Throughout the past decade, the FT Cares Foundation has proudly donated funds to one of our favored partners -- NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) World Class Service Dogs.
In 2014 we received the honor of naming a puppy that would enter NEADS' service dog training program as soon as it was old enough.
Born on 7/12/14, we learned “our” eight-week old puppy, a girl, had just arrived at the organization’s “Puppy Nursery” to begin her service dog training and she needed a name. We decided to let First Trust employees decide what she should be named and our employees did not disappoint! Some of the best names: Austin, Trusty, Charity, Grace, Phil, Blackjack, Pandora, Chupacabra, Buster, Hero, Partner, Champ, Hope, Kodi, Shasta, Dexter, Happy and Bowen were all suggested names. After holding a contest to see which was the best name, Trusty won and our little pup had a name!
Trusty was trained at the Laura J. Niles Early Learning Center ("Puppy Nursery") on the NEADS campus. While she was at the puppy nursery, Trusty learned some basic obedience. Between lessons, she had plenty of time to play and socialize with the puppy nursery volunteers. At 9 months of age, Trusty learned more advanced commands: she learned the task work that will be useful to a potential client, such as retrieving dropped objects, turning light switches on and off and pushing automatic accessible door buttons. This was part of Trusty’s Assistance Dog task training, and was taught to her by her NEADS trainer and volunteer handler. On the weekends, her volunteer weekend minder took her to visit hospitals and for rides on a bus or train. Together with her volunteer, Trusty also continued to take trips to familiar places, such as the shopping mall and grocery store. All of these visits helped to round out her socialization training, helping to make her comfortable in all types of social situations.
Her NEADS trainers provided this update when she was 9 months old: "She’s doing well - we call her an 'old soul' since she acts like a much older dog than she really is. Trusty is a role model for all of the other puppies at MCI Framingham and demonstrates good confidence, training and energy. She’s polishing up her task training and beginning to work on more complex behaviors, such as retrieving objects out of the refrigerator, carrying objects in a backpack and finding the telephone on cue.”
Trusty was on the NEADS campus in September 2015 for her 1-year evaluation. During her evaluation, Trusty’s NEADS trainer worked one-on-one with her to check on her obedience and socialization, as well as her Service Dog task work. Trusty's behavior was evaluated around cats, other dogs, other animals and how she handled herself and performed task work around distractions. As she matured, her trainers continued to refine her obedience skills and service dog tasks.
On January 29, 2016, we received some good news about Trusty! She had been matched with Skyler, from Pepperell, MA, as a Social Dog. NEADS Social Dogs are matched with children on the autism spectrum or with developmental delays. These highly-trained dogs serve as assistants and companions to children who have challenges with social interaction. Social Dogs help to open the doors of communication and help children deal with transitions. Skyler and Social Dog Trusty had their facility-based training from February 22 through March 1, 2016. During facility-based training, Skyler and a parent, who acted as a facilitator, learned how to work with their new Social Dog under the supervision of a NEADS trainer.
We are happy to report that Skyler and Trusty graduated the NEADS program in the Fall of 2016 and are now living and working happily together!
In 2019, we again made a donation for another puppy who would learn to be a NEADS Service Dog. Born on 7/21/19, we held another naming contest, and true to the Foundation's torch logo, the winning name was Ember!
First Ember Update: While she is on the NEADS campus, the puppy program staff will continue with Ember’s socialization and obedience cues. Ember will have plenty of time to play with the other puppies, both inside the puppy nursery and in the outside fenced-in play yard. "We have lots of interactive toys to keep the pups busy and happy. In addition, Ember will have one-on-one playtime and socialization with staff and volunteers......a favorite job everyone loves!”
Update on October 1, 2019: Ember Goes to School: “Ember has been placed in our Prison PUP program at JJ Moran Correctional Facility in Rhode Island. She is the youngest puppy in that program (13 pups are in training at JJ Moran, all ages and levels of training). Her inmate handler is working on her basic obedience and socialization. Ember is doing a good job! On weekends, NEADS reported, Ember would be spending her weekends with a weekend volunteer to further her socialization.”
Update on January 14, 2020: Ember Continues to Learn and Grow: Ember is 7 months old! Her inmate handler has taught Ember the basic obedience cues. She is also beginning to learn more advanced cues. Some of these cues: closer (pup moves closer to the person), back (pup takes a step backward), under (pup goes under a table, bench or desk), left (pup moves to the left side of the person’s body), right (pup moves to the right side of the person’s body) and hold (pup holds an object in his/her mouth until given the cue, “give”, to release the object into a person’s hand).
Ember and her weekend volunteer are taking field trips to youth sporting events, shopping malls, fast food restaurants, libraries and small towns.”