Happy Independence Day!

independence dayHappy July 4th! Here at NEADS, we celebrate independence day every single day of the year. That’s because our assistance dogs provide a unique kind of independence for all of our clients. When a service dog picks up a dropped item or opens a door, when a social dog helps a child with autism interact with his or her family, when a hearing dog alerts a Deaf person to sound of the doorbell ringing, these are all ways that our dogs offer independence to men, women and children.

We hope you and your animals have a safe and happy July 4th!

Amy & Delancy: A life-changing partnership

This post was written by Amy Reay

Amy Reay 005I was matched with NEADS Hearing Dog Delancy, and my life was changed. I had been told about the bond between service dogs and their partners, but never imagined how amazing that would be. Delancy is more than my partner, he is an extension of me, and the reason I keep going forward each day. Delancy does the usual hearing dog tasks, such as alerting me to the oven timer, a door knock, dropped items, my name being called,a smoke detector, and more. I watch his body language, his ears and his eyes and know from those cues when an airplane or flock of geese flies overhead, or when a child starts crying, or a car pulls into my driveway, or if someone enters a room. Little things that hearing people might take for granted are now a part of my world again. Beyond those immediate things, Delancy provides a healthier life for me because I now walk every day, get out of bed when I don’t feel like it and am overflowing with happiness just by looking at his adorable face. He has changed me in so many ways and I will always be grateful to him and to NEADS.— Amy Reay

2013 NEADS Spring Graduation


Tiffany, with Rowan in his graduation cap (photo by Michael Stone)

What an incredible day we had this past Sunday, April 7, 2013! Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School rolled out the red carpet for NEADS and all our graduates and did an INCREDIBLE job hosting our Spring 2013 graduation ceremony. The facilities were beautiful, the auditorium was perfect, and the staff and students of Monty Tech could not have been more helpful. In particular, 1st Sgt Paul Jornet and his JR ROTC cadets made every person in attendance feel welcome. A huge thank you to Principal Nicholas DeSimone for graciously hosting NEADS at his school. Thank you to the Audio/Visual dept for going above and beyond to make sure that the ceremony went off without a hitch; Autobody/Collision Repair for the incredible work they have done on our donated Subaru; the Culinary Arts dept for preparing food and cake for graduation day; Graphic Communications for their ongoing support of our communications efforts; and Industrial Technology for building the “kitchen” pictured below especially for our on-stage demo!

We are honored and awed by the generosity of the staff and students of Monty Tech and are so grateful for this growing partnership! Photos by Michael Stone

Thank you, also, to the wonderful group of staff and volunteers who made graduation day possible.

Another Language: Writer Jeanne Braham Explores the Relationships between People and Their NEADS Dogs

We are thrilled to announce the forthcoming new book Another Language: Portraits of Assistance Dogs and Their People by Jeanne Braham, which will be released on March 15, 2012. Photographs by Robert Floyd.

Here is a description of the book:

The profiles in Another Language celebrate the healing bonds between service dogs and their people. Through these oral histories, and backed by the power of photographs, sixteen people who have worked with the NEADS/Dogs For Deaf and Disabled Americans program in north-central Massachusetts tell their own stories in their own words. You’ll meet an Iraq war veteran, people who use wheelchairs or who have balance problems due to debilitating disease, trainers who raise service puppies and others who work with NEADS’ human clients, and more. Writer/interviewer Jeanne Braham, along with photographer Robert Floyd, bring the stories to life in a way that’s respectful, compassionate, and compelling.

Advanced Praise:

The importance of assistance dogs cannot be overstated, and Jeanne Braham has done a wonderful job of describing them.  The photos are spectacular, and no one will read this book without gaining insight into the relationship of these dogs and the people who benefit from their good sense and loyalty.  It’s a must read for anyone who has such a dog, and even more a must-read for anyone who needs one but does not have one.  Congratulations to Braham for putting this all together, and congratulations to the dogs she describes. —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Anthropologist and author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s books include the best-selling The Hidden Life of Dogs and The Social Life of Dogs.

In crisp and lucid prose Braham records the lives of a dozen individuals and their canines, ranging from hearing dogs to walker dogs for balance to trauma dogs for returning vets with PTSD. Those of us who have dogs for pure pleasure marvel at the skills these animals have mastered and their intense loyalty to the humans they care for. A rich story, well told. —Maxine Kumin
Pulitzer-prize winning poet Maxine Kumin’s most recent collection is Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010.

Jeanne Braham’s book Another Language profiles independence, hope and opportunity.  These portraits highlight our mission of matching the very best trained assistance dogs to our client’s individual needs, whether our Canines for Combat Veterans, Dogs For Deaf and Disabled Americans, or our new program Trauma Assistance Dogs. We at NEADS are thrilled to see the work we do every day portrayed so eloquently in these pages.  —Gerry DeRoche
Gerry DeRoche is Chief Executive Officer of NEADS/Dogs For Deaf and Disabled Americans

For more information, or to make an advanced purchase, visit the Bauhan Publishing website or Amazon.com

First Annual NEADS Paddling Puppy Duck Race was a Success!

On Saturday September 17, we enjoyed the first annual NEADS paddling puppy duck race here on the NEADS campus. It was very well attended and fun was had by all! There were games, prizes, a silent auction, music, the NEADS store, puppies, and much more! To cap off our great day of fun, rubber “puppy” ducks raced down the Stillwater River to the pond, and a winner was crowned!

Here’s an article by the Telegram Towns about the event!

A special thank you to all the local businesses who contributed and especially to the event sponsor Wachusett Animal Hospital.

International Assistance Dog Week — August 7-13, 2011

NEADS graduation, spring 2011

Did you know that this week is International Assistance Dog Week? There are so many ways you can celebrate! Check out the website for International Assistance Dog Week for ideas on what YOU can do!

Here at NEADS, we celebrate assistance dogs every single day. We hope that by reading some of our clients’ stories on this blog, you’ve gotten to know what makes our dogs so special. If you haven’t, I encourage you to check out the stories below… and have some tissues handy!

Service Dogs for Adults with Mito: My Story — by Heidi Martin-Coleman
A story by Heidi Martin Coleman — who had never been a “dog person” — about her amazing connection with assistance dog Mercury

Flying with a Service Dog — By Edward Hull
Edward Hull describes his first time flying with his hearing dog Toffee

9 Years with My Service Dog — by Scott Maenpaa
Scott Maenpaa reminices about how wonderful the last 9 years have been with his service dog Alex, who he describes as his “child”

The Many Faces of Disability: How I fit in Society — By Crystle Chase
A story by Crystle Chase, who describes the challenges of having an “invisible” disability, and how she copes with peoples’ curiosity

The Many Faces of Disability: How I fit in Society — By Crystle Chase

Crystle gives Holly the command to sit.

I was coming out of the grocery store one day and I had just arrived at my car. I had the trunk open and was about to load the first bag, when I noticed the elderly woman next to me staring at me while she put her bags in her car.

I looked back, not offended, just curious, at why I appeared so interesting to her. She noticed my expression, and explained herself.

She told me, cautiously, that she had been sort of watching me in the grocery store, and that she could not, for the life of her, figure out what my disability was. I took this as a compliment, and figured that Holly and I had developed real grace together. She followed her statement up with a question, “are you training the dog,” she asked. I explained that I was not, and that Holly was my service dog. Rather astounded, and quite befuddled, she continued to ask questions.

If she was my dog, she inquired, what was disability? Why did I need her? What did she do for me? How long did I have her? How was she trained?

Patiently, and one by one, I answered her questions. I explained politely that I am disabled, and that Holly picks things up, helps me do the laundry, tells me when there is a knock at the door, and alerts me to smoke alarms. I followed this rather generic answer up with the usual comment, “and much much more!”

But the woman did not seem satisfied. She clearly did not mean to pry, and each question was asked with a tone of respect and genuine interest, so I continued to educate her and was glad to do so.

I told her the story everyone with a NEADS dog tells at least a few times in their partnership: Holly was trained in prison for a year; yes, she is friendly; no, sorry, you can’t pat her right now; you can’t pat her because she’s working, and so on, and so on.

When the woman ran out of questions she looked at me with awe. I had nothing left to tell her, so I waited for her explanation. She said, “You just look so healthy. You look beautiful.” She said this over and over, waiting for my reply.

Holly wearing her working gear.

People have questioned my having Holly before, but not like this. I know my disability is not usually visible, especially to people who aren’t familiar with disabilities, but this woman wanted to learn. She was fascinated with the concept that there could be something different, very different, with someone and you just could not see it. She was not accusing or doubtful of me, she was just astonished. All I could say was that there are many faces with disabilities, some you can notice, and others are invisible.

She thanked me for my time and patience, and moved on a little wiser. She was from a different generation; one which was not educated in diversity like the current generations have been. Still, without knowing appropriate social etiquette, she did not offend me one bit. I have to tip my hat to her.

Given her enthusiasm, I have to think that she told her friends or family about our chat. I had been in a rush, and she might have been as well, but her stopping and taking that moment to learn was, and will always be worth my time, and appreciation. In five minutes, her curiosity and my patience could have opened many minds; I know it opened hers.

For more information on the etiquette of petting a working service dog, click here.

For more information on the rights of people who have a service dog, click here.