Coronavirus and COVID-19 Planning at NEADS

September 1, 2020

Greetings from NEADS.

Couldn’t we all use some good news these days?

Nearly two years ago, we announced the birth of the first NEADS-bred litter to Acadia, the first NEADS Breeder dog. Five of these puppies entered our program, and just this month, the first two were matched and placed with clients. They are the two in the red vests, pictured here with their siblings.

In more good news? We’ve just confirmed that Acadia is pregnant again, with her puppies expected in mid-September.

These two milestone events are important not only because puppies are cute and we have been able to match two more clients, but also for their much bigger implications.

At the beginning of the pandemic and amidst such uncertain times, organizations across the country paused their breeding programs. As nature would have it, NEADS, on the other hand, whelped 3 litters. Our experience and success gave us the confidence to move forward with our breeding program, so when Acadia was due to be bred this summer, we proceeded as planned, pandemic or not.

Puppies are the foundation of our program. Our actions today can have an impact on our ability to serve clients two years from now. By remaining committed to our breeding program – and the new Breeding Center, to be built on property we purchased just up the road from our main campus – we are well-positioned to continue changing lives for years to come.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

 

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

July 16, 2020

Greetings from NEADS.

It's with great disappointment that I am writing to let you know that we have decided to cancel our September Pulling 4 Paws Truck Pull and October Get Dressed. Give. Back. fundraisers. As much as we would have enjoyed getting together for these special events, we feel this is the right thing to do, given current circumstances.

Without our in-person events, we’re depending, now more than ever, on the support of our community. We are fortunate that many of you have continued to support the NEADS mission through the pandemic, making it possible to continue to focus on our mission – breeding, raising, and training World Class Service Dogs. We can’t thank you enough.

While we won't gather in person, we are currently planning two events - a CEO Challenge and a Virtual Marketplace. This virtual shopping mall will be a unique shopping experience, and a way NEADS can support small shops and businesses that have taken part in our events in the years past. We will be announcing details of both in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

 

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

July 2, 2020

Greetings from NEADS.

I'm pleased to report that next week, for the first time since early March, we are bringing two clients to campus for training. This is not a decision we've taken lightly and has involved much advanced planning. We've worked hard to create a "bubble" around the clients and their trainer by reducing the class size, limiting interactions with other staff and visitors, bringing some classes online, and requiring masks and temperature checks for all.

We know that this "bubble," as well as a virtual Meet the Staff coffee hour, a virtual orientation to the Foreman Client House, and a virtual Blue Star Mothers social and Quilts of Valor presentation, may compromise the friendly, warm, and welcoming experience that we typically show our clients, but we believe that the safety of staff and clients should be, first and foremost, our priority.

Staff and clients have been very accepting of our efforts, and we appreciate their willingness to work with our new "norms."

We may not know all that lies ahead, but I do know that with the support of the NEADS community, we will continue to adapt and adjust and move forward. We'd like to thank all who support our mission of raising, training, and placing World Class Service Dogs, including The Tower of Hope, which increased its commitment this year to sponsor two Service Dog teams, the Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation, which continued its generous support for our Prison PUP Program, and Bay State Savings, which recently launched a community fundraiser and is matching the first $3,000 raised.

Thanks to all who support NEADS in so many ways. May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

June 19, 2020

Greetings from NEADS.

As you can imagine, with the NEADS campus slowly coming back to life, we’re examining everything we do through a different lens. It's been nearly a month since dogs and staff started returning to campus, and every day we look look for a balance between ramping up activities and the need to keep everyone safe.

We recently held a contact-less Campus Clinic to catch up on vaccinations and health checks. We could do this because our “Team” scheduling - Canine Center and Training staff members working in small groups, three days on, three days off - helps us maintain a safe working environment. Thanks to our Medical Director, Dr. Christine Pelletier, and Team A members, we saw 36 dogs in training over 2 days and saved thousands of dollars in veterinary and nail trimming bills.

It’s also encouraging to see training move forward. Team B trainers recently took a town trip with three dogs in training. Town trips have always been a part of training, but this visit was a bit different – our trainers wore masks, were safely distanced, and worked only outside.

The stresses of quarantine and social distancing have impacted us all, but it has been especially difficult for our veterans with PTSD. Recognizing that June is PTSD Awareness month, we're sharing some insights about how our staff has been working with these clients to help them cope, as well as the story of one veteran who shared her experiences over the last few months.

Without question, the health, safety, and welfare of our staff, clients, and dogs are at the forefront as we continue to adapt to the new normal. We appreciate your continued support and interest in NEADS, our staff, and our mission.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

May 28, 2020

Greetings from NEADS.

It's been just over a week since dogs and staff have gradually started to return to campus. We are currently working with 8 dogs, with another 8 expected to arrive by the end of the weekend. We have one litter in the Nursery, and our newest litter expected to move from the home of Kate, our Breeding and Development Coordinator, back to campus next week.

To care for these dogs in a safe manner for all involved and to limit the number of people on campus, we've completely changed many of our processes and procedures. For example, our Canine Center and Training staff members are working in teams - three days on, three days off - which helps us maintain a safe working environment. All these changes have been an adjustment for everyone involved, but our staff is dedicated and committed to meeting the challenges this "new" way of working has presented.

Our supporters, too, remain committed. This month alone, we've received support from a number of generous donors, including Rawz, which supports NEADS through its Rawz Fund, Merck Animal Health, through its Bravecto Cares program, and others, who prefer to remain anonymous.

While we may not know all that lies ahead, I do know that with the support of the NEADS community, we will continue to adapt and adjust and move forward with our mission of raising, training, and placing World Class Service Dogs.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

NEADS in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s times like these when we truly appreciate our amazing community of supporters, volunteers, and staff who are committed to NEADS and ready to help out in any way they can. Every day we hear another story that demonstrates this incredible dedication to our mission and our organization. We’re sharing some of these stories here and hope they will brighten your day.

Throughout this global crisis, NEADS will continue to keep our puppies and dogs safe, fed, and well cared for. We appreciate your support in helping us meet our immediate needs and fulfilling our mission.

WPR_Mickey

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Let’s Go to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

Support for our Let’s Go coloring book donation program has been incredible. You purchased enough copies that we have now sent 200 books to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. This is…

Hospitalization and Recovery during a Pandemic

The pandemic has been difficult for all our TAD* veterans, but one client in particular, Rebecca, found herself in an extremely tough situation. A few months prior to the pandemic, she had to make the hard decision to have her second leg amputated. She had only had her Service Dog, Sully, for about 4 months at that time and was clearly worried about what to do with him while in the hospital…

Connecting in a Time of Isolation

When Covid-19 hit, we knew that connecting with as many clients as possible was important, particularly the veterans with PTSD in our Trauma Assistance Dog (TAD) program. Talking to these veterans, it was apparent that the isolation and stresses of quarantine, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing brought on by the pandemic was getting to them…

Campus Clinic

In early June, Dr. Christine Pelletier, our volunteer Medical Director, as well as several NEADS staff members held a two-day Campus Clinic for 36 NEADS dogs in training for vaccinations, health checks, and nail trimmings.

Training Town Trip

NEADS Director Training, Kathy Foreman, along with Apprentice Trainers Michelle and Michael, took 3 Service Dogs in Training on a town trip to Leominster last week. Training opportunities are everywhere if you know where to look. Nice weather helps.

NEADS – Here for Veterans

A message from NEADS Program Development Administrator to all our veteran clients and applicants.

If Vegas Could Talk

When Harvard University closed its campus in mid-March, Full-Time Puppy Raiser and Harvard student Amanda had to return home. Vegas is now living with NEADS Trainer Magen Blake, where he is continuing the work he started with Amanda. Amanda wrote Vegas a parting letter, and we’ve written what we imagine would be his reply if he could talk.

Checking in on Frannie’s Litter – Week 4

Checking in on Frannie’s litter, week 4.

Fun and Games

Enrichment is really important for all the NEADS puppies and dogs that we care for in the Canine Center and Early Learning Center. It provides mental stimulation and keeps the dogs happy. Now more than ever, dogs need to be kept busy…

Checking in on Frannie’s Litter – Week 3

Checking in on Frannie’s litter, week 3.

NEADS Plans Special Delivery for Patients at Franciscan Children’s Hospital

To celebrate the release of our new coloring and activity book, Let’s Go with NEADS Service Dogs Arnie and Zara, NEADS will be donating 1 copy for every book purchased to Franciscan Children’s Hospital (up to 200 copies). Written and designed by our own Lori Barrett, NEADS Creative Media Specialist, this fun and educational “A to Z” activity/coloring book is centered around words and phrases related to Service Dogs…

Behind the Scenes: Keeping the Dogs Fed

Twice a month, NEADS staff delivers dog food for our pups in prison, typically bringing a 2-week supply at a time. We have dogs in seven prisons, and they each receive anywhere from 5 bags to 15, depending on the program. That’s a lot of dog food – approximately 80 bags per month.

My Dining Room is Now a Nursery

In early March, Nursery staff welcomed Frannie, a pregnant brood* from Guiding Eyes to campus and whelped** her litter. They expected the next 8 weeks to unfold as they typically do with any of our litters…

May 13, 2020

It is hard to believe that we have been operating in a largely virtual mode for over two months. While this new way of working has had its challenges, we've kept moving forward, adapting our operations as best we can while staying focused on our mission.

The dogs are safe, healthy, and well cared for. We continue to interview prospective applicants. We are planning for new client training once it is safe to do so. And in anticipation of a phased Massachusetts re-opening beginning next week, we've been working through a variety of scenarios to prepare for a gradual return to campus.

As nature would have it, we have also been able to move forward with our breeding program. Since March, we have whelped three litters, including one just this past week. Even though we modified some of our procedures (we whelped two of the litters in a staff member's home, for example), our staff has maintained the same high standards of health care and critical early socialization. Puppies from all three litters will enter our training program, either in the Prison PUP Program or as part of our Full-Time Raiser program.

We are not anticipating any new litters in the immediate future, but the importance of investing in our breeding program and thus being able to have some control of our destiny has become abundantly clear. Having these puppies "on the ground," so to speak, will position us well as we look 12 to 15 months ahead.

As always, we wouldn't be able to adjust and respond to these changing times without your continued support of NEADS and our mission, including all who contributed on Giving Tuesday Now. Thank you!May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

APRIL 30, 2020

Greetings from NEADS.

Over the past few weeks, we have been hard at work developing potential scenarios for life at NEADS when we re-open our campus. As we try to anticipate a “new normal,” we’ve had to ask ourselves, what does “re-open” really mean?
Realistically, the coronavirus will have significant impacts on our fundamental business model, as well as how we conduct our day-to-day operations. Either one would be a challenge individually, but to address them both at the same time will force us to be very creative and nimble, as well as stringent.
We’re already seeing this creativity and nimbleness every day. As you know, we held our virtual graduation celebration last week, and over 1,400 people “attended” by visiting Graduation Reimagined on our website. While we would have preferred to meet in person, it was fun for us to put together, and we appreciate your Guestbook posts and many positive responses.
Another example is the creative way our Training department found to help 12 of our volunteer Puppy Raisers get their puppies’ nails trimmed. (This is typically taken care of by NEADS trainers.) Three trainers set up a “drive-through” nail-trimming service, where, at a scheduled time, the Puppy Raiser pulled into to the NEADS parking lot and waited in their car while the puppy was taken out to the "cutting station" on the porch outside the Admin building to have its nails trimmed. It was safe (trainers were masked and gloved), efficient, and much appreciated.
Without question, the safety of our staff, clients, dogs, and volunteers when they are on campus will be at the forefront as we plan for the new normal. But beyond that, we’re focused on what our “community” will look like, and how we maintain our connection with each other. We know that one day we will greet you again on campus, see you at graduation, and enjoy your company at our events. In the meantime, thank you, as always, for your continued support of NEADS, our staff, and our mission.
May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

APRIL 23, 2020

Twice a year we celebrate our newest teams during a graduation ceremony. While we won’t be meeting in person on Sunday, April 26 as originally planned, we didn’t want to let the day pass without recognizing this milestone event. We’ve captured the most important aspect of graduation – a community coming together in celebration of the NEADS mission – and brought it online.
We invite you to join Spring 2020 Graduation Reimagined on our website. Here, you can read special tributes and watch videos that our staff and Board of Directors have prepared, peruse the Graduation Yearbook, and watch video messages from grads. We hope you’ll be part of this, too, by signing our Guestbook and leaving a message for our graduates, NEADS staff, dedicated volunteers, or anyone in the NEADS community.
We’re moving forward with two other events. We have rescheduled the Pulling 4 Paws Truck Pull to September 26. It’s not too early to start thinking about putting a team together - details are here. This will be followed by our annual Get Dressed. Give Back. on October 16, so please save the date.
In other news, our own Libby gave birth to her second litter last week in the home of one of our staff members. A two-person team whelped the litter to minimize social interactions. It was a long labor, starting around 8am and wrapping up around 8pm. Libby is resting and recovering from her whelp, and the pups are eating, sleeping, and gaining weight.
We hope to “see” you at Graduation Reimagined, and thank you, as always, for your continued support of NEADS and our mission.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

PS: Your support for our Let's Go coloring book donation program has been incredible. You purchased enough copies in just one week that we have sent 200 books to Boston Medical Center's Pediatric Inpatient and Intensive Care Unit.

APRIL 15, 2020

As we continue to navigate these uncharted times, NEADS is doing everything we can to keep moving forward and stay focused on our mission.

The Canine Ops team is making sure our dogs are safe, healthy, and well cared for. Client Services continues to work with prospective applicants and clients who are waiting to be matched. The Training staff is in touch with many of our active clients and working on plans for ramping up training once it is safe to do so. The Development and Communications teams are planning a “reimagined” Spring Graduation (more on that next week).

Even with all our (virtual) campus activities, we know it’s important now more than ever to stay connected to the community at large. The publication of our first-ever coloring and activity book, Let’s Go with NEADS Service Dogs Arnie and Zara, presented us with one way to do that.

Let’s Go has been a welcome diversion for parents who have unexpectedly found themselves with children at home 24/7. The “A to Z” coloring and activity book is centered around words and phrases related to NEADS Service Dogs and disabilities, and includes companion Discussion Guide. The book was created by our own Lori Barrett, NEADS Creative Media Specialist.

For each coloring book sold, we are donating one to children at Boston area hospitals. Your support for this initiative has been amazing. We sold enough copies in the first few days to be able to deliver 200 books to Franciscan Children’s Hospital last week. We are well on our way to our next donation of 200 books, which will go to Boston Medical Center’s Pediatrics Department. NEADS Assistance Dogs are on staff at both Franciscan Children’s and Boston Medical Center, so they were logical partners.

And in a further community collaboration, we’ve created a bonus page featuring the Boston Duck Tours, a long-time supporter of NEADS. This bonus page and the Discussion Guide are available for download via the NEADS Shop. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support of NEADS, our staff, and our mission.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

APRIL 7, 2020

We wrapped up last week thinking we were heading into a “business as usual” weekend. But that wasn’t to be. Instead, the events that unfolded show the true dedication and commitment of our staff and our amazing community of volunteers.

Around 7pm on Friday, calls started coming in from the prisons letting us know they were going into lock-down and we needed to remove the NEADS dogs. IMMEDIATELY.

We always knew that having to remove the dogs from prison was a possibility and had previously lined up volunteers to take the dogs into their homes and detailed execution plans for each dog just in case. And while we hoped for some type of advance notice, having a plan in place meant our staff was able to react on a moment’s notice.

The calls went out to our volunteer Puppy Raisers, who dropped everything and said, without hesitation, “Yes, I’ll pick up the dog. Just tell me when and where."

NEADS staff quickly pulled together supplies (food, shampoo, and meds) for each dog and organized a staggered pick up schedule to ensure safe transfers. Less than 24 hours from that first call, all 51 dogs were moved out of 5 different prison facilities and into the homes of their Puppy Raisers. For the foreseeable future, these Puppy Raisers will keep the dogs in their homes - safe, happy, and healthy.

It’s times like these when I truly appreciate our amazing community of volunteers, staff, and supporters who are dedicated to our mission and ready to help out in any way they can.

May you and your family stay safe and stay healthy,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

MARCH 25, 2020

Last week, we sent an update describing how NEADS is adapting to these unprecedented times, thanks in large part to the help of many volunteers. In the space of a few hours, we heard from many more of you who wanted to know how you could help, too.

We certainly understand that these days it’s a big ask, but one of the most important ways you can show your support is by donating. Please consider making a one-time donation, joining as a monthly sustainer, or supporting one of our client’s fundraising efforts.

You can also purchase items in the NEADS Shop, and all proceeds will go to support our programs. When you online shop at Amazon, start at AmazonSmile and select NEADS as your charity.

We would love to have you join us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and share our stories with friends and family. We regularly post updates as well as super-cute puppies – a welcome escape we all can enjoy!

Like many organizations, NEADS is doing what we can to keep moving forward. First and foremost, I want to assure you that our dogs continue to be safe, healthy, and well cared for. Just yesterday we made a delivery of dog food to the prisons, where many of our dogs are staying with their inmate handlers 7 days a week.

Thank you again for your passion and your support of NEADS.

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

MARCH 20, 2020

The Coronavirus outbreak has forced NEADS to make many changes, very quickly. These changes would not be possible without the support of the entire NEADS community. I’d like to share just some of what went on this past week.

Over the weekend, we decided it was best to move dogs off our campus and have most of our staff work remotely. Fortunately, at the time the Department of Correction imposed their restrictions on movement in and out of prison, many of our dogs in training were with their inmate handlers and were able to stay in prison. But we still needed to place 4 puppies from the Early Learning Center and 10 dogs from the Canine Center in homes for the foreseeable future. When we put out a call to our Weekend Puppy Raisers, Weekend Puppy Sitters, and campus volunteers to see if any were willing to take these dogs home, we were overwhelmed by the response. Not only were all remaining dogs able to go home with volunteers, but we have other volunteers ready and waiting should they be needed.

The litter of puppies we are hosting from another organization was the last piece of the puzzle, as we couldn’t place a litter of puppies with a volunteer who had no experience raising puppies. Kate Albertini, our Breeding & Puppy Development Coordinator, offered to move the litter to her house, where she can give the puppies the care they need.

It’s times like these when I truly appreciate our amazing community of supporters, volunteers, and staff who are dedicated to our mission and ready to help out in any way they can. We’ll have more stories to share over the coming weeks and hope they will brighten your day.

When this is over, we look forward to greeting you again on campus, seeing you at graduation, and enjoying your company at our events.

May you and your family stay well,

Gerry DeRoche
CEO, NEADS World Class Service Dogs

MARCH 16, 2020

NEADS continues to monitor the outbreak of COVID-19 and follow the information available from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Health. In response to the most recent information available, NEADS is taking the following precautions to limit the effects of COVID-19 on our operations.

  • NEADS Campus & Staff: Our goal is to keep our volunteers and staff safe and healthy by decreasing the risk of exposure to Coronavirus. This includes minimizing dog and people movement to and from campus.We are scheduling essential staff on campus to ensure our dogs are appropriately cared for, but most NEADS staff members will be working remotely. We will make every effort to answer phone calls and emails in a timely manner and appreciate your patience as we adjust to these scheduling changes. These measures will be in place until April 7. At that point, NEADS will reassess the situation.Staff members will be heeding advice to limit activities outside the home, avoid crowds, and, when outside, practice social distancing (keeping a 6’ distance between you and everyone else).In addition, all new client training classes have been postponed through the end of April, and we will continue to monitor the situation as we look to schedule future classes. We will continue to interview new client applicants; however, interviews will be conducted via Skype.
  • NEADS Volunteers: All campus volunteering is cancelled until at least April 7.
  • Prison PUP Program: NEADS has been working with the Department of Correction (DOC) on coronavirus preparedness and its implications for the NEADS program. Late last week, the DOC made the decision to freeze all dog movement in and out of prison facilities. In most cases, this means that our dogs in training will remain in prison with their inmate handlers. Others are with Puppy Raisers or are being hosted by other volunteers.
  • NEADS Shop: Although there is no known case of COVID-19 at NEADS, the retail shop location at NEADS in Princeton, MA will be closed as a precaution at least until March 31. Customers can still support NEADS by making purchases online. Orders will be mailed out once a week. Unfortunately, in-store pick-up will not be an option.

Spring Graduation Update

Spring Graduation, scheduled for April 26, 2020, has been cancelled. We will have more information in the coming days about how we will celebrate our Spring graduates.

Coronavirus and Dogs

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), there is no evidence, at this time, that companion animals can spread COVID-19. As an extra precaution, though, we recommend you limit the handling of your dog by others. At this time, there is also no evidence that any dog has become ill with the virus.

Prevention

As noted in every publication about the virus, a major key to prevention is to wash your hands continually and to not touch your mouth, nose, and eyes with unwashed hands.

For NEADS Clients

March 13, 2020

NEADS recommends that you have a plan in case you become infected by the virus and cannot care for your dog. This plan could include having a trusted friend or relative care for your dog or boarding your dog at a local kennel; having enough dog food and medication on hand for at least two weeks; and knowing the emergency veterinary hospitals that are open in your area in case of an emergency.

March 11, 2020

With the concerns surrounding COVID-19 (the coronavirus), NEADS wanted to reach out with the following information. For this post, we have sought guidance from Dr. Christine Pelletier (DVM), the NEADS Medical Director.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), there is no evidence, at this time, that companion animals can spread COVID-19. At this time, there is also no evidence that any dog has become ill with the virus.

Prevention: As noted in every publication about the virus, a major key to prevention is to wash your hands continually and to not touch your mouth, nose, and eyes with unwashed hands.

For NEADS Clients

For owners of Service Dogs and Assistance Dogs, please be sure that anyone who is petting your dog (with your permission) wash their hands before and after. If using a hand sanitizer, it should have 60% alcohol content.

Assistance Dog Owners should not let your clients go face to face with the dog. And, as noted earlier, your clients should wash their hands before and after petting your Assistance Dog.

If you or a member of your household become ill with this or another virus, please use the same good hygiene with your Service Dog as you would with any member of your household:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Wear a mask
  • Minimize contact with the dog’s face or mouth (i.e., kisses).

If your employer asks you to not bring your dog into work please contact your NEADS trainer for guidance on care that your dog may need if home for extended periods of the day.

As noted in the beginning, this is our guidance given the current information provided by the CDC, the AVMA and WOAH. We are continually monitoring developments about the virus and will provide further information as needed.