4 Paws for Ability is excited to share that 2018 marks 20 years of freedom from disability through the placement of task trained service dogs with children and veterans.
Founder, Karen Shirk, envisioned a place where every person with a disability was viewed as equal, valuable, and important following her own struggles to obtain a service dog. Eventually, Karen obtained Ben, who she would train with the assistance of Jeremy Dulebohn to be her service dog, performing various mobility and retrieval tasks. After a few years of falling asleep with Ben at her feet, wondering how many others had been turned away from traditional service dog agencies, Karen signed the papers in October 1998 to make 4 Paws for Ability an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. After assisting a handful of people through contracted trainers, Karen saw the need was as real as she experienced, and full circle reconnected with Jeremy who became and today remains the Director of Training at 4 Paws for Ability.
Early in the development of 4 Paws for Ability, the organization came to work with children after being unable to find another organization willing to do so. The first known organization to assist children by placing task-trained Autism Assistance dogs, 4 Paws has gone on to expand their programs for children to include Seizure Assistance, Facilitated Guide, Mobility Assistance, Diabetic Alert, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders/Drug Exposure Assistance, Hearing Assistance, and Multipurpose Assistance Service Dogs to ensure that children everywhere have the option of obtaining a service dog to enhance their and their family’s quality of life while navigating the world with a disability. 4 Paws added a small veterans program to their services offered following 9-11, believing that if every legitimate service dog agency committed a portion of their resources to support veterans of the United States, no veteran would go without the support they need to reorient to society following the loss of ability after war.
2018 is a year of hope, excitement and celebration for 4 Paws for Ability. 4 Paws will be placing their first Facility Assistance Dog with a local school district to assist children with Autism in the classroom. 4 Paws is also excited to announce the development of a program for adults with Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s present similar challenges to their caregivers that many of our parents of kids with disorders like Autism, chromosome disorders, intellectual disabilities experience. 4 Paws has determined that years of experience with the three-unit team (adult handler, client, and service dog) will bring benefit to families experiencing the hardships of Alzheimer’s and give them the opportunity to add a meaningful tool to their toolkit, expanding their ability to remain in home caregivers for those they love.
4 Paws will be celebrating the accomplishments of their first 20 years throughout 2018. The Freedom from “dis” Ability Gala and 20th Anniversary Celebration will take place at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH on October 20, 2018. 4 Paws is honored to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and link arms with those who stand beside to support freedom, accessibility, and equality for all regardless of race, gender, income level, and most certainly regardless of disability.