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|April 5, 2012|
|The Doe Fund and East Coast Assistance Dogs Celebrate First-Of-a-Kind Partnership|
To celebrate their unique and ongoing partnership, The Doe Fund welcomed East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD) to their Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity in Brooklyn on Wednesday. The joint program pairs veterans and at-risk youth to train service dogs for disabled veterans.
Known for their award-winning Ready, Willing & Able transitional work program that serves formerly homeless and incarcerated men, The Doe Fund welcomed the program’s youth participants and the service dogs they train to spread good cheer and acknowledge the positive contributions of the veterans, their youth partners, and service animals.
“We are so excited about this partnership because it makes such perfect sense,” said George McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund. “Both our Veteran’s Program and the East Coast Assistance Dogs Program help veterans increase their independence and quality of life; by linking the two, we create a circle of empowerment for those who have served our country, ensuring that all veterans are able to live the rich, full lives they deserve.”
Since its inception in 2009, The Doe Fund’s Veteran’s Program has provided critical resources to hundreds of veterans, including transitional housing, counseling and benefits advocacy, education and transitional employment. The Veterans Service Dog Program allows veterans participating in The Doe Fund’s flagship program, Ready, Willing & Able (RWA), to train Service Dogs for disabled veterans as part of ProjectHEAL, an East Coast Assistance Dogs program that honors and empowers wounded warriors.
“As with the adolescents who have gone through our program, the veterans receive many therapeutic benefits from working with our dogs, especially invaluable to individuals struggling with emotional issues.” Said Lu Picard, Executive Director, East Coast Assistance Dogs. “Veterans feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at changing another veteran’s life for the better.”
ProjectHEAL puppies begin training when they are about two months old, and continue for about two years, progressing from “kindergarten” through “junior high” and “college”. By the time the dogs go to “college”, they know all the basics of Service Dog skills like obedience, retrieving, tugging, and hitting light switches. The trainers then refine those skills until the dogs are completely reliable and ready to meet with their partners. These specially trained dogs pick up dropped objects, open and close doors, pull wheelchairs, prevent overcrowding in public, interrupt nightmares and flashbacks, provide medication reminders, warn of approaching strangers and reduce anxiety and stress, all the while providing unconditional love and comfort.
The first class of trainers and puppies will graduate in May at a ceremony in Riverside Park.
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