Spirit Award 2021 – Pam Murray

Each spring, NEADS presents its Spirit Award to a volunteer or group of volunteers who passionately exudes the energy, values, and commitment to our mission over an extended period of time. We’re pleased to present the 2021 Spirit Award to recently retired NEADS employee and long-time volunteer Pam Murray, who is the embodiment of this honor.

This is the first time a Spirit Award has been presented to a retired employee, but it is given in recognition not of her work at NEADS but for her voluntary efforts. Because while Pam was an exceptional and dedicated employee, she was an even more exceptional and dedicated volunteer.

Pam joined NEADS as a volunteer in 2004, was hired in 2007, and continued volunteering until 2009. As Pam describes, “One of my fondest memories was walking the dogs on our beautiful campus. They were so happy to be out of the kennel, and it was a perfect, quiet time to collect my thoughts. We also had lots of fun with the trainers and the other volunteers as we worked together to make sure the kennel was clean and tidy, and the dogs had everything they needed during their stay. Early on, I worked with Dr. Rice and the kennel manager, Dan, in taking dogs to Central Animal Hospital to do hip and elbow x-rays. That took a little figuring out, but I learned a lot from that experience.”

In 2018, Pam became our first Breeder Caretaker, for Acadia, mother of our first NEADS-bred, born, and raised litter of purpose-bred dogs. Since then, she has cared for Acadia in between litters and also helped with transporting her to other Service Dog organizations and taking Acadia to her breeding appointments. She also often stepped up for early morning (4am) Nursery shifts with the broods and puppies.

“Working in the Nursery was a highlight of my day. Sitting with the moms and babies in the early morning darkness, making sure they were safe until the day shift arrived was pretty cool! It was a wonderful experience to be part of the start up of our breeding program. I am so honored that my family and I were chosen to be the first Breeder Caretakers for our sweet Acadia.  She has been such a blessing for us as a family, and as an ambassador for our breeding program. I’m very proud of her!”

Pam responded to the news about receiving the Spirit Award with her typical thoughtfulness and humility:

“I am humbled and honored to receive this Spirit Award. From the late 1990s when I saw my first graduation at Holy Cross College, I knew I wanted to be a part of this amazing organization. I promised myself then that when I was able, I would not walk, but run to NEADS to volunteer in whatever capacity they needed me. That’s exactly what I did.

From the kennel, to the office, to early morning babysitting sessions with our broods and their litters, I have enjoyed every minute of the time I’ve spent at NEADS. I’m happy to have been a member of a unique group of individuals who would drop what they are doing at a moment’s notice to assist a fellow worker who calls for help. That’s who we are. The employees and the canines we care for are the heartbeat of NEADS, and I am so proud to be part of that.

We are the body that individuals turn to for assistance for themselves, for their children, and for their community through the use of our World Class Service Dogs. Everywhere I go, people ask me if I work at NEADS, and when they hear that I do, they are full of so many questions that I am excited to answer. We are a beacon in the darkness for so many.

I want to share this honor with everyone at NEADS, because all of us have the spirit of NEADS in us. From the early morning opening of the Canine Center, to last out with our Canine Center staff, to training sessions with our World Class trainers, to medical treatments with our talented veterinary coordinators, to our administrative staff and development team, to our management team, our maintenance people and our nursery staff, NEADS hums along every day. Volunteers and staff alike have their eye on the same ball…to make that perfect match between human and canine. It’s the journey to that end that is so special.

Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this extraordinary organization, and for this honor. NEADS will always be my home. It’s become a big part of the fabric of my being, and I plan on haunting the hallways and the campus if ever you find the need to reach out to me for help. Please do, I’ll be the one running to the front door.”