Trusty – Birthdate 7/12/14
In the Spring of 2014, the Foundation decided to make a donation to one of its favored partners - the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS). In turn, we received the honor of naming one of NEADS puppies that would enter into their service dog training program. In the Fall of 2014, we found out “our” eight-week old puppy 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! 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 most, Trusty won and our little pup had a name!
Trusty was trained at the Laura J. Niles Early Learning Center (puppy house) on the NEADS campus. While she was at puppy house, Trusty learned some basic obedience. Between lessons, she had plenty of time to play and socialize with the puppy house 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 inmate handler. On the weekends, her volunteer weekend raiser took her to visit hospitals, and go 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 the training 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. Her trainer worked with Trusty on the NEADS campus, and took trips into local towns and cities. Her trainer evaluated Trusty’s behavior around cats, other dogs, other animals, and how she handled herself and performed task work around distractions. Trusty completed her evaluation, and returned to the Prison PUP Partnership training program at MCI-Framingham. As she matured, her inmate handler and NEADS trainers continued to refine her obedience skills and service dog tasks.
A short while later 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 is acted as a facilitator, learned how to work with their new Social Dog under the supervision of a NEADS trainer.
Skyler and Trusty graduated the NEADS program in the Fall of 2016 and are now living and working happily together!