XENIA, Ohio – Eager footwork was split between tap-dancing paws and pitter-pattering little toes from one side of the 4 Paws for Ability training floor to the other. It was graduation day for 11 dogs and their kids.
“I don’t think we were ready at all. It’s been a hard, wonderful experience,” said Kim, Cole and Chip’s mom.
From the moment that Cole set eyes on Chip during first-day introductions at 4 Paws for Ability, he wanted nothing more than to touch him, pet him, love him. His arms stretched outward to the max, as he saw his black Labrador Retriever being led to him. His eyes filled with excitement and utter joy as Chip trotted right up to him. Sitting atop his mom’s lap, Chip gave Cole a quick lick on his hand, as if to say, “Hello buddy!”
Anna, who wasn’t so sure of her new dog, Dalma, the day they met, was wearing matching red, jeweled bows, with Dalma on graduation day. Calm and relaxed the young Asian girl with shiny black hair will be returning back to Australia in July with her parents and Dalma. (Read about Anna and Dalma, in March’s Paw of the Class feature.)
“We think she’s the most gorgeous girl,” said Doris of Dalma, her family’s newest, white and fluffy addition.
Another beauty, Calypso, aka Maxie, was a beautiful white-furred cottony Goldendoodle who welcomed William, his new boy to 4 Paws for Ability, with what can only be described as a smile, and a tremendous tail-wagging. As William sat on his mom’s lap, he held his hands up and away from the large dog sitting patiently at his feet. As Karen, William’s mom, hand-fed the eager assistance dog treats, William too, slowly put his hand into the baggie full of Calypso’s favorite food, and doled out one piece at a time for his new partner—letting out small, quiet giggles as her tongue lapped his fingers while feeding her.
“’Thank you’ just doesn’t cut it. It’s been wonderful… you’re a whole new family to us,” said William’s mom.
Beautiful Golden Retriever and Miami University “student” Champagne, was well-loved from the beginning by her tiny, blonde boy Jacob. As they greeted each other, Jacob stood next to his new girl, who stood at face level to him. His tiny hands reached out and touched her soft, golden fur, as she looked over her shoulder at him, her brown eyes seemed to sparkle.
Not all first meetings were so quick to bond.
Sam was a bit leery of this bubbly, black Labrador Retriever, Chili. He reached down to pet his new dog, only to be licked and slobbered on, which resulted in a disgusted, puckered-up face. But that disgust soon turned to a special bond by graduation, and apparently a new fondness for all black dogs.
“Every black dog is ‘Chili’ to Sam,” said mom Nancy, to a room full of graduates, who immediately began to chuckle.
There was absolutely no hesitation for Joseph when meeting his black Labrador Retriever, Parfait. As soon as the spunky, sleek dog was led to his boy, the petting, licking and treat nibbling commenced. Joseph wrapped his arms around Parfait’s neck, who, in turn, leaned in to lick his nose, mouth, cheek, ear, or whatever he could reach to reciprocate the love he was getting from his new human BFF.
Navin, a Golden Retriever, was greeted by, not only his new boy Ryan, but also his entire family, including a little sister. Everyone was overjoyed to meet him for the first time and he became so relaxed that he laid belly-up on the floor, mouth open, tongue hanging out, getting lots of love from his boy.
The most common word from Cayden was, “Cheese!” He posed a lot for the camera, especially with his new best friend, Neo, a Golden Retriever. On the first day of class, the small blonde literally, took the reigns and led his new four-legged friend around the training floor. It was the moment that allowed his mom to let out a much-needed sigh of relief.
“They mean everything to the kids—but mean a lot to [us] parents too… peace of mind,” said Angela, Cayden and Neo’s mom.
Gabe was quiet on his first day, and at first didn’t seem to enjoy the company of his new furry pal, Poppers, a black Labrador Retriever. Although Popper enjoyed the many treats he was receiving from the remainder of his new family. But about 20 minutes into the first day, Gabe was sitting crossed-legged on the floor, leaning down and kissing Popper’s head, which was in his lap.
Arielle and Israel graduated with Slider, a black Labrador Retriever, and were like two kids in a candy store, getting their certificates with their dog on graduation day—a sight too sweet for words.
Alyssa and Pinoy, also known as Elmo, graduated with smiles. As Alyssa stood next to her mom, she leaned up, giving her mom a kiss on the cheek, with one hand on her new best friend.
It was a day full of kisses, tears and hugs—hugs from the children to the dogs and from parent to parent. The nervousness of the first day of class had left their expressions and was replaced with laughter and many, many smiles from ear to ear, from one side of the classroom to the other.
-Photos & story by Jessica Noll-Korczyk