"The veterinary community, particularly in New England, is plugged into this program at many levels," Ovitsky says. "Besides
those of us serving on the board, a large number of DVMs are providing free or discounted care for the puppies in foster homes
and at the prisons. Also, veterinarians in the communities where the soldiers live continue to provide free or discounted
care after the graduation."
Sheila O'Brien, executive director of NEADS, says the DVMs' help has been crucial to the success of "Canines for Combat Veterans."
"Ira (Kaplan) and Anita (Migday) handle all the spay/neutering and so much more for us. And Mike McTigue is here every month
to make sure our puppies stay healthy," she says.
O'Brien explains that she and the NEADS directors saw a need three years ago to provide dogs for wounded war veterans, especially
amputees in wheelchairs. They initiated contact with Walter Reed officials, who agreed to work with them.
"We knew this (war) would change the entire demographic of the disabled population in the United States, and it has," she
says. NEADS normally asks disabled and deaf persons who receive service dogs to arrange some sort of community fund-raiser
with a goal of at least $1,000 toward the approximately $9,500 total training cost.
Check-up time: Dr. Michael McTigue, owner of Gardner Animal Hospital in Gardner, MA, performs a monthly check-up on Mica,
an 8-month-old Golden Retriever in training to become one of the "Canines for Combat Veterans." The animals wear blue jackets
in public to designate them as service dogs.
"But for these veterans, we've waived that and are raising all the funds ourselves," O'Brien says. "They've done enough."
Ovitsky says news of the program has generated large and small donations from individuals, and attracted veterinary pharmaceutical
firms as sponsors.
"One couple came in a few weeks ago and wrote a check for $1.2 million. They wanted the money to go specifically to help the
For details about NEADS and its program for veterans, visit