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Puppy Blog: Meet the Islanders Puppy Raiser

Lisa Rossano has been tasked with raising Tori, the Isles new Puppy with a Purpose

by Cory Wright WrightsWay /

A rookie sensation has quickly become one of the most popular New York Islanders this season. 

No, not Noah Dobson, or Oliver Wahlstrom as popular as all three may be, but rather Tori, the Islanders new Labrador retriever. 

Whether she's sliding around on the ice, dressing up as a dancing lobster for Halloween, or chewing on a hockey stick, fans can't get enough of the Isles new Puppy with a Purpose. 

But what does Tori do when she's not watching warmups at the Coli? Where does she live when the team goes on the road? Who does she live with? Like every other rookie, even Tori needs a good billet family. 

Meet Lisa Rossano, the volunteer who is Tori's puppy handler and may or may not have the best job in the world. Rossano will house, train and take care of Tori for 15 months until she's ready to begin her formal training to become a service dog to a veteran. 

Instagram from @nyislespup: do not disturbs. i watching da hockey! 🏒

Rossano is an experienced puppy handler, who has worked and volunteered with The Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs for 13 years. Tori will be her 10th puppy and six of the previous nine have gone into service for the blind or veterans.

"I think raising the Islander puppy with a purpose for America's VetDogs is going to be my best adventure and a great privilege and honor," Rossano said. "Just knowing that she is going to help a very special Veteran is the best feeling I could have."

Tori is in good and experienced hands with Rossano, whose ties to the organization go well beyond individual puppy training. One of Rossano's three other dogs, Mikey, is a breeder dog for the foundation, and the other two, Bliss and Olympia, were released from the service. Rossano has turned Olympia into a therapy dog and brings her around to local hospitals, people's homes and libraries where she reads for children. 

The mother of two also teaches classes at the foundation and volunteers at the puppy nursery, in addition to being a nanny for six. 

Rossano is in the early stages of raising Tori. Training takes up about two hours every day and includes potty training, simple commands like sit and establishing eye contact. Eye contact is essential to a service dog's training, according to Rossano.

Instagram from @nyislespup: if I looks at da hoomans I gets kibbles. 🤤Hooman translation: Tori is learning to make eye contact. It's one of the first steps in her service dog training!

"Eye contact is very important when raising a service dog," Rossano explained. "You want to be the most important person in that dog's life to be able to ignore everything that goes on around her. The more she pays attention to me, the more eye contact she has with me, the better she is."

Rossano and her family are also big Islanders fans, so they are ecstatic to be serving as the billet family for Tori. 

"My family are all big Islanders fans, so they were very, very happy when they asked me to do this," Rossano said. "I am officially the coolest mom in the neighborhood."

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