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Bark Up The Right Tree

In a perfect world, stopping at the local pharmacy would entail a quick romp with a pen full of puppies as a way to raise endorphin levels and get the brain firing those mood-elevating synapses.

But since the Food and Drug Administration probably won’t be stocking the shelves with palm-licking pooches any time soon, Sass Levine of Old Westbury has the perfect alternative — a sort of unconditional love distribution center right in the heart of Plainview.

Formerly of the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown and a dog trainer for 20 years, Levine founded DogAbility last year as a canine program for both kids and adults with and without special needs. Hosted graciously by the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), 25 Country Dr., DogAbility provides opportunities for motivation, education or recreation to enhance the quality of life through the human-dog relationshiip.

“Using dogs to help people was an important goal for me and I had the idea to set up a place with qualified people and invite others to come to us,” said Levine. “Our goal is to avail ourselves to people of all ages on Long Island and tap into every possible benefit of human-dog interaction.”

Levine said the obvious benefits of that interaction include companionship, entertainment, laughter, forgiveness, esteem, devotion and abundant, unconditional love. But she believes the benefits go far deeper than the superficial and dogs offer medical perks as well.

She said studies show the presence of a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, slow heart rate, relax muscle tension, improve mood and facilitate communication. And when it comes to young children with special needs, the power of the pooch cannot be overstated.

“Specifically talking about autism, the benefits of dogs range from A to Z,” she said. “Talking to parents, a major challenge in managing autism is having safe activities available to the children. Autisitic children struggle with focus and staying on task; there is something about animals, dogs particularly, that grab hold of something in children. It’s the touching, feeling, smelling, holding walking — it inspires kids to achieve what can’t be done in the traditional education environment.”

DogAbility also acts as a resource for any family considering getting a dog of their own, but who first want to learn more about dog ownership. Also, DogAbility offers programs to help individuals get over a fear of dogs and it is also a place that fosters a career with canines in young people. It is all part of a one-stop-shop that Levine said is unique to DogAbility.

“We are constantly looking for volunteers to lead different aspects in what we do here,” she said. “And we keep coming up with new ideas. I feel like I have 50,000 ideas of things we can do here.”

DogAbility welcomes volunteers from all areas, as well as high school and college community service students and interns.

DogAbility meets at HANC on Sundays, with therapy dog trainng from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and public participation from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. To learn more about what DogAbility does, visit Visitors to the site can also register for DogAbility’s Sunday sessions and learn about how to volunteer. For more information, call Sass Levine at 516-356-3452.

“I’ve seen dogs bring tears to people’s eyes and I’ve seen dogs make people laugh until they cry,” said Levine. “It is an experience that I’m working to share with everyone.”


Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano recently announced that the annual “1863 Thanksgiving Holiday Celebration” at Old Bethpage Village Restoration will be held on Saturday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visitors to Old Bethpage Village, the re-created mid-19th Century village, will be able to enjoy the sights and aromas of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving including decorated pumpkin pies baked in a beehive oven and turkey roasted over an open fire. In addition, each afternoon, traditional fiddle music will be played, and children’s stories will be read several times each day.

A little bit of Hollywood has come to Plainview. The Loft Sound Studio, a Plainview-based vocal and performance training facility, is the creation of lifelong music artists Donnie Klang and Matthew LaPorte. The duo says that they draw upon their personal experience of the ups and downs of the recording industry to give kids today the chance to be superstars.

“Essentially, we’re looking for the next Justin Bieber, someone we can train and teach them how to really become an artist, put them on YouTube and hope they really blow up,” said LaPorte. “If they do, through our connections that we made while we were in the music industry the past 15 years, we would try and get them a record deal.”


Concert Performance

Friday, November 21

Craft Barn Open House

Saturday, November 22

8th Annual POB Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Tuesday, November 25


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