Meet the Pack



Phil, a Veteran of the United States Army, graduated from Project HEAL in 2009 with his Service Dog, Reese, who helps him cope on a daily basis with injuries sustained during combat duty in Iraq, including amputation of his lower leg and severe PTSD.  He accepted the offer of a full time position as Kennel Manager soon after graduation. As a Veteran AND an ECAD employee, Phil has become a valued spokesman for ECAD and Project HEAL. For Phil, the “ability to give back to kids and Veterans” is what led him to ECAD and his favorite part of the job “is working with clients, volunteers, and kids.” Phil is from Rochester, NY.



Tara has been with ECAD since 2003 having been introduced by a volunteer. Fortunately for ECAD, Tara was able to wear a variety of hats in the organization’s early days.  In addition to maintaining ECAD’s accounting needs, and providing budget breakdowns for the numerous grant applications that are submitted annually, Tara has been responsible for organizing the volunteers and run the Home Handlers program. This included teaching the mandatory three -day workshops the volunteer home handlers must attend. Tara is a familiar face to attendees at ECAD events as the one in charge of the Silent Auction.



Following a long career that included ten years as Student Administrator at Horace Greely High School, Barb approached Children’s Village in 1995 seeking volunteer opportunities and “learned about a new program on campus dealing with dogs. I started with Lu the first day she came to CV.” She has been a four -day a week volunteer ever since. Barbara’s favorite part of the job “ is working with the veterans and clients and the dog and the kids.” Barbara and Blip, Therapy Dog and papa to many of ECAD’s dogs, visit Westchester Hospitals and VA’s each week. When not at ECAD, Barbara enjoys adventure trips (where she also does volunteer work), hiking and golfing and being with her grandchildren. Major inspirations in Barbara’s life have been her father, the clients, and all the Veterans I have met.” Barbara is a graduate of Skidmore College with a major in American Studies and a Minor in Secondary Education. She is a resident of Chappaqua.



Rachel joined the ECAD staff in 2009 but she had been attracted to its work long before through her personal contact with the co-founders. The Picards “heightened her interest in using dogs through school as a therapeutic tool to assist students to achieve” and “ECAD’s mission was the icing on the cake.” Her favorite part of her work “ is “watching the connection build between the client and their dog … and seeing the light bulb effect happen for a student when they succeed in teaching their dog a new task.” Rachel’s greatest inspirations are her daughters and her family. Her favorite quote (or at least one of them) is the Robert Frost poem that begins “Nature’s first green is gold.”  Rachel received an Associates Degree from UMFK. She majored in Behavioral Science-Human Services, with a minor in Special Education.



Aurelie learned about ECAD during her studies in her home country, France. Following graduation she had an internship at Green Chimneys and volunteered for ECAD in her free time. “From the first day I observed the program and was amazed by how the dogs and children will connect and help each other”. She came to work full time with ECAD in 2009 and says her favorite thing about being at ECAD is “it is a very dynamic organization. Everyone is involved on the same mission and truly believes that we can make a difference in a person’s life.” Aurelie has lived and worked in Guadeloupe, West French Indies, and London, England.  Her favorite pastimes are hiking with Therapy Dog Jazmine (who is now b-lingual) rollerblading with the puppies, dancing and swimming. Aurelie graduated from the Regional Institute of Social Work (IRTS) in Montpellier, France, with a Masters Degree in Special Education/Early Childhood Development.



Sarah has been an Instructor and a Volunteer for ECAD since 2005, having learned about the organization when researching Therapy Dogs while working at a social service agency in the Bronx. She completed the Train the Trainer with Lu Picard as her trainer “extraordinaire”. Sarah says “I am proud that I have helped train 73 ECAD dogs in my home and have handled many more. Each dog is different and I keep finding creative ways to motivate them to carry through on commands. I love my job where I take one or two dogs to the Henry Ittleson School (JBFCS) each week to conduct an educational and therapeutic program to severely emotionally disturbed children (ages 5-13). I have observed behavior changes with the children because of the program” Sarah loves lots of outdoor activities and is inspired by her husband and two grown sons. She received her Masters Degree from the City University of New York at Hunter College School of Social Work.


Volunteer SOCIAL MEDIA Specialist / Client Field Representative

Lee developed PTSD as a result of her work experiences as a Police Officer. Her research into Veterans with similar disabilities led her to ECAD where she began volunteering in 2010. Lee and her Service Dog Brady graduated Team Training in 2011. As part of her volunteer work, Lee has been the go-to person for ECAD’s social media presence and has been responsible for the addition of thousands of new FaceBook and Twitter followers. In 2013 she joined the staff and has been working alongside Lu. Lee’s favorite thing “ is being able to work with clients and the dogs, watching them grow together as a team and making a huge impact in each others’ lives.” Her favorite quote is “you can’t always get what you want but, if you try, sometimes, well, you just might find you get what you need.” Lee is a life long New Yorker and proud of it.



Lia completed Train the Trainer in August 2011 and began her career at ECAD soon after. She loves “that ECAD’s programs reach such a wide variety of people. The students, clients, volunteers, and staff each have their own unique paths that led them to ECAD. … and ECAD allows their stories to weave together to achieve a common mission. …. I love the pride on the student’s and volunteer’s faces when they watch a dog they’ve taught helping its client.” In the few years that Lia has been at ECAD, she has witnessed the commitment of the volunteers as they have kept their canine charges through blizzards and hurricanes. Lia loves traveling (as demonstrated by the fact that she spent 3 months in South Africa raising orphan baboons), reading, all things beach related, and learning new things. Her favorite quote is Emerson’s “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Lia has a Masters Degree from Columbia University with a Major in Public Health: Sociomedical Sciences and a Minor in Social Science Research.



Adam graduated from Train the Trainer in August 2011 and joined ECAD’s staff in September. Immediately prior to coming to Dobbs Ferry, Adam had been living in Israel where he had become attracted to Animal Assisted Therapies and began training as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor. In looking to broaden his experiences in the field “ECAD’s Train the Trainer Program stood out”. Adam says that his favorite aspect of his job “ is working with a team of professionals who positively impact the lives of so many people, in particular, the clients and students I teach.” Prior to devoting his time and energy to Animal Assisted Therapy work, Adam put his other talents to use as computer instructor, kindergartner teacher/science coordinator and professional photographer. His hobbies are scuba diving and cycling. Adam received his Masters Degree from Sarah Lawrence College with a Major in Education/Computer Science and a Minor in Marine Biology.


WORK PHONE 212-490-2638
MOBILE PHONE 917-664-8092

Patricia began working at ECAD in 2010 and has been contributing to the newsletter ever since, which she loves. She says “After a lifetime of working in “show business” (including 13 years as an executive at Radio City Music Hall) a wonderful stroke of fate brought me to ECAD. Every g time I am there I see a positive aspect of what is being accomplished. One day, as I was crossing the Children’s Village Campus, one of the student trainers called out my name and waved. I was on Cloud Nine, I felt like a celebrity.  I love seeing the faces of the clients during Team Training when they have their very own Service Dog and I love seeing how each dog just knows the person is theirs alone. A highlight of my time with ECAD will always be helping Rosie get her photo on the front page of the NY Times. She was the most accommodating and sweet natured celebrity I have ever known."

Leslie Johnson Low ResLESLIE JOHNSON


Leslie was introduced to the organization many years before her work with ECAD began.  While attending Quinnipiac University and majoring in Public Relations, she approached her classmate (Carrie Picard) to do an internship with ECAD as part of her coursework.  ECAD was just beginning then, but she saw the “immeasurable potential and worth in its mission”.  Ten years later, in 2012, when she returned to Connecticut after living in rural New Mexico for some time she re-introduced herself to the organization by volunteering for the Marketing, Development & Communications Department. A few short months later, she took on a full-time staff position in order to dedicate more time to furthering ECAD’s mission.  She loves that her work “contributes to improving the quality of life for both the Clients and the student-trainers” as well as her own.



Carrie is the eldest daughter of Co-Founders Lu and Dale Picard.  So, ECAD is in her blood.  She has lived every step of the organization. After graduating from Quinnipiac University with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business, she moved to Boston, MA to accept an opportunity at the corporate headquarters of Stop & Shop, a company she was employed by for ten years.  In 2010, she was ready for a career change and there was no better choice than to join the family business! Carrie started out in the Marketing Department and the rest is history. She transitioned into her current position as Director of Marketing & Communications over a year ago and has helped ECAD expand even more. She enjoys, “seeing my parents’ passion becoming my own and being dually vested in the organization not only to further their dream but to further my own of being an advocate for people living with disabilities”.



Prior to founding ECAD, Lu helped several businesses in their startup efforts and gained experience in business and administration. Though a native of Connecticut, Lu has also lived in Arizona and traveled the country extensively.  When Lu’s widowed father suffered a debilitating stroke in 1992 and came to live with them, she quickly recognized that he was becoming more depressed and angry, as he had to rely on someone else for his every move. Lu has a gift of being able to assess the possibilities, the potential of a situation. So, she looked at her Dad, and she looked at the family dog, Jules (short for Juliet.) The leash was in her hand. She pulled, Jules pulled, natural to both woman and dog. Within a short time, Lu had educated Jules to respond to her Dad’s tug by pulling him up to his feet. Then they would walk together. Or maybe Jules would retrieve a favorite magazine or just lie nearby, inseparable from Lu’s dad. To complete the picture that was forming in Lu’s mind, she found that her daughter, who had a learning disability, had no trouble in training Jules to do more and more things that would help her grandfather. In fact, the process was therapeutic and a great confidence builder. The stroke suffered by her father and the frustration her youngest daughter was feeling, drove Lu to find solutions.  And, ECAD was born out of that drive, passion and need.  Lu and her husband, Dale worked tirelessly researching, networking, following lead after lead to build ECAD into the organization it is now.  Lu sees every placement as a remarkable success for the Client, the student-educator and the organization.



Dale comes from a large farming family in the northern part of Maine. When he was nineteen, he left for Connecticut with a high school friend and found work in the iron industry. He also found his soon-to-be bride, Lu. They were soon married and had two daughters while traveling for Dale’s iron work.  Four years later, Dale and Lu came back to Connecticut and began working for his brother-in-law’s highly successful software company. While Lu loved her position managing the warehouse and distribution, Dale dreamed of having his own business. In the years to follow, Dale would own and operate two very successful delis in the Granby, CT area and start his own landscaping business. However, when Lu’s father came to live with them, her passion for educating both children and dogs to help people living with disabilities became his own. In 1995, Dale began converting their home in Torrington, CT into kennels and office space, repurposing materials from the existing structures. He did this, not knowing that his hand-built space would transform into the volunteer and awareness hub that is the present-day Laura J. Niles Breeding and Volunteer Center. Dale has made ECAD his supreme labor of love, and continues to do so each day.