Vacation Bible School donates funding for Pirate

By | Miscellaneous

CLEVELAND – Generosity comes in all shapes, forms and sizes—even pint sizes.

The Vacation Bible School at North Royalton United Methodist Church in Cleveland, dedicates themselves to a summer project each year at VBS. This year, their project was 4 Paws for Ability, said Nikki Kaminski, Vacation Bible School director.

Elly Organiscak, a longtime foster mom to several 4 Paws dogs—including Pirate, the one-eyed Papillon—helped educate the church’s young group about 4 Paws and its mission.

Organiscak visited w/her two children as well as a puppy in training—then she told them Pirate’s story. The children at VBS were intrigued by the little guy’s story.

Pirate is unique to the typical impression associated with the words: ‘service dog.’ Like several hundred 4 Paws clients, he too is disabled, but that isn’t going to stop him from lending a paw to help others.

Pirate, a Papillon puppy, was born April 16 into a single-puppy litter.

A lone puppy, he was perfectly marked with brown and black on his head, amidst the pure, fluffy, white fur covering the rest of his tiny body. As like all puppies, Pirate was born with his eyes closed. Over the next seven days, one small, brown eye opened a little at a time, until finally, it slowly peeled open. He eagerly began looking, bright-eyed at his new world surrounding him. But he did so with one eye.

His left eye stayed closed—never opening.

“When a Facebook friend told me about a little Papillon born with only one eye, I immediately knew he belonged at 4 Paws,” said Karen Shirk, 4 Paws for Ability executive director.

“Pirate is a delightful, young Papillon, full of curiosity and quite confident in his approach to the world around him.”

Watching the petite pup frolic and jump with his foster sisters, Glimmer and Flame, you’d never know anything was missing and he doesn’t seem to realize that he is suppose to have two eyes.

After contemplating how to best utilize this amazing little canine, Pirate’s owner, Bonnie Kost, decided on reaching out to 4 Paws for Ability in hopes her imperfect puppy could help someone else. So that’s how Pirate, came to be part of the 196 service dogs currently in-training at 4 Paws—and eventually part of the more than 650 placed service dogs.

“Papillons are brilliant, so I expect him to excel in his training and they will evaluate him to find the best fit for him in his life of service,” said Kost. “He will have a job, a very important job.  And most important, he is going to be very valuable to his person—not in terms of dollars, but in terms of making his person’s life easier and safer.”

But before he could begin saving lives, he had to undergo surgery. He had his congenital ophthalmic defect repaired—the vet removed his tiny, blind eye and the tissue surrounding it; then sewed it closed, preventing infection.

North Royalton United Methodist Church had 45 children and eight teenage crew leaders open their hearts and piggy banks for a week to help raise money for Pirate’s surgery and for a child in need of a service dog. Over the next week, they formed teams to see who could raise the most money each day.

Ultimately, they fundraised $578 in one week—but then challenged the church congregation to match it. With church donations and a bake sale, they raised another $100.

During the week of raising money, those children in Vacation Bible School learned about the children who 4 Paws helps including Evan Moss, whom they cheered on when he received his seizure-alert dog, Mindy.

And after meeting Pirate, the children are so excited to watch him grow and progress into a service dog for one future lucky child with disabilities.

“Thank you for providing such an amazing program for so many families. We are so proud to have learned about and to be able to help 4 Paws for Ability,” said Kaminski in a letter to 4 Paws with the church’s donation of $678.



-Jessica Noll

Anything’s PAWsible | September 2012 Class

By | Miscellaneous

XENIA, Ohio – Nine dogs, 10 kids, and countless tears of joy at the excitement of new beginnings with their child and service dog. It was the September’s “Anything’s PAWsible” Class graduation. But it wasn’t just a celebration for the families who were taking home their child’s new best friend. It was a celebration for everyone who had a paw in raising these life-saving dogs.

Work, dedication and training came full circle, as trainers, staff, volunteers, college students and foster parents saw firsthand the future for their dog. And for parents like Stacy, that dedication for their child’s wellbeing means the world.


“This has been a super, tremendous experience,” said Stacy, whose daughter’s dog, aptly named Twix, a yellow Lab from the Candy Litter, was trained for her peanut allergy. There are no nuts in Twix candy bars and now, Twix the service dog will make sure that there are no nuts around her girl either. 

“Twix is amazing—I’m just so glad we have her,” she said crying, sitting next to her daughter Megan Lucinda, Twix lying obediently on the floor at her feet.

The Candy Litter was making its debut in a big way for this class, as Mallo, a Golden Lab, was introduced to Cecilia. The whole family, including Cecilia’s sister fell in love with her. And while Cecilia was shy at first, feeding Mallo treats, she came around and by the end of class was comfortable with her service dog by her side.

Andes, another Golden Lab from the Candy Litter met his boy, Braden. As with some children, Braden was not as excited to meet his dog, as Andes was to meet him. It was a true test of Andes, who stretched out at the base of the couch, calmly and obediently, as Braden cried. At graduation, the two were side-by-side, best friends for life.

Just before graduation commenced, the Davies family was interviewed by the TODAY show at 4 Paws, during a taping for an episode, airing hopefully later this month.

Telling their story to the producer, the Davies explained how they came to 4 Paws with two children in need of a service dog. Elizabeth, 7, who has Type I diabetes, and her brother Eddie, 5, who has Alfi’s Syndrome will share Zepplin, a Golden Retriever. Alfi’s Syndrome causes Eddie to have seizures, as well as developmental delays. His mom, Carolina said that her 5-year-old is at the level of an 11-month-old. 

Upon meeting, Zepplin immediately bonded with both children, already calming Eddie and making a new best friend in Elizabeth—and hopefully keeping her safe, alerting her parents when she has low blood sugar. While training at the mall during class at 4 Paws, Zepplin sniffed a woman, detecting her diabetes—putting Carolina at ease.

“[Zepplin] will be a guardian angel,” said mom.

He’ll be a “good companion and help us sleep at night,” said dad, who is an Air Force pilot and is away a lot worrying about his family—especially with seizures and diabetes that tend to lurk around at night. There will be a sense of security and relief, he said, when he’s not at home with his family.

“It’s amazing what dogs can do,” said Carolina, as she watched her son with Zepplin during class. “It’s like he’s growing up.

Dogs, like Zepplin, swing straight into action without hesitation. And that’s what happened with Twizzler and his boy Noah during the time they were in town for training.

“First time she nailed a seizure [this week], I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Noah’s mom about the yellow Lab.

The moment that Gabriel saw his dog, it was love at first sight, as he exuded excitement from the floor, almost hopping on his hands. He sat with a smile on his face, stretching from ear to ear, waiting for the Golden Retriever to come over and give him the sweetest, wettest kisses.

“She’s a perfect pick. You guys are magic,” said Kelly, Gabriel’s grandmother, regarding Eldora aka “Ellie.”

Elleanna never stopped smiling and giggling as Bo Diddley made his presence known the first day of class during their meeting. With a baggie full of treats for her new dog, she made icky faces with each slobbery lick that touched her hand. But it was worth every kiss.

“Thanks for giving this opportunity to my daughter. Independence,” said Elleanna’s mom with tears welling up in her eyes.

Graduation day tugged on the heartstrings of many parents with children receiving a service dog. It was the first time for Evelyn’s family to reach out beyond a family member for support, her mom said. Tears ran down her face as she watched her young daughter with her new service dog Teague, who was as tall as Evelyn and full of fluffy white fur to hold onto. As her mom spoke during graduation, the toddler with tiny little glasses peeked over Teague’s poofy, snow-colored coat.

Class was 11 days that changed more than the children’s lives. It changed the families that came to 4 Paws forever.

“This has been so transformative. I wanted this for him, not realizing [it] would transform my life,” said Brian’s mom about Pixie Stix.

Catching up with the Davies, a few weeks after returning home, Carolina said that Zepplin “is going great with the kids. He alerted to a low blood sugar today and has been wonderful with Eddie’s behavior disruption. No seizure alerts yet, Eddie seems to only have one a month. 

-Jessica Noll









(Photos by Jessica Noll)

September Class | 2012

Golden Retriever Lyric x Vic
Rockstar Litter
Partner: Eddie and Elizabeth

Golden Labrador Retriever
Blessing (Lab) x Vic (Golden)
Candy Litter
Partner: Braden

Golden Retriever
Lyric x Vic
Rockstar Litter
Partner: Elleanna

Golden Retriever
Juliet x Vic
Partner: Gabriel

Golden Labrador Retriever
Blessing (Lab) x Vic (Golden)
Candy Litter
Partner: Cecilia

Golden Labrador Retriever
Blessing (lab) x Vic (Golden)
Candy Litter
Partner: Brian

Enya (Golden) x Zeke (Standard Poodle)
Pirates of the Carabian Litter
Partner: Evelyn

Golden Labrador Retriever
Blessing (Lab) x Vic (Golden)
Candy Litter
Partner: Megan

Golden Labrador Retriever
Blessing (Lab) x Vic (Golden)
Candy Litter
Partner: Noah

An autistic boy’s journey to find his best friend

By | Autism Assistance, Miscellaneous, Service Dog Stories

MT. ORAB, Ohio — “Good boy! Good boy!” These are the two words that are overheard throughout 4 Paws for Ability training center. And it’s exactly what Samuel DeWitt will be hearing when he comes to class on Tuesday, Oct. 23 to finally meet his service dog, a Golden Retriever named Lugnut.

After tears of frustration turned into tears of joy, Samuel—who was scammed by an Illinois woman claiming to run a service dog agency—will soon be able to rely on his new best friend for life.

Samuel, who has autism, does not understand dangers. He has no fear of water or cars or even strangers. Lugnut will keep Samuel from wandering off, and will basically keep him safe as well as at ease.

The idea of having such a dog was almost crushed when they raised money for several months, but heard nothing back from the organization in Illinois that they were sending money to. That’s when 4 Paws stepped up.

Earlier this year 4 Paws for Ability decided that they had to do something for this family who was right in their own backyard, said Executive Director and Founder Karen Shirk.

“We felt that this family had been through enough,” said Shirk about donating a $22,000 service dog to the family for Samuel. And when Wrestle Against Autism heard what 4 Paws was doing for the DeWitts, they donated a large portion of the money needed to fund Samuel’s dog.

“It’s going to give Samuel opportunities to really have normal functioning and give him a better daily life,” said David DeWitt. ”It was just such an amazing act of kindness.”

It’s not something Samuel understands completely, just yet.

“We had sat down and actually had talked with him a little bit that Samuel, you are gonna get a dog. And we weren’t quite sure it really even sunk in at first, but about three or four minutes later, Samuel was just running around the house going ‘Oh man! Oh man! Oh man!” said Elizabeth DeWitt of her son’s reaction. 

Visit their Facebook page ‘Autism’s Ruff’ and follow their journey for a service dog.

-Jessica Noll


Watch his journey as documented by Jessica Noll (who was a multimedia journalist at that time for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.)

Samuel Series: A boy’s journey to his best friend for life

STAR Volunteer – Julie Bowen

By | Miscellaneous

XENIA, Ohio – As Coconut and Chloe purr loudly, they slowly walk the front counter, with their tails up, to greet you as you walk through the doors at 4 Paws for Ability. A warm smile and a friendly “Hi there!” projects from behind two pacing kitties, as Julie Bowen looks up over her silver-framed spectacles—she is crunching numbers and typing furiously on her computer’s keyboard.

With no relation to Hollywood’s Modern Family actress, this Julie Bowen does a lot of star-quality work right here in Xenia. A volunteer since July 2010, she is one of the reasons that 4 Paws for Ability runs as smoothly as it does.

Between two and three times a week, she creates dog food and volunteer hours logs, files vet records, and of course holds puppies and “entertains the office cats,” she said.

“Julie is awesome—always here, reliable,” that is, when she’s not feeding the cats treats, said 4 Paws for Ability Executive Director Karen Shirk with a chuckle. “We would have a lot more work without her, that’s for sure.”

But the 65-year-old is used to working hard, she said she has worked all her life, most recently in the Human Resources department at Greene Oaks. But before she came to Dayton, she was an officer in the Air Force for 13 years, working in computers and technology. After living in nine states, three foreign countries

and having 31 different mailing addresses, Bowen has made her roots for the past 18 years in the neighboring city of Fairborn.

The distinguished, silver-haired volunteer has a lot in common with the dogs at 4 Paws… although she is modest about saying so herself. They both started their lives never really calling one place their home—learning all they needed to from several different people, ultimately to do good—moving from place to place, until they found where they were needed the most. For the dogs it’s with their child. For Bowen, it seems to be here at 4 Paws.

Bowen, who is originally from Michigan, has been married twice but has no children, well… except for Chloe, she said with a smile.

“I love being around the critters,” she said about volunteering at 4 Paws. So it’s a good thing she is a “cat person” because her most frequent desk visitors are two felines. And for her, that’s the best part—that, and the dogs who serve as more than just a companion to those who need them.

“[It’s] nice to know they’re doing something that will help folks,” she said. “And they seem so grateful and emotional.”

-Jessica Noll

Celebrate Howl-o-Ween at 4 Paws for Ability!

By | Miscellaneous

BOO! We’re going all out here at 4 Paws for Ability for our annual Howl-o-Ween Celebration 2012. So pull out your scariest get-up for you and your pooch and come out for an evening of tricking, treating and eating bushels of kibble and grub. 

Since our October class will be here learning with their service dogs on Halloween, we are having a carry-in dinner, followed by Trunk-or-Treat for the kiddies and doggies, as long as their dressed from paw to tail!

4 Paws will be serving up ghoul-burgers and boo-dogs. Join us with a spooktacular carry-in dish and BYOB (bring your own beverage.) Also bring a scary treat to hand out for Trunk-or-Treat!

All volunteers and 4 Paws families are welcome to join us starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31. Don’t forget to dress up–>dogs, kids and adults included! It’s going to be a howling good time!

-Jessica Noll

Vote ‘4 Paws’ in Chase Community Giving’s $2.5M Giveaway

By | Miscellaneous

XENIA, Ohio — 4 Paws for Ability has the chance to share $2.5 million with other charities through the Chase Community Giving contest. But we need your votes to receive up to $250,000!

Hurry! Voting ends Sept. 19.

Chase customers with a Facebook page can vote for their favorite charity. Chase customers with a Chase online account will receive 2 votes on

Each vote on must be cast for a different charity. Facebook users who allow “Access” to the Chase Community Giving application will receive 2 votes on the Chase Community application on Facebook. This bonus vote may be cast for any charity even if the voter has already cast a vote for the same charity. 

Here’s how this works: If a voter who is a Chase customer casts votes on both and Facebook, the voter may vote for the same charity twice—once on and once on Facebook. The same voter may vote a third time on Facebook if that voter earns a bonus vote.

The 196 charities that receive the most votes will receive grants, which will be announced on or about Sept. 20. This could be $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 or $250,000.

Make AJ’s Wish for a Service Dog Come True

By | Miscellaneous

My child’s full name is Alexijanae Kanani Oliveira-Golden. She just turned 10. She had medical issues at birth. She is suffering from a rare disorder called Schizencephaly. And Texas Children’s Hospital diagnosed her with Dyskinetic quadropalegic cerebral palsy in 2008.

She has clefts in the hemisphere surface. It’s a disorder that takes place in normal neuron migration during the second trimester. At this time primitive neuron precursors migrate from just beneath the Ventricular ependyma to the peripheral hemispheres where they form the cortical grey matter, causing quadriparesis.

Alexijanae also has microgyria on her brain, which they say is attributed to a genetic defect. She doesn’t walk, doesn’t have good arm reach, and is hard to understand; however she is very smart and cognitive. Her limbs and tongue muscle are her main issues.

She needs a service dog more than anyone I know. We face challenges every day. She wants independence, freedom, she wants to dance and be in gymnastics, she wants to do her own dressing and take her own shoes off . . . but she can’t.

She also has Septo-optic dysplasia and has had two eye surgeries. Plus, she just had her hip sliced in two and put back together. She needs help doing everything; however she is in normal grade school classes.

Alexijanae loves kids and life! She needs a chance in life to make it! She loves Disney and we want to go. She is outgoing and a leader. She loves our church. She wants to become a singer, loves high school musicals, and she loves watching her older brother.

We heard about 4 Paws for Ability (a nonprofit agency) and their Mobility Service Dogs. We think obtaining a dog for Alexijanae would be beneficial to her and us. 4 Paws has a unique approach to placement. They partner with their clients and by doing so are able to place dogs without a long waiting list. A service dog would be ideal because it would give Alexijanae independence, help, support, and a 24/7 friend.

I want so much for Alexijanae and her sister Alia who is 9 yrs old to have everything life has to offer, including excellent gymnastics and dance. Alexijanae loves to sing and maybe at some point she can have a scholarship for voice lessons. She’s getting an awesome education. There are many things she yearns to do, like play baseball. And someday she wants to get married and have children.

It will cost 4 Paws $22,000 to place a dog with Alexijanae. We are committed to raising $13,000 in support of the 4 Paws mission and can reach our goal with your help. If you can help us with a tax-deductible donation, please visit 4 Paws Donation Page ( or mail a check with her name on the memo line to: 4 Paws for Ability, In Honor of Alexijanae Oliveira-Golden, 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, Ohio 45385. Thank you.

Alisha Golden

Breeding Dogs Need Homes

By | Miscellaneous

4 Paws for Ability is seeking loving and responsible homes for our breeding dogs, who produce the puppies who will become future service dogs for children and veterans with disabilities.

Labrador Retrievers: Sophia, Tandy, Syndey, Juno, Delilah, CJ; Collies: Quinn; and Golden Retrievers: Celine, Moxie, Rinnah, Caepor and Gil need a home. 

4 Paws pays for the food and medical care for your breeding dog, as well as its crate. Families are expected to take care of grooming, treats and toys. From the beginning, however, the dog is a member of the family, and not part of the foster program.

If you’re interested in giving a home to one of our breeding dogs, contact  Karen Shirk, 4 Paws for Ability founder and executive director, at 937.374.0385.

-Jessica Noll

August 2012 | A Class Full of Superheroes!

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

XENIA, Ohio – A classroom full of superheroes took over 4 Paws over the last 11 days—both dogs and children donned capes and “Super” emblems on their chests. While each child’s Kryptonite varies, the pair of child and canine grew into a team. And together, as 4 Paws graduates, they are ready to fight seizures, hearing loss, autism and all that ails them, one super power at a time.

Bianca is a smiler. She loves to smile. So it was no surprise that when York, a yellow Labrador Retriever, entered the classroom, her face lit up. She and her little brother found a new playmate and friend for life, as they laughed and fed York treat after treat.

“York is a blessing to us, cannot be more thankful,” said her mom, Estella.

Tyler wasn’t sure how to take Niella, a white Labradoodle. With a baggie full of treats in his dad’s hand, one morsel at a time, he tossed them into the air. As each one piece of kibble landed, Niella gobbled them up quickly, making Tyler giggle every time.

“I’m sorry, but [Niella is] absolutely the best dog ever,” said Tyler’s mom at graduation.

 It was love at first sight for Riley and Nascar, a Golden Retriever. Hugs were plentiful, as Riley buried his face in Nascar’s golden coat, smiling for photos as he peeked up over her back. He nuzzled his new furry pal as if he had known the dog for years. His mom was thrilled on graduation day.

 “[Nascar is] perfect fit for our son. They are going to be best friends forever,” said Maggie.

Ethan didn’t know quite what to make of Dazzler, a chocolate Labrador Retriever. In fact, his mom Heather said that he was petrified of his new service dog for days after jumping into training. But after a rocky road of 11 days in class, the two are peas in a pod… sleeping together and walking together tethered. Local 12 news out of Cincinnati came and did a TV feature on Ethan and Dazzler and they saw first-hand tethering and the tracking training, which will come in so handy for parents like Heather and Richard Innis.

“We’re just blown away at how prepared these dogs are to get out there and do their jobs,” said Heather.

Read Ethan and Dazzler’s story, “Wonder Boy Gets Super Dog” on our blog at,

Wagging his tale, Jenji frolicked over to where Dawson was sitting with his mom and dad. Not sure what to think, Dawson curled up in his mom’s lap a little tighter, while dad made sure that Jenji, a black Labradoodle, was loved on. Eventually Dawson sneaked in a few kisses and treats—with a smile from ear to ear; giggling with every lick Jenji gave while gently taking a treat from the young boy’s hand.

Thor anxiously waited, sitting on his mom, Erin’s lap. As

Detour, a black Labrador Retriever, finally made his way to boy, Thor became shy, but inquisitive. There was an immediate bond between the two. After an initial, quick pat on the head, Thor moved from the safety of his mom’s lap to the floor, where he and Detour sat face to face, creating a bond that would last forever.

 “[We were] expecting an exceptional dog, but we’re amazed,” said Erin.

Ruby had a fondness for Nascar sitting next to her family, but at first was not sharing her parents’ enthusiasm about Abba Zabba, a yellow Labrador Retriever. The curly, blond-haired girl was soon won over too.

For her mom, Melissa, the emotion that she said she has had in abundance over the last year with the fundraising and 4 Paws, has been “gratitude.” 

“We’re totally in love with Abba,” she said with tears in her eyes at graduation.

Michael’s brother and sister loved on DaVinci, however, Michael sat on mom’s lap and was a bit on the skeptical side. By the end of class, at graduation, Michael had one arm around DaVinci, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and smiled while his family took loads of photos, proud of him and their newest family member.

Jessica embraced Jello, a yellow Labrador Retriever, right off the bat with plenty of hugs and kisses when they met. She leaned into his soft fur and whispered in Jello’s ear, presumably telling him her secrets. Jello, too, was in love—content with the attention from his new favorite girl.s brother and sister loved on DaVinci, however, Michael sat on mom’s lap and was a bit on the skeptical side. By the end of class, at graduation, Michael had one arm around DaVinci, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and smiled while his family took loads of photos, proud of him and their newest family member.

As families chatted while munching on breakfast and kids mingled over toys on the first day of class, Ellie spent the better part of the morning on the first day kneeled down, waiting, leaning up against Déjà Vu’s crate. She had one arm up, over her head clinched on the top of the crate, while her other hand’s tiny fingers were stroking the metal bars to Déjà’s crate. She couldn’t wait to have her dog in her arms. The time came and they met. Her big eyes grew even larger as she gave treats and loved on her new BFF, Déjà, who she had become attached, to long before they were introduced. By the end of their meeting, Ellie was laying down on a mat on the floor, staring into the black Labrador Retriever’s eyes.

“Perfect match for her. She loves animals,” said her mom Jen.

CeCe and Michael came to 4 Paws to share the love of Dagwood, a black Labrador Retriever. And they did. When CeCe entered the classroom to sign in the first day, wide-eyed, she eagerly said, “We’re getting a dog!” The three met, along with their mom and dad, and it was an instant family from the start. Michael, sitting on dad’s lap, leaned his hand down to pat Dagwood’s head, laughing. CeCe knelt on the ground, feeding their new service dog treats, with a smile that never left her face.

“It’s really a class-act organization. [We] look forward to taking him home,” said mom, Suzie.

Congratulations to the graduates from the Class of August 2012!

-Jessica Noll