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.

Sincerely,

Andy

The ADA is freedom for me.

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

25 Ways the Americans with Disabilities Act has Changed Lives

Anthony & Pablo4.  The ADA is freedom for me.

Veterans have long fought for our freedom.  They have risked their lives, and far too many have given it, for the freedom of this country.  Leading up to and following the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 men and women have contributed to keeping it free.  While people with disabilities were historically marginalized, veterans of WWI and WWII were among the first communities to fight for disability rights…and it worked.  Veterans of these wars saw some of the first technologies developed specifically to enhance the quality of life and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has bridged many gaps in accommodations, and it allows returning veterans with new life circumstances to be free; free to make choices, to navigate their communities, to engage in society.  Perhaps even the freedom to start their own business; like Anthony (Founder & CEO) and 4 Paws Service Dog Pablo (Gym Dog & Motivator) of Moro Performance.  Anthony served in the United States Marine Corps for 8 years.  Today he is his own boss and trains athletes, helps people get fit, and pushes everyone to #BeUncommon.  Pablo accompanies him because the ADA says he can (oh, and because it’s his gym).

Happy 4th of July to Anthony, Pablo, and all our veterans!

Celebrate ADA!  Donate today, http://bit.ly/4PawsForADA #ADA25 #4PawsForADA

Soldier united with service dog in amazing twist of fate

By | Service Dog Stories, Veteran Assistance
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Jake in Afghanistan prior to his injury

When Jake Murphy was severely injured by an Explosive Improvised Device (IED) while in Afghanistan in July 2011, fellow soldier Derek McConnell was there to rush him to safety. It was a day destined to change both of their lives forever. At that point they served in the same unit, and had known each other previously throughout their time in the Army, and a couple years later their stories would intertwine again in another remarkable way.

“We were injured on the same day,” Jake recalls. “After I was hit by the IED, Derek got me to the MedEvac. Once I was taken care of, Derek went back out, where shortly after he stepped on two IED’s and was critically wounded. Both of us sustained injuries that day that would claim our legs.”

Both Murphy and McConnell were brought back to the States and eventually both started treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Maryland. As a result of the blast, Jake had lost both of his legs and was in a coma for a month. He had to learn how to use prosthetics and to cope with a traumatic brain injury. But between Jake’s fighting spirit and his unwavering support system, he keeps proving that nothing is impossible, and that being a double-amputee does not have to prevent a person from living  an abundant life or giving back to society.

Murphy is a very active contributor to several organizations, participating in fundraising and community awareness events on a regular basis. Unbelievably, his commitment to service compelled him to run the Boston Marathon this year with his hand-cycle; where he successfully and safely crossed the finish line before the bombings occurred.

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Jake at The Boston Marathon finish line 2013

 

Moments like those do not slow Jake down though. His focus on making a difference remains unshakeable as always. He is committed to being the best that he can be, and he has long believed that the addition of a service dog could provide some unique and valuable support moving forward.

“Over time I’ve made several inquiries with service dog agencies, but I was surprised at the general lack of assistance I received,” Jake says. “There were a lot of obstacles and I just didn’t feel like I was being welcomed with open arms.” But unbeknownst to Jake, life had a different plan to unite him with a canine comrade.

This past March, Derek McConnell unfortunately passed away while battling complications sustained from his injuries. Before his passing, McConnell had been accepted by Xenia, Ohio organization, 4 Paws For Ability, to receive a service dog. Derek’s intended dog, Gabriel, had already completed his training and the two were scheduled to meet in the coming weeks. A search ensued to find another soldier who would be a good match for Gabriel and his recently trained set of skills.

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Gabriel wearing his stars n’ stripes

 

Amazingly, the same people who identified Derek McConnell as a 4 Paws candidate, found their way to Jake Murphy’s door. In an incredible twist of fate, Jake would now be the one to inherit the service dog originally intended for his brother in arms; the same man that pulled him to safety on that fateful July day in 2011.

Jake is scheduled to meet Gabriel on Monday, June 17th at the 4 Paws training facility in Xenia, Ohio. It will be the first day of class for all June class members. Jake currently lives with his wife Lisa in Silver Spring, MD and is originally from Wellesley, MA. The mission of 4 Paws For Ability is to enrich the lives of veterans from recent conflicts who have lost the use of their limbs or their hearing while in active combat and children with disabilities by the training and placement of quality, task trained service dogs.

“It’s been a heartbreaking yet inspirational journey,” says 4 Paws Founder Karen Shirk. “We look forward to introducing Jake to Gabriel. The sacrifices Derek, Jake and the rest of our military make are absolutely incredible, and it’s a community 4 Paws is honored to serve.”

For additional information or for interview opportunities, contact Whitney Hitt at 937.768.9096 or email to Whitney@4PawsForAbility.org.

(Written by Whitney Hitt)

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