Alex & Tanaka

Alex and Tanaka are doing fantastic.  The bond took a while but they are now inseparable.  We no longer tether them.  Alex holds his leash and never lets go because he thinks Tanaka would run away.  Alex’s speech has skyrocketed.  He had to learn to talk clearly to give commands and that was a huge motivator.  Alex was discharged from speech therapy a couple of weeks ago (he was in it since he was 10 months old).  We never had to track for real but we still practice and Tanaka even found him in an amusement park!  Everywhere we go, everybody loves Tanaka, nobody has ever refused us access anywhere.  Tanaka listens to command perfectly, I don’t even carrry treats anymore.  We just do a “refresher” training course once in a while with treats.  We no longer use the training collar.  We use the gentle leader only.  When he is not wearing the gentle leader, he pulls while we walk.  We haven’t had a meltdown in 8 weeks and Alex sleeps through the night (which he never did), with Tanaka on his legs.

You made a difference. You know who you are.

2011. Alaska mom one year later, writing on Facebook. If you in any way donated time, money, mushed dogs, bid in the auction, did a news story, donated items, fostered a dog, trained, or helped us in any way with obtaining our service dog Juke, please know:

You made a difference.

You saved a family from sleepless nights, worry, fear, and stress. You returned normalcy to a home. You allowed a husband & wife to enjoy being married again. You allowed a boy to have calm in his storm of affliction. You gave him a friend to sleep with & feel safe with. You gave many families hope.

We have had Juke for one year now. I cannot thank you all enough for what you have done. Juke is not a cure for autism, but an anchor in a storm. We are so blessed. You know who you are ~Thank you. Donna Erickson, Unalakleet, Alaska

Alex, Autism, and Alfalfa

The Difference a Service Dog can make, by Tom Niermann. June 2011. I have triplets. Two boys and a girl: 10 years old. Alex has Autism, moderate and is largely non-verbal. Nikki and Ryan are typical, but as any parent with an Autistic child will know, their lives are anything but. I have been a single dad since they were four years old, until my remarriage 12 months ago.

Over the years, I have worked hard with the kids to ensure their lives are as happy and as normal as possible. I have worked extensively with Alex in a range of therapies encompassing ABA, RDI, Speech, OT, music therapy: a plethora of approaches aimed at reaching him and helping him to engage with the world around him.

Nikki and Ryan love their brother; there is a sweetness and playfulness about Alex that makes him impossible not to love. There is no denying however, that being raised in a family with an Autistic child creates a very different family dynamic. Whether it is explaining to your friends why there are locks with pass codes on all the external doors, why the windows are nailed shut, or that you have a pass-coded lock on your bedroom door to stop your brother from messing with your things. Perhaps it is being at school and being known as the kid with the Autistic sibling who doesn’t talk and has meltdowns for no apparent reason. Or maybe it is the regular disapproving stares in shopping centers and restaurants, when your brother, who looks normal, suddenly starts yelling or throwing plates across the table. My two neuro-typical children have never complained; they love their brother, but there is no denying Autism impacts their lives as well.

We are early on in the journey with our Service Dog. The vibrant and active support network of 4 Paws Service Dog families we are now a part of, gives me great hope for the future. The stories of the impact these dogs have made is amazing. The life changing experiences we have had to date on our Service Dog adventure has already made it worth all the effort. I can only imagine what the future holds, but I know that Alfalfa, Alex’s new best friend, will continue to play a significant role in it . . .

Read the entire article, which was published in Autism Resource Center of South Florida’s website.

Matthew & Basil

December 18, 2010  Update by Matthew Powell’s mother. Just wanted to send you some pictures of Matthew and Basil so you can see what Basil has done for Matthew. He is out of his wheelchair now, thanks to you and Basil.

Matthew was in a wheelchair when we got Basil. He (Matthew) is hearing impaired, has cortical visual impairment, autism, and has cerebral palsy along with many other medical issues. Matthew loves Basil, and went from his wheelchair to a walker with the help of Basil and the love and unconditional care he shows Matthew.

Matthew went from support of devices to running bases without either a chair or walker at challenger ball. Matthew not only walks, but he runs with his best friend and medical support(Basil). His dog, and best friend, allows him to live a normal life, or at least as normal as it gets. Basil is Matthew’s eyes, ears stability, medical support if his airway fails, or if a seizures occurs. Plus, if he roams, Basil will help him find his way home, or help us find him. P.S. Matthew is never lonely anymore. He has a friend who is more dedicated to him that, you or I could ever dream of.

Luke & Bones

October 9, 2010. Bones is such an incredible dog – honestly, his personality and training are more than we ever expected or hoped for. We love him to pieces already and he’s fit in SO neatly with our family. Luke has slept in his bed every single night since we took Bones home to the hotel at Homewood Inn.

Luke is eight years old and has NEVER EVER slept outside of our room. I had no idea what it was like to sleep without a big lump in the bed or holding his hand while he fell asleep in the toddler bed next to me…Bones also lets out one sharp, quick bark if there is a noise in the house, one of the kids is up to the bathroom, or Luke gets out of bed and leaves his bedroom. AMAZING. He is such a momma’s helper 🙂

Our whole family would have LOVED to stay at 4 Paws forever – honestly, we could have moved in or nearby and never left. You have a very unique and special place there – I hope God continues to bless your work because you have certainly blessed many families and special children.

Ryan & Monroe

September 15, 2010 Even Service Dogs need get well cards. Monroe had a virus and had been sick from last Friday through Tuesday. This meant that Ryan had to go to school without Monroe, which worried me, but things went well. On Tuesday afternoon, I opened Ryan’s folder to find a “get well” card that the kids in the LI room had made for Monroe. It was really cute. Back at school today and everyone was happy to see him. Vet was not sure if it was something he ate or a virus. Even the kids in the regular ed classes that Ryan is in with an aide were concerned about him. Just wanted to share my “warm and fuzzy” moment…Michelle Delaney

Sarah & Mira

September 7, 2010. Sarah got a letter today:

My name is Mira and I am a member of the Superstars litter born to Mom: Blessing and Dad: Mario on 6-22-2009. We are Labradoodles. I hear that you are a cute girl and I am so excited. Tell me do you like Pink? I have been so jealous of Piper. She has all those great Pink things and can be such a girl and I have to work hard tracking in the mud, rain, snow….I mean you got to track no matter what it is like outside and then I get all dirty. I want someone to spoil me and let me be a girl some days! We will have so much fun together. I know you like to ride in cars and sometimes sit in them hoping it will go somewhere. I like to go for rides places too!

I can’t wait to be a team! I hope I can share your room like real sisters and we can talk the night away. I promise to keep all your secrets and I am trying to learn sign language but I know a secret. When someone has Autism we dogs can just talk to them and we will just understand each other without words! All those people without Autism wonder why dogs and kids with Autism go together. It is because we can just be and know when we are together. We will be a great team! xoxoxo Mira

We are just so very excited to introduce you to Mira. She is a beautiful Labradoodle that will be Sarah’s service dog. Sarah, my mom & I will be going to Xenia, OH to meet and train with Mira next week. Thank you for helping us in this endeavor. We pray that Mira will help Sarah with all sorts of things, like making connections, staying safe, and helping calm anxieties. She looks so awesome and we are truly THRILLED!! Thank you and we will certainly keep you all posted!!! Beth Polk…Stay tuned!

Riley & Max

August 24, 2010. When taking Riley to his middle school to drop off supplies, I took Max and Irish along. Typically Riley is very nervous taking Max around his school or peers that aren’t necessarily close friends. Max can have embarrassing behaviors for me to handle, much less a 7th grader! He was nervous that day too, but Irish’s effect on Max was so noticeable. Max stayed right with us and didn’t fight his tether. He sat and petted her when we took a long time talking to his counselor…instead of exploring the school, getting lost, being loud, defiant,etc.

Then we went shoe shopping and Max’s behavior was once again so appropriate. Kids keep coming up to us to ask if they can pet Irish and I have Max answer “Yes.” He is having so many more socialization opportunities because of Irish. We also went to our town’s big festival and she was a champ. All the noise and food and people didn’t faze her a bit. We are so proud of her! Carrie.

Anna & Cadi

August 2010. Anna is now off the heart/lung bypass pump. A note about how well 4 Paws Dogs are trained. When we met Anna’s heart surgeon, Cadi was in a place in a corner of the exam room. She stayed there for the entire examination/discussion of the surgery: 55+ minutes. As things were wrapping up, she gets out of her place, walks over to the surgeon and rolls on her back (the ultimate position of submission in a dog’s world) under his crossed feet. She seemed to be saying, “Okay you’ve got my approval to operate on my girl’s heart.”

Cadi’s been going to school with Anna for two years and always she stays where she is told to stay. So for her to just get up and move, well she must have thought it was an important moment. Another service offered by 4 Paws Dogs: Physician Approval.

Maya & Miami

July 1, 2010. From Kristen, Mother to Maya and SD Miami. It’s been almost two weeks since the training and I am still bursting with gratitude. The trainers Jeremy, Jennifer, Kayla, Kristie, and Jessalyn were extraordinary. Knowledgeable, supportive, funny, helpful, compassionate, gifted. Karen is inspiring. Suzanne the vet was really helpful. 4 Paws staff members were friendly and approachable. The families rocked! The dogs are all amazing. I kept clapping for them! Thanks to all!

The atmosphere was wonderful-relaxed, supportive.. .On the first day, Jeremy told us he knew kids would have melt downs, run across the room, scream, cry, seize during class. None of it would bother the trainers. He just wanted to make sure we could hear him, so just let him know if he needed to adjust the mike. How I wish most places I go would adopt that mentality!!

Getting to hang out with other families experiencing some similar challenges was also a gift So is this list for that matter. Thanks to all who are on it and share struggles, silly stories, possible solutions, and hope.

It is wonderful to be home with Miami! She is awesome. Maya had a tough week last week -having 33 partial complex seizures. Miami was around for about half of those and helped alert me to 3 of them when I was in another room. She sleeps by Maya at night. Maya loves when we practice “over.” She likes the deep pressure. Most times it makes her laugh.

She loves to throw the tennis ball with Miami (Maya has a longer attention span for that than Miami does). Maya likes to give her treats. Maya also likes to bring all of Miami’s toys to her regardless of where Miami is (we’re working on gently bringing them to her, also working on helping Maya handle surprise licks and surprise sniffing, and occasional incidental scratching with a paw.) Miami is super sweet with neighbor kids, dogs, and cats. Awesome blessing to have Miami in our family. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you 4 Paws!!!…Kristen

Riley & Jingle

May 22, 2010 We were in the October 2009 class, my daughter Riley is paired with Jingle, an autism service dog. Riley is almost ten and has Asperger’s and severe anxiety. Riley ran away yesterday, during a clay sculpture class. She ran screaming down a long narrow hallway that led to several places. I followed with Jingle on the leash, but we weren’t quick enough. Riley took a corner and disappeared.

We didn’t know if she had gone upstairs to the public library? Outside(not the best neighborhood)? To the bathroom, or if she was hiding somewhere in the studio (which is in an old winding basement with lots of nooks and crannies and offices. Jingle went to a side room. I poked my head in and looked around but she wasn’t in there, so I took Jingle with me to look all over for her, the teacher and I spread out.

Turns out she was hiding in the room Jingle led me to, but I had her on the leash and didn’t let her go all the way in and get her. Jingle isn’t a tracking dog. We aren’t trained in this, and I was upset and in a hurry to find her in case she’d run outside so I hadn’t trusted Jingle, and had actually led her away from Riley.

We love our Jing. She is a great dog. She actually cries when she loses site of Riley, for example if we are in a public place, and Riley leaves to use the rest room. I should have known she was right…Michelle O’Neil

Jonathan & Buddy

May 18, 2010  From Heather N., Mom to Jonathan and Buddy. Hi Everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to the group, but I wanted to share what a great morning we had today. I took Jonathan to the doctor and Buddy went with us. (We’ve had Buddy a year now). We were going to the doctor to get a script for an aug. comm. device for Jonathan. He is basically non-verbal.

Long story short…we’ve been waiting for Jonathan to bond with Buddy. It’s hard to tell if this is happening, but we keep trying. Well today when I parked the car at the medical center, Jonathan reached over and grabbed his tethering belt and SAID in a pitiful voice…”Come on Buddy.” A 3-word sentence!!! (And we were there to get the communication device script!) It was pathetic and amazing all at the same time. So I’m celebrating my miracle moment with my 4Paws friends. The only people in the world who truly understand what a great thing this is!

Danny & Kermit

May 6, 2010 from Maggie and Kevin. Danny & Kermit are great. One thing we’ve noticed, and I”m not even sure if 4 Paws worked on this. But Danny has a hard time transitioning from the van into the house when we get home from somewhere. Before Kermit, it would take average of 20 minutes to an hour! We did show this in our video. Since Kermit, he transitions from the van anywhere from immediately to 10 minutes! It has reduced substantially! Kermit will go out and keep checking on Danny and usually just wait with him out in the garage. Last night Kermit got left in the garage because I didn’t even realize he was waiting with Danny! Darn that dark fur! They are really starting to bond and Kermit loves watching over Danny.

Sue Formet: Helios Papillons

December 2007. I have been working with Karen for about 3 years and I consider her a good friend. I found Karen and 4Paws when I had a Papillon born with bad front leg.

This was one sweet Pap and I was planning on keeping her (of course) when it occurred to me that just the right organization might be able to help disabled children by showing them how wonderfully she (Gracie) got along on only three legs.

I checked with lots of local organizations that I found by word-of-mouth and over the Internet and no one was interested in my idea. (I also ran across several that I wouldn’t have sent her to even if they had wanted to take her!) When I went national in my search I rather quickly ran across the 4Paws site. I read Ben’s story and looked at what they were trying to do and it seemed worth making a contact. The rest is history.

Karen liked my idea and I sent Gracie to her. In succeeding years, I have sent her a second Papillon, Piper, actually Gracie’s sister) who I loved so much that there is absolutely no other person in the world I would have trusted her to except Karen.

Piper didn’t turn out as a show girl and I debated for months about whether or not I should let her go. Karen wanted her very much and so I finally sent her. Piper and Gracie now have their own web site and you can see their pictures here and there on the 4Paws site.

I most recently sent Karen two Phalene (drop eared Papillons) boys (Theo and Vinnie) who were as sweet as can be but were in no way going to make it in a show ring and were not what pet owners were looking for when they asked for Papillons. They were both trained by 4Paws and Theo went on to become the well loved and helpful “seizure trained” dog for a little boy named Bryant.

His brother, Vinnie, didn’t work out in the training and Karen called me tell me that they wanted to neuter and place him in a great pet home. I gave her the go ahead and Vinnie has now gone to live with the same family that Theo was placed with.

I have only been breeding and showing Papillons for about 7 years and I have finished several of my dogs. I have to tell you that no Championship has come even close to the wonderful feeling I’ve gotten from seeing pictures of my pups in the arms of autistic and other disabled children and reading the stories about Theo and Bryant.

Karen and her staff love their dogs and treat them just as we would in our own homes (maybe better).