ECAD's staff and volunteers are some of the most giving, caring people I've ever met. As both a board member and recipient of their services, I am especially aware of their hard work and dedication. The staff works together, not only to train the service dogs and the trainer/students, but also to help raise funds for the organization.
I have recieved two service dogs from ECAD. My first dog, Elli, worked from the day I brought her home in March, 2000, right up until a week before she died in September, 2011. She was literally a lifesaver, waking me when my father's ventilator alarm went off. At the time of my interview, I thought that would be the only thing I needed a service dog for. Was I wrong!! With Elli, my life became so much easier! She would pull my wheelchair for miles, help me with the grocery shopping, and perform a myriad of tasks that I would find difficult without her.
In March, 2013, my second service dog, McGrew, came home with me. With his help, I am able to work part time, even though I suffered another spinal cord injury. He pulls me to work and home every day, picks up everything I drop (and I drop a LOT of items) and loves to get things off the shelves in the supermarket for me. McGrew has become a special part of our community because of his loving personality and calmness. When our area was devastated by a tropical storm 6 months ago, ours was one of the few businesses that remained open. Lines were long and people were devastated by the loss of their homes. McGrew, like Elli before him, seemed to know who needed him most. He accepted lots of hugs during those trying times. Our "don't pet" policy went out the window with these dire circumstances, and he spent hours calming people. After each encounter, McGrew would climb onto my lap as if to say " I love you the most." Who but the most caring individuals like those at ECAD could raise and train dogs of this caliber.
It was almost 10 years ago that ECAD paired me with Elli, my service dog. At the time I thought the only thing I would need a dog for would be to wake me up when my father's ventilator alarm went off. Because I have both Muscular Dystrophy and a spinal cord injury, I use a wheelchair or crutches to get around. At the time I applied for a dog, I felt I was totally independent - I just couldn't walk. Now I'm lost without Elli's help. Before I had Elli, I would have to go to the supermarket 3 or 4 times a week, because I couldn't many items while pushing the wheelchair. Elli was able to pull me through the supermarket while I piled my lap high with the groceries for the whole week! When we were finished, Elli would pull me to the car while carrying a bag of groceries in her mouth. She would also get things off the lower shelves for me. Her only drawback was that she absolutely refused to pick up store brand marshmallows, even though she never tasted one in her life - so we had to buy name brand. Elli came to Mass with me every weekend, and would help pass the collection plate. She would carry cold cuts in her mouth without ever trying to taste them. She was so well trained it was amazing! Two of ECAD's students spent 2 days teaching Elli to respond to my father's ventilator alarm. Because I had her, he was able to get his wish of dying at home surrounded by his family and friends. She saved his life twice! Elli also carried my briefcase into court when I was working. Many of us joke that she was better at plea bargaining than I was, and my clients should hire her and forget about me. Justices have told me that the courtroom was much more relaxed when Elli was there. When I suffered another injury about 2 1/2 years ago, Elli was by my side. She had to work harder at age 11 than she did when she was young. The harder she worked, the harder her tail wagged. Elli just retired. When I'm ready to get another service dog, I'll make sure to go to ECAD! I also became a volunteer for ECAD and have sat on the board of directors for several years. I wanted to do more, so I became a home handler. First, I had to go through training, of course, because it's very easy to spoil these lovable dogs. A home handler takes a puppy or young dog from Thursday evening through Monday morning. We keep practicing the commands with these pups, help socialize them, and work on the commands they need the most help with. Monday mornings, they're back at school where their student trainers teach them whatever they need to learn and continue their socialization. We get to watch them grow from chewing puppies to adolescent service dogs. Though we try hard not to, we bond with the dogs and miss them when they go out on a team. We're like proud parents when we receive updates on the dogs we've handled, and watching them go off into the world with their new handler is akin to watching your child graduate school and go off into the world. It's bittersweet, but such a rewarding sight.
We have an autistic son who is now 6 years old. We received our service dog in 2009.My wife and I found ECAD while researching service dogs on the internet and applied. After spending two weeks of extensive training with several dogs, we were paired with an older (3 yo) female because our son was the youngest to ever receive a service dog for autism.
Our search turned up several trainers with good credentials much closer to our home in Alabama. However, they would not place a dog with a child younger than 5. In our opinion, this was simply two years of wasted time and opportunity for improvement. Upon contacting ECAD, Lu, the trainer, shared our view and allowed us to interview for placement. It is this vision which sets this organization apart from the rest. And when you find out that they incorporate disadvantaged youths in the majority of their training process, the decision to choose ECAD is an easy one. Our dog, Sonic Boom, is now as much a member of our family as our children and as invaluable resource for our autistic son. She willingly accepts the burden of caring for our son in public situation, and removes most of our safety concerns. We continue to obtain the required yearly certifications from the ECAD staff.
I understand that they are currently creating a new "breed" of service dog with size, strength, and intelligence to place with disabled veterans returning from the middle east. This is just another example of how this incredible organization looks toward the future.
Review from Guidestar
i am a combat oef veteran with physical and invisible wounds from my deployment to afghanistan. my army wounded warrior case manager took me for an interview after my application was received. the personal one on one provide to me and the interaction with 3 various types of service dogs is amazing. one can feel Lu and Barbara's sincerity and care they give of their selves for this wonderful organization.
Rebel helped me so that I didn't have to be on monitors all the time. I love Rebel very much. Miss Lu is nice.
My name is Kimberly Specht and I was referred to ECAD a little over a year ago. I am a military veteran and heard about ECAD from another veteran who received a dog from here. I applied and made contact with ECAD in April of 2009--I left with my dog after two weeks of "boot camp" with my dog, Toby, in November 2010. The process was swift, but thorough. The staff was professional, considerate, compassionate and friendly. My dog is ADI certified having been trained and cared for his entire life. I'm part of a lifelong team here with ECAD. I love coming to visit, volunteering, teaching everyone about the programs and watching their eyes light up. The dogs make all the difference in the world. ECAD just wants to help everyone they can; you can feel it, see it and believe it!
East Coast Assistance Dogs is a very unique organization. They help people with physical disabilities as well as developmental disabilities. They also provide dogs for our disabled service men and woman who have both physical and psychological disabilities from having served our country in a war. I have balance issues and have frequent falls. I know the emotional isolation of having a disability and look forward to the friendship of a service dog. I am also the mother of an adult daughter with autism. Service dogs provide an invaluable service to autistic individuals by helping them to use language skills and connect to others socially. I am so glad that dogs are now available to help autistic children. ECAD is helping so many people with disabilities achieve a better life!
East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD) helped to provide me with the independence that I needed after being wounded and injured during the course of 17 years of military service, including two combat tours in Iraq. ECAD partnered me with Tuesday -- a highly-trained and loving golden retriever -- who helps me day and night. Over the past two years, Tuesday has enabled me to complete a graduate degree at Columbia University and continue on with my studies toward a PhD. Tuesday accompanies me everywhere: to the VA Hospital, around town and across the country. His faithful service and happy disposition is helping me to accomplish my goals and dreams. I am forever grateful to ECAD, Lu and Dale Picard and all the tremendous staff who continue to offer assistance and support -- but most of all, friendship.