The Meaning of the NEADS Lock Fence

By Erin Toomey, Manager of Training

Have you ever wondered what that black chain link fence with all the locks on it is all about as you pull into the NEADS parking lot?

A few years ago, Gerry DeRoche, NEADS CEO, visited Europe and was inspired by the many bridges where couples place their “love lock” on the bridge. The lock symbolizes a unique way to show affection for each other and their lifelong commitment to one another.

With that inspiration, Gerry had two sections of chain link fence installed on the NEADS campus to start a similar tradition.

Near the end of every client training on campus, every client must pass the Assistance Dog International Public Access Certification, which shows that they and their dogs have established a positive and successful relationship where the client has full control of the dog in a public setting, keeping themselves, their dog, and the client safe when they are out and about together. After every public access certification, the clients, their dogs, and the NEADS staff gather around the fence for a lock ceremony. Each client has their own combination lock that is personal to them and their dog – some choose to keep it simple and leave it as it is, while others get creative and add their name, their dog’s name, the year, or add ribbons! As they put their lock on the fence, our Manager of Client Services, Kara Milotte, reads a few first thoughts each client had when first meeting their dogs and what they look forward to.

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