Dogs Making a Difference: Andy & Lady

By | Seizure Alert, Service Dog Stories, Veteran Assistance

Dear 4 Paws,

My name is Andy and I am a disabled Veteran. I have multiple physical disabilities and PTSD due to injuries obtained overseas. I was blessed to receive a beautiful service dog named Lady from your establishment in November of 2015. When I got her, I never imagined the kind of bond we would build. She has become my constant companion and my best friend. She goes everywhere I go and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lady is doing so well. She is a happy dog in her down time but when it’s time for work, she suits up and she’s ready to go. We make a great team. She has helped me in so many ways. She gives me relief from my anxiety of leaving the house and being in crowds or even just going to the grocery store. She helps alert me to oncoming seizures and has significantly reduced the amount of seizures I have. She comforts me and stays by my side or even on top me of when I am having a PTSD episode. She is able to get my mind to transition back to reality and bring me back to a place where I am able to function. She not only helps me but she helps others as well. Some people tell me they feel comfort by just seeing her out with me. I take her with me to the VA for my doctor’s appointments she is able to bring comfort to a lot of other Veterans who get to see her and visit with her. They light up when they see her. She opens doors to conversations I wouldn’t normally initiate myself which helps with my social anxiety. There are countless ways that she helps me navigate through my day. She has brought love and joy back into my life and I could not be more thankful. Thank you for providing me with the absolute best fit for my needs. Thank you for doing what you do and brining me the best gift anyone could ask for.



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.

Freedom from “dis” Ability Gala and 20th Anniversary Celebration

By | Charity, From the Staff, Service Dog Stories

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.

Dogs Making a Difference: Austin & Paris

By | Seizure Alert, Service Dog Stories

Austin and Paris by Ericha Flateau

Austin’s journey with epilepsy has been nothing but sporadic. At first, his seizures were few and far between. He would experience drop seizures that seemed to only last a matter of seconds and that would only occur every couple of weeks. After the first initial seizures, these drop attacks would occur every 30 minutes. At this point, his physician started him on an anticonvulsant medication and Austin’s seizures disappeared. I honestly thought we were in the clear, but I was naive to think that because 18 months later, our world was shaken when Austin experienced a grand mal seizure. His seizure type had changed and they continued to occur for months despite increased medication. I was overwhelmed, but I was determined to do whatever I could to protect my child. I started doing my research and was able to find something that could save Austin’s life every day, that would allow us both to live each day without worry, and that would help his little life be more “normal”. I found 4 Paws for Ability, a non-profit organization that provides service dogs to disabled children and veterans. I read that this organization even produced service dogs trained in Seizure Alert! At that point, I really had nothing to lose, so I jumped in feet first.

After weeks of fundraising and months of waiting to meet Austin’s perfect match, 4 Paws for Ability placed us with a life-line; Paris. Paris is a Multipurpose Service Dog, and in addition to Seizure Alert she is also trained in Behavior Disruption and Tracking/Search and Rescue. We have had Paris now for 3 years and she has truly surpassed all my expectations. Within weeks of coming home with us, Paris picked up on subclinical spikes in Austin’s seizure activity that were not previously detected in his neurological testing. When Austin’s health deteriorated and his seizure frequency increased, Paris even picked up a new skill; Mobility Assistance. I am happy to report that Austin’s health has increased in recent months and that he is now in a much better place medically. Paris is a miracle that has allowed me to gain control over my son’s disability. Without her and our journey with 4 Paws for Ability, I can honestly say that I don’t know where we would be.

Some Happy Thoughts

By | Service Dog Stories

We’re all doing great thanks to Art and 4 Paws! I enclosed two recent pictures of Art and Tommy in Florida for Tommy’s 11th birthday. Art made the whole trip possible for our family! Big hugs and thanks to you and everyone at 4 Paws!   -Maura Schiller and family

get-attachment.aspxJust 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 families 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.


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.

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!


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.


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



Bekah & Griz

By | Multipurpose Assistance, Service Dog Stories

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:

  1. Complex PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).
  2. RAD (reactive attachment disorder).
  3. SPD (sensory processing disorder) from some severe pre-adoptive abuse and neglect.



Her dog, Grizwald, is called a multipurpose service dog. His brother Oswald is in service as an Autism Assistance Dog.

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!

Kendall & Lovey

By | Service Dog Stories

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-judgmental 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.

Zach & Jaxon

By | Service Dog Stories

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 Jaxon: 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.

DJ & Nitro

By | Service Dog Stories

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.

Danny & Kermit

By | Service Dog Stories

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