2013 Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K

The Worcester firefighters enjoyed great weather and a wonderful turnout for the 13th annual Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K! NEADS loves being a part of this annual event, and is so grateful to be one of the recipients of their fundraising. Maurice, Rescue and Currahee had a wonderful time!

Randy & Jethro: The Gift of Independence

This post was written by Randy Forant

randyforantA service dog is more than just a friend who is by my side wherever I go. No, a service dog is much more than that. A service dog is like being the mayor and having a key to every building in the city. A service dog is a door that leads to independence.

I first found out about NEADS when I was eleven years old in sixth grade. I had almost reached my goal of independence by then, needing help only with small things like getting objects under tables out of my reach and taking off my coat, but I still wasn’t at my ideal goal. I was motivated and did research on the benefits of service dogs. It wasn’t long after that that I was matched with a beautiful NEADS black lab named Dede.

Dede immediately became the best friend a guy could ask for. I instantly noticed a difference in my daily life. Those stubborn objects out of my reach suddenly became objects in my hand within seconds. We went to school together from sixth grade to my junior year in college. Most of all she was a friend that no matter what was by my side through the good days and bad. Unfortunately at the age of eleven Dede developed cancer and passed away last year. After ten years of independence I suddenly felt like that kid in sixth grade who was only 95% independent. Daily things I took granted of were now once again a challenge.

So the process started again. I went to NEADS and started over, discussing the basic tasks I struggled with and was matched with Jethro. I feel complete again and have regained my independence.We are without doubt best friends and we make a great team. I would like to thank all of those who donated and or gave their support to my independence. I would also like to thank NEADS, puppy raisers everywhere, and volunteers who dedicate themselves to training these special dogs.

It’s funny—when someone sees Jethro’s shiny red vest and asks what NEADS is, my response is two words: my independence.—Randy Forant

Lives changed by volunteering

This post was written by Angela Bertolino, Alexandra Amsden,
Katharine Amsden, and Isabel Amsden

The Bertolino/Amsden family is picturedwith Blair Reels and his assistance dogRadar, who they helped to train.

The Bertolino/Amsden family is pictured with Blair Reels and his assistance dog Radar, who they helped to train.

Most people travel through their life never realizing all they have and never giving back. I have never lived that way and I didn’t want my children to grow up that way. I wanted them to understand a world outside of themselves and appreciate all the blessings we have, including the simplest of blessings: waking up each day with our family and being able to care for ourselves.

Our experience with NEADS over the last 4 years has touched each of my three children and myself in measures I could have never dreamed. My children, now 7, 9, 11 and I have worked with eight dogs as weekend puppy raisers. The simple act of stepping out into the sometimes unwelcoming world with a dog has taught me and my girls to stand up for ourselves and the rights of those with a service animal. It has also reminded me of the surprising impact an animal can have on just about anyone. I like to call us ambassadors to the NEADS organization. We walk through the world teaching people about the healing ability of animals and the importance of their place in our society. We give ourselves purpose through the purpose of NEADS.

Two years ago we had some personal experiences that caused our lives to change dramatically and now we needed a healing calming force. It was one of our NEADS dogs who gave us purpose and just like with NEADS recipients, gave us a reason to put our feet on the floor each morning. Our NEADS family was now comforting us, sending their positive messages of courage and strength to us. I could have never predicted such a challenging series of events in our lives and certainly would never have predicted we would be the recipients of the very care we have strived to give over the last four years. The people of NEADS have become part of our extended family and people we refer to lovingly in our home. We are all proud to be a part of the NEADS family and grow with each dog we help to raise.

Crew’s Birthday Party!


As those of us in the Northeast suffer through a frigid cold snap, I thought it might be fun to be reminded of what there is to look forward to in the Summer! Some of our dedicated puppy raisers threw a birthday party this past August for their assistance dog in training Crew, and used the opportunity to fundraise for NEADS! Please enjoy the pictures below, and a full account of the party by Crew’s puppy raiser Amanda Shannon:

A Special Boy turns One! A Pawty for Crew!

August 11th, 2012 was a day of celebration. Exactly a year prior, handsome Crew was born into this world to a pair of equally stunning parents. About 8 weeks later he found his way to NEADS to be trained by an inmate at the ACI in Cranston, RI to hopefully some day become a Service Dog. We had the pleasure of being his weekend puppy raisers and since we have such wonderful family and friends that love Crew too, we decided to celebrate his special day by having a bash! Since Crew has everything he could want here at our home we decided that the party should not only celebrate Crew’s birth but also be a mini-fundraiser to buy items for the pups at our local prison, JJ Moran.

About 30 friends of NEADS came to celebrate Crew and support NEADS.  They braved the threat of a downpour (we had a tornado alert the night before) and made their way to our home where we had promised a fun time! A beautiful welcome sign adorned the front door (made by my talented friend, Cristina) so people new that they were in the right place for the fun! Dog quotes filled our walls (by our friends Natalie & Dave), a poster of Crew’s first year hung for everyone to see his amazing growth in such a short time, a slideshow of more photos was on the computer.  We had our donation bin available for people when they arrived and anyone who donated received a raffle ticket for each dollar they donated (there was a basket of goodies for the person that won) and two guessing games – how many dog treats are in the jar/how many human treats are in the jar (so many good guesses!!)

Outside was a Scooby Doo Piñata filled with snacks donated by Jack’s Snacks, a dog bakery based out of Cranston RI, where the pups could “tug” on the string and whoever tugged the “right” string would open the bottom to let the goodies out. We had bobbing for Planet Dog Orbees, a wading pool, games for the humans and a few other games for both human and canines together. We also had a “paint a paw” area where all of the dogs that attended could paint by using their paws.  We think it came out cute, what do you think?

Of course no pawty is complete without a birthday cake and we didn’t disappoint! Thanks again to Jack’s Snacks, we had a beautiful cake especially for the dogs and then not to leave the humans out, paw cupcakes for them. For the doggie bags to take home we included a Natural Balance log, which was a generous donation from Natural Balance, as well as a few other fun things for humans and canines alike, and for the pups that attended they received a personalized peanut butter bone shaped treat from Jack’s Snacks. Cute!

Altogether we raised $291 which includes donations from friends that weren’t able to make it to celebrate his day. These funds were spent on yard toys, individual toys and treats for the inmates to use to train the pups in their care. It was tons of fun!

Wreaths Across America 2012


This past weekend several NEADS Weekend Puppy Raisers traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths in specially designated areas, honoring our nation’s veterans.  The fresh evergreens are a symbol used for centuries to recognize honor, and a living tribute renewed annually.  This effort was begun by Wreaths Across America and their many supporters. We think it is especially important at this time of year to recognize and acknowledge the generosity of so many men and women who, over the years, have volunteered and sacrificed on behalf of our country and our veterans.  Thank you.

Ed with Rylie, Officer cyron, rick with moxieKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Puppies in training visit Old Sturbridge Village

This past weekend a group of puppies in training visited Old Sturbridge Village with trainer Christina Rosetti for some good all around socializing! Socializing is important for these puppies so that when they grow up to be assistance dogs they can encounter any event or situation without fear or hesitation. This enables them to focus on the needs of their partner and continue working despite strange sights and sounds — like a bonfire or live music!

Trainer Christina Rosetti (with golden retriever Rosella) was joined by Rosella’s handler (and photographer) Joe Aurelio, Rich Briggs and golden retriever Buckles, Jenny Smith and yellow lab Princess, Terry McDonald and black lab Major. Also joining them (not pictured) were Dawn Anderson with poodle Laddie and Lee Smith.

NEADS Goes to Medfield Day!

On Saturday September 17 NEADS dog instructor Christina Rossetti (with assistance dog in training Mighty) was joined by Carol Coffee (and assistance dog in training Graham) at Medfield Day in Medfield, MA.