing dogs at their sides. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this organization.
My daughter is a client of The Exceptional Sidekick. She struggles with anxiety and PTSD resulting from medical trauma. While spending endless days, weeks, months in the hospital, the only bright spot were the hospital's own Therapy Dog visits. Seeing how much this helped her, we began looking for a service dog and eventually found The Exceptional Sidekick. My daughter now has an amazing dog, Brody, who has been an incredible part of my daughter's healing process and through that, has also helped our entire family heal. Abby Hill, the trainers, and other clients are simply amazing. Everyone we have met through The Exceptional Sidekick has become part of our family.
The Exceptional Sidekick has truly changed my life. In 2018 I applied for a service dog and got in contact with the owner, Abby Hill. Just a few months later I signed on to raise a puppy to become a service dog for me. The Exceptional Sidekick provided me with the education, support, and guidance I needed to successfully raise my dog. They also gave me an older dog that could help assist me before my puppy was trained. The Exceptional Sidekick holds their service dogs to high standards and provides so much support for their graduates. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a psychiatric service dog or looking to self train their own dog.
The Exceptional Sidekick uses the statement 'Family by Choice' and it truly represents its care and dedication to the clients and the service dogs they serve. I've been lucky enough to get to know the trainers, executive director, and many of the clients as I volunteer to help them expand their mission. Each one of these people and dogs have touched my heart and helped it heal from my own trauma in their own special way. I'm so incredibly thankful that life put me in their path. If you have a family member needing help ages 12-22 or if you want to volunteer to change and save a life, I highly recommend you reach out to this organization.
I’m a first-time volunteer puppy raiser for the Exceptional Pet Sidekick Service Dogs. The founder, Abby, is very attentive and supportive. She is available 24/7 for questions and support. Abby understands the challenges of raising a young puppy and is always positive and encouraging. She has also created a community of puppy raisers so we can all support each other.
We initially found and reached out to Exceptional Sidekick when our child had to be hospitalized and pulled from school for several months with severe anxiety and depression. For a parent with a child dealing with such horrible disorders, it is an incredibly scary, lonely, confusing and isolating time.
However, meeting Exceptional Sidekick founder Abby Hill for the first time changed that for us. She helped us to see that there is a community out there of children, adolescents, parents and more, who feel the exact way we were feeling and loving dogs to help with the rest. That very first moment she started talking with our daughter - an intense animal lover - she gave her hope that through her service dog training program she could have the opportunity to volunteer as a puppy raiser, help at local events, and if we all decided it was the right choice, she could apply to raise her own service dog to help with her needs.
Since that first meeting, our lives really have changed. We have gotten very involved with Exceptional Sidekick and are currently raising a puppy for them. We have volunteered at events, attended obedience classes, learned so much about dogs (our daughter was even fortunate to go along when they visited and selected the newest puppies to be service dogs in training)...and we have gotten so much more than I ever could have dreamed of when I first reached out. As a volunteer for the Exceptional Sidekick we have the honor of helping the community and those in need of a psychiatric service dog. And let me tell you that those dogs are amazing, as Abby is an amazing dog trainer and her trainers and puppy raisers are very special. More than anything, I think what makes Exceptional Sidekick truly Exceptional is that they don’t only provide service dogs....they provide community; a place to belong, feel accepted and understood. That is what we have found through Exceptional Sidekick, purpose and community. It is what sets them apart.
The compassion and understanding that I have received through this organization has been life changing. It is very hard to navigate mental health issues when no one understands. This is my tribe. No other organization matches their commitment to kids who have survived trauma.
I was fourteen when I was assaulted leaving me with post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. After spending almost two years in treatment, I wondered if anything could help. Someone I knew suggested getting a psychiatric service dog after watching a dog be able to pull me out of a dissociative episode. If just a normal dog could help me so much, I wondered how much a task-trained service dog could help me. Once my family and I made the decision to pursue getting a service dog, we realized how difficult it would be to find an organization that trained the type of service dog I was looking for. There were plenty of organizations and programs that trained PTSD service dogs for veterans, and even some that trained them for civilians, but there was always an age requirement. No one seemed to realize that kids could go through trauma too. Kids could struggle with PTSD just like any adult or veteran. The Exceptional Sidekick is one of the only organizations that provides psychiatric service dogs for kids, teens, and young adults. I stumbled upon their website and submitted an online application. Abby Hill quickly responded letting us know that I had been accepted. Abby helped me find the right breeder, pick the right puppy, she provided me with a already trained dog until the puppy was ready, and has supported me and my family through the entire process. After having my service dog, Etta, for a few months, I started to get sick. I began fainting multiple times a day and felt tired and weak all the time. I was later diagnosed with a disorder that affects my autonomic nervous system. POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, could have left me stuck in bed or wheelchair-bound. Fortunately, Etta began alerting me before I pass out. She would paw at me, whine and even pull me down to the floor. She would warn me before I would even begin to feel lightheaded. Knowing that she could alert me before I fainted gave me the time to sit down and get to a safe place to prevent me from getting hurt. Etta has saved my life on more than one occasion. She has alerted to me multiple times while I was walking on the stairs, saving me from falling and getting injured. My puppy in training, Penelope, started to perform these medical alerts as young as four months old. I trust that when it is time for Etta to leave that Penelope will keep me safe just like Etta did. Getting a service dog was a game changer. I’m now able to go into public, finish my education, stand on my own, walk up and down the stairs, stop worrying about when I will faint next, and most of all be a normal happy kid. This is all thanks to Abby Hill and The Exceptional Sidekick. I am forever grateful for all the opportunities they have provided me with.
This is an incredible organization run by professionals that are changing the lives of children for the better at every turn. Since our first interaction with Abby Hill and her staff at Exceptional we have felt understood, supported, and that we were always in the utmost professional hands. The organization's methods of selecting & training service dogs, combined with their gentle but highly skilled approach to teaching individuals with disabilities how to handle the dogs, is unique, and top notch. Our training process has included support on every level including dog care & training, dog handler confidence building and helping us understand our rights under the law, including the American Disability Act -- all allowing our daughter to become comfortable going through life with a service dog partner.
The exceptional sidekick service dog has been nothing but a godsend. They have helped us with Vader my sons service dog and providing us with the support and information I wasn’t able to find anywhere else. I have referees the Exceptional Sidekick Service Dog to many of my friends and colleagues. They still are much a part of our lives!
When my daughter developed PTSD after severe medical issues, the Exceptional Partner matched my daughter with an amazing psychiatric service dog. Abby Hill listened to my daughter's needs and trained her service dog with the appropriate tasks to help
She has been great at responding to any of our questions once Brody was placed with my daughter, and continues to meet with us as needed to check in on how things are going and brush up on any training needs.
The Exceptional Partner is an amazing organization to work with! We are so grateful!
When I needed a service dog, Abby and Wendy were ready to help me with everything I needed to self train my dog Luna. From regular obedience classes to training and tips, they gave me everything I needed and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them! Without Luna as my service dog I wouldn’t be able to even go to college or go to the mall. Thanks to the Exceptional Sidekick I can do all of this and more!
The Exceptional Partner gave my daughter her life back! She was partnered with Harry and together they go everywhere: school, shopping, movies, out to dinner, even on a boat! I can't say enough great things about this amazing organization. Thank you for everything you do!
My name is Laura Feinstein and I am a puppy raiser for The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs. Founder, Abby Hill started this non-profit with the intent of filling a need in a community that was shattered by tragedy 4 1/2 years ago.
I became involved with the first litter of pups who were all placed in Newtown Schools. I teach at SHS and was able to provide amazing socialization opportunities for my pup on program. These puppies with a purpose have the potential to save and or change the life of someone struggling. Also, the Teen Advocacy Program, which Abby launched at Newtown High School last spring has helped raise awareness and has helped remove the stigma associated with mental illness. There is an enormous need for these special animals and Abby works tirelessly with her amazing staff to train these pups to go on to do great things. This is truly an Exceptionl Non-profit.