Puppy Raisers Making a Difference: Heather and Nasreen

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories, Traditional Puppy Raiser

As soon as we started puppy raising Nasreen, we could see just how sweet and attentive she was. She was unfazed when multiple kids would pet her, and crowds and loud noises didn’t bother her at all. She was very snuggly and loved to cuddle. One day we were in a crowded outdoor mall when an event was taking place. My daughter started having an anxiety from the noise and people so I got her away to a grassy area behind the mall. My daughter sat in the grass and Nasreen climbed in her lap unprompted and just sat there and let my daughter hug her. That was the point that I knew she would make an amazing autism assistance dog.

*Nasreen was placed as an autism assistance dog with her partner in October 2017.

Puppy Raisers Making a Difference: The Glindmeyer Family

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories, Traditional Puppy Raiser

From the moment 4 month-old Mulder romped into the room and presented both of us with the “doodle hug,” my husband and I knew we were in trouble. We told ourselves that we were going to do this puppy raising for someone else, that we would guard our hearts so that we would never have to experience the ache of saying goodbye to another dog. It was as if he knew we needed him to love for a little while, as much as Joe needed him after he was finished with the business of growing. And so, our journey began. It didn’t take us long to figure out that he was a special guy. As puppy raisers we took our job very seriously. We took him with us everywhere we went and we created as many experiences as possible that we could think of that a family might need him to be prepared. Along the way, as we introduced him to kids of all ages at schools, churches, libraries, festivals, playgrounds, museums – you name it – we wound up meeting a whole host of people with whom we would have never had a conversation.

We used the words “bullet-proof” to describe Mulder. He never met a noise, a sight or an experience that made him nervous. He was very curious about his shadow and chased his tail as if it were something that followed him, but truly these were his only challenges. Mulder’s other special talent seemed to be his ability to find things. His nose was never wrong. If we hid his ball somewhere to take a break, he immediately reminded us where it was located, even if it was in another room. Mulder wasn’t with us long before we began telling folks who asked us what kind of service dog he would be someday, “Well, that’s for the folks in Advanced Training to figure out, but we’re guessing he’d be great in a family with a child who is diagnosed with Autism.”

Without a doubt the most rewarding part of our experience as Puppy Raisers has been these months after Mulder met Joe and became his best friend. There were times while raising him when we thought there would be no way he would ever sleep on a bed, given his love for the tile floor or the air conditioner vents. His love for playing ball, greeting people and other dogs and sniffing every smell in the grocery store were all potential distractors that we wondered how on earth he would ever leave behind. But then, through the photos his new family posted, we’ve seen Mulder develop a love for someone much more special than any of his puppy favorites. Seeing photos of Mulder and his boy sleeping together, hanging out with Joe’s classmates at school together and most recently being a comfort to Joe in an overwhelming situation without even being asked to do so has simply made all those tears that were shed on the drive back home from give-back day worth it.

Puppy Raisers Making a Difference: Cessna and Alyssa

By | 4 Paws University, Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories, Wittenberg

From the second I met Cessna, I was head over heels in love. Being my first 4 Paws for Ability foster, I had no idea how quickly he would become my best friend and how deeply I would bond with him. Throughout the 8 ½ half months that he lived with me, we only grew closer, which made his give back day all the more difficult.

My roommate and I picked Cessna up when he was 4 months old. We were shocked at how intelligent he was at this age, already knowing sit, down, and shake like he had been doing them for years. When we introduced him to new commands, he was such a quick learner, easily mastering things like ‘place’, ‘under’, and ‘hit it’. He wasn’t frightened by any loud noises or strange sights that he encountered, making it easy to take him practically anywhere with us. He thrived during trips to the grocery store, sporting events, and malls, and we were amazed by his unwavering confidence at all times.

Fostering was not without its challenges, but as Cessna grew up before our eyes we realized that it was his destiny to become a service dog. Cessna never met a person he didn’t like – he especially loved children of all sizes! He behaved impeccably in public and listened very well when given commands. There was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Perhaps his best quality however, was his ability to love unconditionally. The moment that best describes this was a night in which I had a mental breakdown, something that had greatly decreased in frequency since getting Cessna. That night, I had already put Cessna in his kennel for bedtime. Approximately 15 minutes later, the breakdown began and I knew immediately what I needed to stop it. I opened the kennel door, and without saying anything walked back into my room, where I curled up on my bed. Cessna jumped right up after me and began to nuzzle my arms before laying down with his body right up against mine. I’m not entirely sure how he knew what to do in the absence of commands, but it worked. He performed his first behavior disruption that night and I saw what an amazing service dog he was going to become.

Cessna and I were practically attached at the hip, so his sense of intuition was strong, but my love for him was even stronger. When I received the message that he was matched with a family after advanced training, I was ecstatic. I was overwhelmed with pride and joy at the fact that I had helped socialize a service dog and that I had thereby helped a family in need. Hearing that he was going to be an autism assistance dog made so much sense to me because he was always so loyal and perceptive. Cessna knew what I needed even if I didn’t know, and he stuck with me through good times and bad. His incredible sense of smell makes him perfect for tracking, and his ability to adapt to new situations assists him in helping his kiddo deal with change. On the day I watched him graduate as an official autism assistance service dog, it was a dream come true. I beamed from ear to ear at having the chance to meet his new family and see him one last time for a final goodbye. That day was bittersweet, but still today I feel extremely blessed to have been Cessna’s foster mom. Cessna will always have part of my heart wherever he goes, and he will forever be in mine.

Dogs Making A Difference: Curtiss and Bryson

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories

July 10, 2017 – We practice tracking for a reason.

This afternoon, Curtiss was put to the test.
Patrick and I were doing yard work. He was watching Bryson. Or I was watching Bryson. Both of us were watching Bryson.

But then, he was gone.

Patrick rushed inside to search and I frantically scanned our yard and started to go up the street.  Before I got too far, Patrick clipped Curtiss’ leash to his collar. Not his harness, there was no time for that.

We didn’t need a special harness though.  Patrick spoke to Curtiss in a different tone.  It was a tone that meant business.  Not fun and games ‘go find your boy’. No. This time it was different.  It was with purpose and intent.

“Curtiss. Go find your boy.”

He nailed it. Patrick’s van. Windows rolled up. It was HOT. And Bryson was sitting inside. Just hanging out.  I would have never thought to check there. I was already headed up the street when he was found.

If we didn’t have Curtiss, who knows what would have happened. It was HOT today! And inside the vehicle was sweltering.  As a firefighter/medic, Patrick nearly came apart…just picturing the kids he’s rescued from hot cars…and the ones who weren’t rescued.

It isn’t about neglect. It isn’t about parenting. It is about the mysteries of autism.

And THIS story is about the miracle of a dog, who knows his boy, who is trained to find his boy. And today, the miracle of a dog who saved his boy’s life.

Jonathan & Buddy

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories

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!

Riley & Jingle

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories

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

Matthew & Basil

By | Autism Assistance, Hearing Assistance, Multipurpose Assistance, Service Dog Stories

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.

Alex, Autism, and Alfalfa

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories

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.

You made a difference

By | 4 Paws University, Autism Assistance, Fundraising, Service Dog Stories, Traditional Puppy Raiser

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 & Tanaka

By | Autism Assistance, Service Dog Stories

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 carry 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.