Shelter Spotlight: Educated Canines Assisting With Disabilities

Diana Faria
by Diana Faria
ECAD truly opens doors. This charity hand-raises its pups from birth and trains them to become service dogs to make the lives of those with disabilities, veterans, and autistic children easier.

Every idea is born through necessity, and this organization is no different. Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which pairs service dogs with those with disabilities, veterans, and autistic children.

ECAD was founded by Lu and Dale Picard. Before the organization was born, Lu’s father suffered a stroke and lost much of his mobility and, in turn, some of his independence. Lu saw how much her father hated being dependent on her, and thus she began to teach the family dog commands like how to retrieve items and help her father get up from a chair. She realized that her father wasn’t as upset when the help came from the dog and became more active and less depressed. After seeing first-hand how service dogs can help improve a person’s day to day life, Lu quit her full-time job in 1995 to start ECAD. She purchased land in Connecticut for kennels and offices, and redesigned the home her husband and two daughters lived in to start a home for ECAD. Today, they have training facilities in both Connecticut as well as New York and have placed service dogs in over a dozen states.

Related: Bow Wow Buddies Foundation for Sick and Injured Dogs

ECAD has a couple of core programs and services, including the “Open Doors” Program. In this program, dogs are trained to become service dogs to help those with disabilities or trained to become facility dogs, where they go visit those in hospitals, nursing homes, and courthouses. Their “Canine Magic” program assists children (as young as two!) living with autism to build cognitive development, safety, emotional bonding and socialization. “Project HEAL” has two parts; one of them involving placing service dogs with veterans that live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical injuries or traumatic brain injuries. The second is the “Transition” part of Project HEAL, which teaches veterans to educate and train dogs that will be placed with fellow veterans.

Related: The Sanctuary At Haafsville

So, how does the staff at ECAD choose their pups for these programs? It’s truly hands on: they hand-raise them themselves! They have 15 male and female who are suitable to breed in the program. The full-grown dogs also work as facility dogs, visiting school campuses, nursing homes and hospitals. The ECAD works with Labradors and Golden Retrievers – all of who have been with the facility since their birth.

As big believers in early education, ECAD places their pups in “full-time school” when they are just eight weeks old. By the time they are three months old, these pups already know how to sit, come, down, watch me, and how to walk on a loose leash. At the end of their first year of training, these pooches have learned over 60 commands to help those with disabilities. After a year and a half of training, and multiple interviews with the client requesting a service dog, instructors compare each dog’s temperament to match with the person. Once a match has been made and the client comes for team training, the dog will already have about two years of training under her belt.

There are a few ways you can help the folks at ECAD. You can donate (every bit counts!), or set up a monthly gift to give your ongoing support. You can also get involved by volunteering or attending one of their events, or purchase items such as office supplies from their Amazon Wish List. To learn more, visit the ECAD website.

Diana Faria
Diana Faria

More by Diana Faria