- Just wanted to post a quick update for all those students and foster families to whom so many of us are grateful. We have had our miracle for a full year now, and she was one of the best decisions we ever made for our daughter – since having our SD, our daughter has shown more interest in almost everything, is more social, has actually taken steps, and for the first time in her life, and we can tell when she is in pain instead of just having a behavioral issue. One of the most amazing things is that she used to need three separate medications to sleep each night, and now no longer needs any of them. She has also stoped one of the more severe behavioral meds. Your hard work and dedication has changed hers & so many other lives & none of us can thank you enough! (Also for familes still waiting for their miracles…SO worth it!)
- I just wanted to say that we have had our service dog Juke for awhile now, and he is a big part of our family. Our lives have improved so much in many ways. I cannot thank you guys enough …Donna Sauraq Erickson, Unalakleet, Alaska.
- Our family is absolutely overcome by how much Halo has changed our lives. How much do I love this dog? Let me count the ways! Fundraisers, keep going. It’s beyond worth it. Karen and Jeremy, there are not enough words on the planet to thank you for this . . . Peg Bernert, Anchorage, Alaska.
- I am so amazed with Grover! When Jason is outside Grover prevents him from going towards the street. In the library Jason is happy just to be with Grover. Marlene doesn’t need to chase after Jason or deal with his loud outbursts! Jason seems much calmer and secure with Grover around. I know that Grover was placed in their home for Jason, but he has brought such peace and happiness to the whole family. Thank you for this wonderful service you provide . . . Peggy Serena.
- Nitro has brought peace into our house. When we first brought Nitro home this summer, the number of meltdowns DJ had seemed to really decrease. If DJ was starting to get out of hand, I would send him to his room with Nitro to cool down. One day I went up to check on him and the scene I came upon was a still angry boy muttering about his mom, a dog laying in front of him on his bed, and that same angry boy gently running his hand down the length of Nitro. With as angry as he sounded, I would have expected him to be pounding poor Nitro, but he wasn’t. In fact, as angry as DJ still tends to get, I have never seen him take out any aggression on Nitro. He’s a gem and I cannot thank 4 Paws enough for the work they do. Article on DJ and Nitro.
- Logan was in for a simple procedure (new ear tubes) and fighting the medicine tooth and nail until we got Akira up on the bed with him. He just hugged her and melted into her….it was the best. We also learned the hard way 2 weeks ago that Logan really does need to be with her in these situations. We had to take Logan to the ER for an X-ray and did not bring Akira. I won’t go into details, but that was a HUGE mistake. As I always tell people, having Akira does not make life easier, but it certainly makes it better . . . Melissa Davenport.
- Over the past few years we have donated a few pups to 4 Paws, and I will strongly recommend it to anyone who breeds sound, sane dogs. The dogs are treated and trained fantastically! They have kept in contact with us about what the dogs are doing during training, how they are partnered off for life with their new charges! We even have received pictures. I have met one set of grandparents of a child who is partnered with one of my guys and they were in AWE of the work that 4 Paws does and how the dog had changed the whole family’s life for the better! I am very honored to have our dogs in the 4 Paws program. Emily St. Hilaire, Brown Hill Shepherds, est. 1979.
- Tonight we went to Corey’s baseball game, our entire family and Bo. That has never been possible before. Cody would never stay with us and it was so frustrating that if my mom couldn’t watch Cody I wouldn’t go to Corey’s games (which I hated). But tonight I spread out a blanket and Cody and Bo lay down on it and it was perfect. They were so cute and Cody didn’t even get up or try to run off, I think because he knew he couldn’t go anywhere, but it was awesome. I was kicking myself because I didn’t have a camera. I hope this is just the beginning because Bo really gave me a glimpse into some freedom for our family tonight!
- They are really doing well together. Every day seems to be a little bit better. We also have taken Zach out for ice cream and sat outside on Main Street of the town we live in. It was great; we were able to sit there without worrying about Zach running in the road. Zach seems to really like when we go somewhere with Jaxo: he realizes that he can’t get away and doesn’t even try. Update from Speech Therapist at school. Zach has been much easier to calm down in transitioning from classroom to therapy since Jaxon has started school. Zach leans on Jaxon, I feel, to help him find that “safe place” in transitions. Zach now willingly walks to his classroom with Jaxon at his side. Zach no longer tries to run out of the door of his classroom. Jaxon listens very well to commands and sits at my feet during the entire therapy session. What a blessing Jaxon has been for Zach and his family.
- Fear for our child sometimes overwhelmed me. I felt as though my life was spiraling out of control. Our picture is very different today. We still have our moments but that is what they are, moments. Cocoa goes everywhere Lawson goes, school. church, restaurants and shopping. 4 Paws and Cocoa have peeled a layer of onion for us. You have introduced us to a child we did not know existed. Words will never be able to thank you enough, and as far as our sweet Cocoa goes the day she retires she is getting the biggest T-bone steak ever.
- Kendall had not slept in her own bed in years and the night we arrived home with Lovey I said, “Time to go to your bed with Lovey.” It was nothing short of a miracle: she just headed off to bed and now two months after being home is still sleeping in her own room. Lovey is trained to track Kendall so if she runs off either from our home or while out in public Lovey can track her scent. Lovey keeps Kendall safe in public. We tether Kendall to Lovey and that way Kendall cannot run off to do her own thing, thus keeping her safe from predators and other hazards. Lovey is a devoted non-judgemental friend to Kendall keeping her from feeling so different and lonely. We have noticed her language bursts forth since getting our SD. She has fewer meltdowns and when she does Lovey is trained to nuzzle her to distract and settle her. My husband, who was skeptical even after bringing the dog home, has stated that this dog has changed our lives, and he never would have believed it could have ever been this good. We are thankful that an organization like 4 Paws For Ability exists and encourage anyone to make a tax deductible donation because it will be used wisely and will help a child(ren) fit into this world better.
- My grandson Cory Bush received his service dog in your last graduating class, November 2007. I must say it has been a blessing for all of us, Kodiak has became another member of our family with great ease loves everyone. He is very special, Cory has adapted to him well. The freedom that Kodiak has given to our family and Cory to walk in the mall, stores or anywhere that is needed has been wonderful. We have gone to dinner(s), a show for children, etc. Everything went very smoothly. Kodiak always is pleasant and loving very well behaved. I give a big “thumps up” to all that trained him and giving us the opportunity to receive a wonderful blessing at this time of the year. My prayers go out to all the families that are trying to get the funds for their dog; may they be blessed this year with the fortune that we have. Thank you again for everything . . . Deborah J. Smith
How having a service dog changes lives
2008. Do you have a child who might benefit from owning a service dog, yet you are skeptical? Perhaps I can shed some light on this critical issue. My daughter, Bekah just turned eight, and we received her dog from 4 Paws for Ability just before she turned six.
While Bekah doesn’t have autism, she is pretty much mute, but with good receptive language. She also has terrible flashbacks and dissociates and is in a constant state of fear and/or panic. Some of her behaviors are similar to those on the autism spectrum. She suffers especially in three areas:
- Complex PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).
- RAD (reactive attachment disorder).
- SPD (sensory processing disorder) from some severe pre-adoptive abuse and neglect.
Grizwald (we call him the wonder dog) is trained to do interrupt behaviors and to tether to her. Before we received him, we couldn’t go anyplace for fear of flashbacks. Our Bekah was in a constant state of high anxiety and panic. Now, where she might earlier have had to be carried, she will tether to Grizwald and walk even in a very public place like a mall.
Due to her RAD, it’s been a slow attachment process, but I know she is attached to him even if she outwardly doesn’t always show us. For example, our upstairs bathroom has been a source of real terror for her. A couple of months ago, on her own, she took Grizwald into this tiny bathroom and used it without me or any other support. This may not sound like a lot to someone who doesn’t know Bekah, but let me tell you, this was a major breakthrough.
Grizwald hasn’t just helped my younger daughter either-he has been a source of healing for the entire family. I’ve always loved animals, but to think this furry four-legged critter could so turn our household from upside down to right-side up in such a short period of time is nothing short of miraculous in our book.
How I wish you could see my youngest playing with her dog. When Grizwald is in harness, he is all business (well mostly all business), but when he’s not working he is all fun-loving dog! The 4 Paws for Ability dogs are trained to be just about perfect in public.
Whenever we go out to eat, Grizwald is under the table right at my daughter’s feet keeping her anchored emotionally and knowing he is always there as a constant for her. They are so well behaved that sometimes the biggest impediment to getting our shopping done is that many people want to stop and talk to you about your dog and how beautiful and well-behaved he is.
One last word about 4 Paws and about Karen Shirk and her staff. When Karen founded this nonprofit, there was literally no one placing dogs with children. Karen has such insight and is such a forward-thinking person. I believe they were also the first to train and place Autism Assistance Dogs.
As you well know, these kids have very complicated issues. Not just any organization could do what 4 Paws does. The reason I think they are so successful is due to not only their passion to help these kids but also their dedication to the dogs and their training, and to humanity in general.
Update March 14, 2009
Grizwald makes the daylight longer and the nights more tolerable and seem shorter. No one can look at Griz without laughing — and that includes Jeremy! He is 55 pounds of love on 4 paws. He can be very proper and working business like when he trots along side Bekah in public but when he is released to interact with other children and rolls on to his back pawing the air asking to have his tummy rubbed — he is also hysterical!
At night if he isn’t fed right on time, he puts both feet in his bowl and flips it until someone brings food. When he is finished — he flips the bowl over and over until we refill it — not because he wants to eat it — but because he wants “that” food in his bowl!!
He is a constant companion to Bekah who while she would like us to think she can do without him — I really see how he gives her stability in public as she removes her shoes (under a restaurant table and puts her feet on him to help ground herself.)
During the middle of the night when Bekah sobs in her sleep, he will lay next to her putting deep pressure on her. She has terrible flashbacks but they have changed now to where you can actually reach her. One of the things that really helps is when Griz starts out licking my hands and gravitates to her arms and back — she starts to come out of the flashback and laughs – when he stops licking me, she asks that he do it again and again.
No matter how bad things seem to get – Grizwald is a constant, never a robot, always there, making us laugh and making life so much better. He has helped heal the whole family. Grizwald is a movie star (comedy, drama and adventure all rolled into one, a best friend, a healing force, a confidant when no one else will listen, a huggable ball of fur and life is so much better with him. He has met with a former U.S President (Jimmy Carter), the Governor of VA, he’s done Disney and a Dude Ranch in CO but to us he’s just GRIZman the wonder dog and definitely a force with which to reckon!
If we had a million dollars to give back to 4 Paws tomorrow, we could never buy the good times, freedom and independence – the love he has shown to all members of our family (well maybe all but the cat:) that 4 Paws through Griz have given to us…
4 Paws is the best – and yes they ROCK for sure!