Dogs Making a Difference: Thunderbolt and Caleb

By | Mobility Assistance, Multipurpose Assistance, Seizure Alert, Service Dog Stories, Supporters

Freshpet is a proud partner of 4 Paws For Ability, a very special organization that custom-trains assistance dogs for children facing a variety of challenges.

Freshpet is sending crates of fresh dog food to 4 Paws that they’re using to feed moms, puppies, and as high value training treats. And they’ve allowed us to share the stories of a few families who have received one of these amazing dogs.Today we’re featuring Caleb and multi-purpose service dog Thunderbolt, a goldendoodle. They were matched together this past July, and their mom Rachael tells us about the irreplaceable role Thunderbolt plays in their lives:

“What will forever stand out about Caleb meeting Thunderbolt is the absolute pure joy we witnessed. It is something we don’t get to see all the time. The giggles and laughs we heard from Caleb were sounds we haven’t heard in a very long time. We witnessed a happiness that we have not been able to see very often due to his chronic nonstop pain.

“The greatest gift that Thunderbolt gives Caleb is freedom. Freedom to be a carefree boy that gets to play, run and laugh with his furry best friend. Thunderbolt provides Caleb with so much love and joy, and helps him forget all the pain, if even just briefly. That is something we can’t do for him. Thunderbolt provides us with security knowing that he is being watched, protected and comforted during the darkest moments.”

Curb cuts, good for moms and dads with strollers, rollerbladers, and me!

By | ADA 25 Celebration, Fundraising, Mobility Assistance, Service Dog Education, Service Dog Stories

25 Ways the Americans with Disabilities Act has Changed Lives

13 Megan & Monkey13. Curb cuts, good for moms and dads with strollers, rollerbladers, and me!

This is Megan and her mobility assistant service dog, Monkey.  Megan and Monkey navigate through the world using a wheelchair.  As early as the 1940’s Kalamazoo, Michigan was installing curb cuts to assist their community of veterans with disabilities.  Yet, they weren’t required as an accessible accommodation in this country until the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990?  Megan and Monkey need curb cuts to more easily navigate their environment, but that doesn’t mean they don’t help others.  Strollers and rollerbladers use them too, along with almost anyone who has ever walked on a sidewalk.  Curb cuts allow Megan independence to move through her day at school, work and everywhere she wants to go.  They also allow her to be a part of the community.  With Monkey, curb cuts, and other provisions of the ADA Megan can go anywhere she wants!

“The ADA law has helped me and my service dog Monkey go to places on my own that I would not have been able to go without it”.

Celebrate ADA!  Donate today, #ADA25 #4PawsForADA

I have fair access to employment.

By | ADA 25 Celebration, Fundraising, Mobility Assistance, Service Dog Education, Service Dog Stories

25 Ways the Americans with Disabilities Act has Changed Lives

10 Judi & Journey Rae10. I have fair access to employment.

The ADA was the first comprehensive law to ensure fair access to all employment and prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of a disability. Prior to the ADA many people with disabilities struggled to acquire positions, and if acquired faced problems with access to the employment location.

Judi and Journey Rae are happily employed in a local school district. They are loved and embraced by their community and their employer. Both were featured in their school yearbook. Journey is not only a service dog for Judi, but he is also used as a therapy dog for special needs children at the school. If a child is having a melt down Journey is sought after to help with that child. While trained for Judi, he uses his skills and charm to help each child he meets!

“I love that Journey is trained to help me, but is also able to be there for the children in my school”.

Celebrate ADA! Donate today, #ADA25 #4PawsForADA

Saluting the Class of July 2012!

By | Autism Assistance, Hearing Assistance, Misc, Mobility Assistance, Seizure Alert, Service Dog Stories

Devyn and Kite

XENIA, Ohio – They came. They learned. They bonded. It was 11 days, 9 dogs and 18 smiles… dogs and children included of course. That’s what transpired over the span of two weeks at 4 Paws for Ability during July 2012’s training class.

They came from all over the world, including a family who traveled from Japan to meet their daughter’s new best friend.

Our first Asian-bound pup will be headed to Japan with his new family, the Carranos. Originally from Omaha, Neb., Moira Carrano, 11, found her companion in Phantom, a Golden Retriever. Energetic and talkative, she was more than excited to meet her friend and on graduation day, it was evident that Phantom matched personalities quite well with the bouncy redhead, giving Moira a run for her money; pulling her across the floor during photographs.

“We were hoping for a friend and we got Phantom,” said David Carrano, Moira’s dad.

Words were unspoken for Jeb Burrow of Blue Springs, Mo. The 7-year-old had a twinkle in his eye on graduation day, as he reached down from his electronic wheelchair to pet his beloved best friend, a Golden Retriever named Cloud. He looked up at his new little boy, putting his mouth to Jeb’s hand, bowed his head in an effort to allow the petting to commence. A smile seemed to shine through his yellow fur. Their bond was silent and beautiful, though not an unusual exchange at any given day at 4 Paws.

Alex Raker, 11, of Winchester, Va., was not a fan of all the photos that were taken of him and his new little buddy, Dewdrop. He turned his head as the paparazzi took aim and shot photo after photo. But as he tolerated the bright flash and the attention that he received, his parents wheeled him to sit in front of the ‘4 Paws Graduates’ banner, and he was at ease with his small service dog, a Papillon, Dewdrop resting upon his lap. His hands were draped over the pooch, who was right at home on his new boy’s legs.

It was only a matter of time before one determined, talented, little boy was introduced to his BFF. An best-selling author was in our midst during the July class. Evan Moss, 8, of Alexandria, Va., was the proud new friend to Mindy, a Golden Doodle. Dressed in a sweater, Mindy had been freshly groomed and trimmed very close for their initial meeting on Day 1. To avoid getting too cold, she was fashionable to say the least. The curly eared pup and the precocious young boy were soon two peas in a pod… it was the making of this boy’s best friend.

“It’s amazing to see the process,” said Lisa Moss, Evan’s mom. “Where we started and where we are now. [We’re] very, very, very grateful.”

(Read “Evan Makes Best Friend for Life” feature story in our next newsletter 4PawPrints; Aug/Sept issue.)

When Leah Anderson, 5, of Miamisburg, Ohio, met Yodel, she instantly went to work. Leah was experiencing pain on the first day of class and cried out. As Leah’s family moved her from her wheelchair to a blanket on the floor, Yodel tried calming the young tearful girl, lying next to her. That’s when Stacey Anderson knew this dog was going to furrever change their lives.

Graduation was an emotional day for some, who found their own special bond with their child’s new four-legged pal.  Leah Anderson’s mom Stacey became Yodel’s handler, training her at the mall and in class. Growing close, bonding quickly.

“Yodel already is officially part of the family,” said Stacey Anderson, Leah’s mom. “She’s already been good for all of us,” she continued, as she teared up, bursting with joy and gratitude.

Everyone loved Minnie Pearl. With a name like that… who wouldn’t? But even more than cute and tiny, the small Papillon was ready to go to work; ready to please. On the first day of class, she met her girl, 21-year-old, college student, Jenny Gamersfeld of Hudson, Ohio. She is hearing impaired and Minnie Pearl’s tiny, furry ears, would be her ears. From the moment they met, it was love at first sight, sharing many tiny butterfly kisses and licks that can only come from your dog and companion for life.

Devyn Emmons, of Norwalk , Ohio, anxiously awaited the moment that he received his new friend. Standing, watching everyone else receive their dogs, he smiled looking on. The moment finally arrived and Kite made his way to the little boy, who could not bend his elbows. That didn’t stop him from leaning down and wrapping his arms around Kite giving him the biggest hug a little boy could, when they were introduced for the first time.

The 7-year-old did not shy away from the bright lights and camera lens pointed in his and Kite’s direction. In fact, Devyn made sure that he was always ready for his close-up. He and his Golden Retriever both seemed to enjoy the limelight, while at the mall training, in class, and on graduation day. They worked hard together and loved each other just as passionately. Every chance he got, Devyn embraced his big, furry, blonde friend, with a smile so big across his face, that there was no wiping it off.

At first Henna Soto, 13, of Woodbridge, Va., shied away from Snoball, a beautiful, upbeat, albeit, drooling Golden Retriever. Henna did not care for the typical slime associated with a dog, which had accumulated and was oozing from Snoball’s mouth. With every kiss, she made a face and yelled, “Eww! Slobber!” But those drool-filled kisses were something she learned to love about her pooch. On graduation day, it was all hugs, smiles and… yes, kisses. Lots and lots of kisses.

Cody Ross, 17, of Round Rock, Texas, sat quietly on the couch in the training room at 4 Paws. It was the first day and no dogs were introduced to their children yet. His head hung low, never looking up to show his eyes to anyone. Moments later, Loyal, his Golden Retriever, was led from the back, to his lap. With a still-closed, untouched bag full of treats in his lap, Cody, looked at the dog. His dad opened the bag of treats. Once the sound of the plastic baggie tore open, Loyal jumped to his new boy’s lap and began vigorously licking Cody.  He was unrelenting. And Cody was uncontrollably laughing. His laughter echoed throughout 4 Paws and was the sound most often heard throughout for the next 11 days to come.

-Jessica Noll

Maddie and her best friend!

By | Mobility Assistance, Seizure Alert, Service Dog Stories

Maddie and her Seizure Alert Service Dog Viva

Millions of Americans with disabilities rely on hope to get them through each day; hope for a breakthrough; hope for gaining or reclaiming independence; and hope for a friend. Each year, hundreds of them find hope at a handful of organizations across the country that train assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Dogs aren’t just pets anymore – they’re service dogs for the handicapped and for children with other special needs.

For one Golden Retriever dog named Viva, the term “man’s best friend” is a very accurate statement. Viva’s training and instincts were paired together to create a dog who was trained to serve as a guardian for her seizure-prone owner Maddie.

Viva plays an important role when it comes to ensuring the safety of Maddie. Seizures can cause injury and even death due to secondary injuries that occur when a seizure strikes unexpectedly. Viva gives a warning before each seizure, which allows the staff at St. Rita to give Maddie the appropriate medication to stop the seizure from happening.

In addition, Maddie has balance and mobility issues and Viva is specially trained to assist her in tasks she cannot perform alone like helping her stand upright by becoming a counterweight when she starts to fall, and helping her maneuver up and down stairs. In eight short months Maddie and Viva have formed an unbreakable bond.

Since November Viva has alerted the staff at St. Rita four times that a seizure is about to occur and every time the seizure was prevented. Since Maddie is having fewer seizures her academic progress has blossomed, she is no longer losing skills as a result of the seizures and so she is retaining much more knowledge. Maddie and Viva’s story are just one of many that occur in the halls of St. Rita School everyday. 

To learn more on St. Rita School for the Deaf and hear more student stories please visit

Clifford saves Alex’s life

By | FASD Assistance, Mobility Assistance, Multipurpose Assistance

“Clifford saved Alex’s life last night,” says Alex’s mother. “Earlier, we went to bed really tired, and were sleeping soundly when Alex got up and opened the back door. We didn’t hear the alarm. That’s when Clifford acted. He came into our bedroom and jumped into our bed licking my husband’s face then licking my face back and forth until he woke us up.

“When I woke up I heard the alarm. Clifford took off running and led me to the back door where Alex was. I took Alex back to his room and Clifford jumped up into bed with Alex and laid over him without being told to and this was around 4:20 a.m.

My husband and I went back to bed after dealing with the alarm company. When we got up at 7, Clifford was still laying on Alex. 

“How can you thank a service dog for saving your son from being outside at 4 in the morning and it’s 27 degrees? And we just got Clifford in January! 

“God Bless 4 Paws for putting Alex and Clifford together.”

February 24, 2012.