In May, 2006, Dogs for Disabled Americans/NEADS was the first service dog program to be invited to D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet with soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are now beginning to provide walker balance/service dogs from their new Canines for Combat Veterans program.  These dual trained dogs will serve as walker/balance dogs when the veterans are ambulatory and walking with their prosthetics - providing balance while walking, going up and down stairs, and getting up from a sitting or fallen position and act as service dogs when the veterans remove their prosthetics and transfer to a wheelchair - assisting by picking up things that drop, retrieving items from a distance, pulling manual wheelchairs a short distance, turning lights on and off.  It takes about 18 months to fully train these service dogs, at a ccost of $20,000 per dog.  Any combat veteran whose service injury has resulted in a permanent physical disability is eligible to apply.  NEADS provides fully-trained assistance dogs at no cost to qualified veterans.  Travel and accommodations for the two-week training camp in Princeton, Massachusetts are also provided at no cost, thanks to the generous donations of thousands of individuals, private foundations and small businesses.
The Medfield Lions Club has a close and continuing relationship with the NEADS.  NEADS was originally founded in 1976 with seed money provided by the Medfield Lions Club.  The program began as the Hearing Ear Dog Program at Holliston Junior College in Lenox, MA.  Students in the Animal Care Program tested the premise that like Guide Dogs trained to help people who are blind, Hearing Dogs could be trained to become the "ears" for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.  Three of the five dogs trained were successfully paired with a deaf human partner and a program was born.
From this successful start the program has expanded to train and provide rescued dogs and donated puppies to assist people who are deaf or physically disabled in leading more independent lives at work, at home and at school.  These assistance dogs become an extension of their owners and bring security, freedom, independence and relief from social isolation to their human partners.  NEADS national headquarters is located in Princeton, MA, a rural setting close to Worcester in Central Massachusetts.    NEADS is the oldest continuing hearing dog program in the country and the only program of its kind in New England, as well as one of the country's largest.
Two of our club members were instrumental in getting the Medfield Lions involved with NEADS.  They are Lions Harry Mitchell (deceased) (l) and active member Tom Sweeney (r) shown below.
 Lion Harry Mitchell (l) with two puppies in training named aptly "Harry" and "Mitchell".  Lion Tom Sweeney (r) with NEADS dog in service.
NEADS has trained well over 1,000 assistance dog teams from all states since 1976, with 50 teams graduating from its campus in a biannual graduation ceremony, which is at once heartwarming and inspirational.  This graduation ceremony is open to the public and completes the six-month training cycle undergone by the dogs to be ready to assist their human partners.  Among the types of dogs trained are: hearing, service, social, specialty, service dogs for the classroom, ministry, therapy and walker dogs.
NEADS trains all breeds and mixed breeds of dogs to help people who are deaf or physically disabled live more independently.  Most hearing dogs are rescued from animal shelters throughout New England.  Most service dogs are donated as puppies by breeders throughout the country.  Most service dogs are Golden or Labrador retrievers, however, many other breeds are also suitable.  Any dog "with the right stuff" can partner with a person to provide independence and companionship by reducing physical and social barriers.

For more information, visit NEADS online at and click on “Canines for Combat Veterans”.  Find the service dog or hearing dog icon, click on “APPLY NOW” to find an application or contact NEADS directly at (978) 422-9064 ext. 22 for an assistance dog application.
To make a donation, please make all checks payable to:
"Medfield Lions Club"
and mail to:
Medfield Lions, PO Box 79, Medfield, MA 02052
(and in the memo section include NEADS)


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