NEADS Service Dogs in Training Visit Pearl Street Home

Pearl St

Written in partnership with Dana Chalberg

Seven NEADS Service Dogs in Training recently visited Open Sky’s Pearl Street, Leominster home for young adults. The visit was a win-win experience for both the pups and the residents.

During the week, NEADS pups are trained by inmate handlers under the guidance of NEADS staff trainers in one of seven prisons. Each weekend, volunteer Puppy Raisers socialize our puppies by exposing them to new situations and surroundings. The Pearl Street home offered an excellent opportunity for them to encounter different environments and people in a relatively quiet setting.

Pearl Street resident Kayla visits with NEADS Service Dog in Training Reilly.

The Pearl Street home has bean bags, carpeted floor, hardwood floors, stairs, and tile floors – much of which were novel experiences for the youngest pups. It was also a great opportunity for them to meet a number of different people. At the start of the visit, the puppies practiced a calm “say hello” when they were introduced to Pearl Street residents and staff. After the greetings, everyone spent time petting and sitting with the pups. For the residents and staff, the calming and sometimes laughable presence of the dogs brightened many a day. Residents also learned from the Puppy Raisers how Service Dogs can help deal with life’s issues, and several expressed interest in having a Service Dog one day.

Pups and their Weekend Puppy Raisers who attended the event were: Dobby, with Cindy Orejola; Bessie, with Doreen Rao; Reilly, with Dana Chalberg and Leah Bell; Kendall, with Cinda Capone; Patty, with Pat Lage; Clara, with Brenda McCann; Charlotte, with Ross Lemoine and Shannon Mackey, who attended with NEADS Puppy Program Assistants Rea Samuels and Helena Ortiz.

Dana, who is also an Open Sky staff member, says, “Participating with Reilly was immensely rewarding. Visits like this are critical to the socialization and training of the NEADS pups. I enjoyed seeing each pup interact with residents and staff, whose appreciation was very moving.”

Thanks to Open Sky for providing this opportunity for the NEADS pups in training. Open Sky Community Services supports individuals (children through adults) with mental health challenges and adults with developmental disabilities. The agency provides the skills and supports that will enable the individuals served to live full and active lives in their communities. The Pearl Street Residential Program serves transition-aged youth.