NEADS Hosts Veterans Open House

One early January morning, 24 veterans, many accompanied by family members, came to NEADS Princeton, MA campus to learn about NEADS Trauma Assistance Dog (TAD) program. The TAD program is designed for OEF and OIF Veterans with combat-related PTSD who live within a 3-hour drive of Princeton, MA. Thanks to generous donors and federal and state dollars, this program has been offered to veterans, at no charge, for nearly nine years.

Veterans and their family members were welcomed by NEADS CEO, Gerry DeRoche, and Manager of Client Services, Katy Ostroff. Presentations by Psychiatric Social Worker, Psychologist, and Program Consultant, Dr. Cynthia Crosson, and Director of Training, Kathy Foreman, addressed the key components of the TAD Program, from its origins at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the special skills NEADS Service Dogs use to help veterans cope with PTSD-related issues like emotional numbness, fears, and anxieties. Trainers Erin Wylie and Anne Wilcox discussed the on-campus training component of the program, which includes learning how to care for a dog, public access education, and navigating public, open spaces. They also demonstrated task work like retrieving dropped articles, turning on lights in a dark room, and providing therapeutic support through tactile and relaxation exercises with two Service Dogs in training.

Two NEADS clients who are also veterans shared their real-world experiences. One vet described how when he started with the program six years ago, he suffered night terrors and couldn’t even go to the grocery store. Today, he is able not only go to grocery stores, but to Patriots and Red Sox games, concerts, and other very public places. The second client, who has had his Service Dog for two years, faced similar issues when he returned home from multiple deployments. He said, “This dog has saved my life. He has given me my freedom, my family, and my enjoyment of life back.” Both men acknowledged that although the process to get a Service Dog can be long and complicated, it is worth it in the end, and they encouraged the veterans in the audience to stick with the program.

The morning concluded with a tour of the Kathy Foreman Client House, where clients live during the two-week on-campus training.

Veterans who were unable to attend the Open House but are interested in learning about the TAD program are encouraged to visit our website for more information.