Everything I Need, and More

March 20, 2024

By NEADS client Tammie DeCroteau

I was diagnosed with MS nearly 25 years ago, just months after the birth of my twin girls. I can remember the day I experienced my first symptoms, which came on suddenly. After several weeks of medical appointments and tests, it was determined that I had MS.

Hearing that I had this debilitating diagnosis came as a shock.  But with the love and support of my family and friends, I was able to come to terms with this diagnosis and decided to live my life to the fullest.

One of my personal interests is that I am a dog lover. My dog, Bono, was definitely considered a part of the family. As he became older and it was nearing his time to go, I knew that I would want another dog. However, with my twins in college, my son in the military, and my husband working full time, I thought I may be able to benefit from a Service Dog. I discussed this with my doctor, and she recommended that I reach out to NEADS.

I did apply to NEADS and was accepted right away. Some of the ways I saw the dog would potentially help me with would be retrieving things that I drop, such as keys, bowls, laundry, credit cards, my cane, and sneakers; pressing door and elevator buttons; nudging light switches off and on; opening the refrigerator to retrieve a bottle of water; and barking on command to alert someone if I ever fell. I was amazed at all the things a Service Dog could offer. NEADS let me know that it would take approximately one to two years to get matched with a dog. While I waited, I focused on fundraising – NEADS asks each of their accepted clients support NEADS by raising $8,000.

We ended up raising $20,000! We did this through a comedy show, raffles, and private business donations. The comedy show was a great turn out, and my son, a Marine who I hadn’t seen in over a year, surprised me to attend the event. I couldn’t have been more grateful to be surrounded by all my friends and family, supporting me for something that I was so passionate about.

I was getting matched with a dog a year and half after applying. My daughter recalls the day that I got the call, saying “you were sitting in the kitchen and got a call, you didn’t really know who it was because it was an unknown number. You were in complete shock that it was actually happening and compared it to getting surprising news of expecting a child.” NEADS let me know that she was a yellow lab named Logan, and they scheduled me to go to their Princeton campus for two weeks of intense training.

The training  was a very challenging, yet rewarding, experience. With time, I gained confidence in how to incorporate and use all that Logan could do for me. I am extremely grateful that she is now a part of my life.

Logan has changed my life for the better. She does everything I need, plus more. She gives me the confidence I need to go on every day. I know I can look to her for help when I am running errands, going to physical and occupational therapy, and visiting friends. Even when I am having a bad day, I know she is there to cheer me up. She is by my side always. I also feel as though people don’t see me as an individual with an illness now, they see me as someone who has a cute dog that is always there helping me. This has helped me realize that I am not defined by my disability, even though it is a part of who I am. Although having MS is challenging, knowing I have Logan by my side helps me live my life to the fullest.


The original version of this article was published on The Elliot Lewis Center website.