Puppy Raiser Kristin

By | Volunteer

4 Paws For Ability: We love when traditional puppy raisers bring 4 Paws into their home for their whole family! Kristin Slusser shares how her family got into puppy raising!
“My husband and I first discovered 4 Paws through my work, once we learned more about the organization and what they do we knew we had to be involved some way. With us being animal lovers, plus my husband working with children who have autism, we knew being puppy raisers would be a perfect fit.”
You and your family can become puppy raisers too! 4pawsforability.org/puppy-raiser/

David Waldon

By | Make a Dream Come True

Hi, my name is David Waldon! I am 3 years old and a very happy and energetic little boy! Despite my appearance, I have a lot going on medically that most cannot see. I have been through so much in my short life and still face a lot of challenges. I am looking to get a service dog through 4 Paws For Ability to help me gain more independence and provide me comfort and support throughout my journey. The dog will also be able to alert my mom and dad if I have seizure.

I was born 3 months early and faced a long and difficult NICU stay. During the NICU stay I faced typical preemie problems of gaining weight, learning to feed, breathing on my own, and maintaining my body temperature. I also faced other complications ranging from neurological to respiratory and feeding. My problems have continued since the NICU and have led to numerous hospitalizations (including PICU stays) and medical procedures/surgeries.

Neurologically my problems are very complex. I suffered severe brain bleeds in the NICU known as intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). These led to hydrocephalus, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), and cysts within my brain. PVL is a fancy term for the death and decay of the white matter in the brain. I was also lacking a major structure in my brain, a corpus callosum, it connects the two halves and helps them communicate normally. The hydrocephalus led to me needing major brain surgery to place a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. The shunt helps the excess fluid in my brain drain and it leads it to drain within my abdomen where it is absorbed by my body. I developed epilepsy and cerebral palsy from all the brain damage as well. My cerebral palsy is considered moderate and affects all four of my limbs. 

The cerebral palsy creates a lot of other problems for me. I am developmentally delayed in all areas putting me at roughly 9-12 months motor skill wise and 18-24 months speech wise. These complications also cause me struggle to eat and drink the way a normal child would and I had to have a g-tube placed to provide me with all the food and nutrients I need. The g-tube is a feeding tube surgically placed to allow food, nutrients, and medicine to be directly given to me through a small port in my abdomen and directly into my stomach.  I am 80% dependent on my tube and even receive all of my medicine through it as well. Hypertonia (increased muscle tone) affects all of my muscles especially with my arms and legs. The hypertonia makes my leg muscles so tight that I need leg braces known as AFOs to help me keep my feet flat on the ground and to work on weight bearing. My spine is also starting to curve and develop scoliosis from all of the increased muscle tone.

My lungs create a whole lot of issues. I was born with very sick and underdeveloped lungs. I spent weeks on a ventilator and at points needed so much breathing support that I needed to be on a special ventilator called an oscillating ventilator. All the extra breathing support led to what is called bronchopulmonary dysplasia(BPD), or also called chronic lung disease. The effects of breathing support and BPD still cause respiratory problems today whenever I catch even the common cold. I generally end up hospitalized at least four times a year, sometimes more, as a result of respiratory complications from colds. I was also born with a congenital lung malformation known as congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM). This affected the left upper lobe of my lungs and eventually led to me needing that portion of my lungs(the top half of my left lung) to be surgically removed.

A service dog would be a huge help for me! The dog would be trained to help provide me support and stability as I continue to learn how to stand and walk. The dog will also help me out when my muscles get tired from the cerebral palsy and I have to use my wheelchair for support and getting around. The dog will help me open doors and retrieve things I may drop while I am in the wheelchair. I will also receive comfort and love from the dog during scary and uncomfortable times including medical procedures. They also will train the dog to help alert my mom and dad when I have seizures! This could potentially save my life by allowing them to get me the needed medical attention quicker.

4 Paws For Ability is going to help me make get the service dog I need!! It will cost them $40,000 – $60,000 to train the dog for my needs. They are only asking that I come up with $17,000 of the cost. The cost is not something that my family can come up with on their own so we are asking for donations to help reach our goal. I kindly request that all donations be made directly to 4 Paws. Checks should be made out to 4 Paws For Ability and the memo line needs to include my name David Waldon. I have included a donation form and addressed envelope where you can send the donations to. If the envelope gets lost, the address is:

4 Paws For Ability
In Honor of David Waldon
253 Dayton Avenue
Xenia, OH 45385
If you would rather donate directly online, go to https://4pawsforability.org/donate-now/ and include my name (David Waldon) in the description field of the form on the second page.
Thank you for the interest and support!!
David Waldon 


Julia Hodne

By | Make a Dream Come True
I have always said and believed that in my heart of hearts that Julia was brought into our lives because I needed to laugh more.

Julia is a fun, caring and loving nine-year-old from Ketchikan, Alaska, that faces many challenges everyday due to the effects of FASD, sensory processing disorder, single sided deafness, executive function difficulty, ADHD, and anxiety.

These challenges make it difficult for her to transition quickly from one activity to another, regulate and identify her very strong emotions, sit still during focused activities, control her impulses and not become overwhelmed by her anxiety in everyday environments. When overcome with anxiety or overstimulated mentally, Julia can become aggressive and dysregulated to the point she has had to be restrained and secluded from her friends and peers in the classroom at school. Her challenges are becoming a barrier to her friendships and relationships with her peers at school and in the community.

Julia needs support, assistance, and comfort with her daily life. A specifically trained service dog would be a unique and individualized support for her in a way she so desperately needs.

Julia’s service dog will be able to sense when she is becoming dysregulated and be able to help intervene and calm her down before her escalation cycle gets to the point where she needs to be removed from the classroom or other environments.

If Julia’s dysregulation is interrupted early, she can be much more successful in being a part of her peer community and other situations with little supports. Her service dog will be able to nuzzle her, lick her, give her kisses, and provide the deep pressure that Julia finds calming by laying on her, to help distract her from becoming further escalated.
When we asked Julia why she wanted a service dog she answered, “Then I will always have a best friend with me and people will want to be friends with me because they will want to come pet my dog and ask me questions about him. And then, if I have a service dog, I won’t be scared to go into rooms by myself because I will always have him with me and you (the parents) won’t have to go with me all the time.”

Animals have always been a source of comfort and love for Julia. We can be anywhere and she inevitably finds and is drawn to any animal and instantly connects with them when she is close and interacts with them.

In school we have sought out consultation through our Special Education Service Agency to help her team at school understand her unique and complex medical and developmental needs and challenges. Julia is currently on an IEP with a very specific Behavior Intervention Plan, but we as her parents and her team recognize there is a piece missing. A service dog for Julia would bridge that gap and support her as she is trying to learn the skills she will need to be the strongest version of herself that she can be.
Julia also receives support through our children’s mental health services here in Ketchikan so she can continue to gain and learn the skills of self-regulation and confidence she will need to adapt to living successfully with her disabilities. As Julia gets older her service dog can and will make an impact for her that she needs to move forward.

Even sharing the brief and general story of our life with Julia feels very personal and a bit vulnerable; the reason we are sharing is in hopes that we can raise the funds needed to help our daughter in a way she hasn’t been helped up to this point.

Please help in any way you can. Large or small, donations add up and we have a very long way to go.

That is a statement we have made so many times in our journey with Julia…but everything worth fighting for is a “very long way to go.”


You can donate directly to 4 Paws for Ability via mail or phone.

Checks by mail:
Please make checks out to
4 Paws for Ability and PLEASE MAKE SURE to put “In honor of Julia Hodne” in the memo line.
4 Paws for Ability
In honor of Julia Hodne
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, Ohio 45385


By phone:
You can also call to make a credit card donation over the phone at (937) 374-0385
Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Eastern time


Thank you and may you be blessed for helping Julia,

The Hodne Family



CDM Smith’s Wellness Program

By | Donate Dollars

4 Paws For Ability: Thank you Amy and Octavius for representing 4 Paws at CDM Smith’s event yesterday, and to CDM Smith for their support of 4 Paws!!!
CDM Smith: We were so excited to welcome Amy and Octavius with 4 Paws For Ability to our Boston headquarters yesterday for our Wellness Program Donations Ceremony! We donated $25,000 each to 4 Paws for Ability and United Way of South Hampton Roads, two spectacular organizations helping people in need. Check out the recap video: #MoreThanWork #GivingBack #UniquelyCDMSmith

Puppy Raiser Lydia

By | Volunteer

Our puppy raisers witness 4 Paws magic everyday! Puppy raiser Lydia Pack shares her experience with 4 Paws magic!

“I remember hearing the words “4 Paws Magic” for the first time and shrugged it off. Sure, the organization does some great work, and yeah, dogs are pretty awesome, but to use the word “magic” is a bit of a stretch. After a year of volunteering as a sitter and foster, I blab all the time about the magic. Fostering has taken me far out of my comfort zone in the best ways possible, and best of all, given me a best friend and lifelong memories. Even if you don’t believe in magic, you’ll understand if you become even slightly involved with this organization. I truly hope to volunteer for years to come.”

Become a puppy raiser and join in on the 4 Paws magic 🐾❤️

Puppy Raiser Angie

By | Volunteer

Our puppies love to make you smile! Puppy raiser Angie Estep shares why she puppy raises!

“Puppy raising has truly made a HUGE impact on my life! It has not only taught me time management and patience but it has also shown me that the best thing in life is seeing someone smile. Whether it’s the kid getting their life changing dog or just someone you run into on the street, their smile is the most rewarding thing you can get out of 4 Paws. That’s why I puppy raise, to help enhance someone else’s life. Knowing that my dog could make someones life so much easier or even just make them smile a little more, really warms my heart.”

Apply to be a puppy raiser now!