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

Wonder Boy Gets Super Dog

By | Miscellaneous

Dazzler gives family gift of ‘experiencing a normal life’

XENIA, Ohio – Ethan Innis cannot say many words, but one word that slides off his tongue easily is, “Dazzler.” And his parents Heather and Richard can now say that they feel like their son is “safe.”

While he cannot speak volumes, he does like to write… words, schedules, to-do lists, and his name.

Amidst the commotion, Ethan leans into the wall at the front of the classroom. With a black Sharpie in-hand, he begins to sign the 4 Paws Graduates banner with his name, his dog’s name, his mom, his dad, his grandparents—all who are in his presence to congratulate his and Dazzler’s success today.

The brown-haired, 7-year-old boy with thick, black, square-framed glasses, who recently celebrated his birthday, is now about to graduate from 4 Paws for Ability with his newfound best friend, Dazzler.

He is among a class full of superheroes donning capes complete with “Super” insignias… it’s the ‘Summer of Superheroes’ August class. And Ethan… he is a wonder boy, curious about people and places, and Dazzler is his superhero.

Uninterested in the hoopla that surrounds him, Ethan now sits in the play area where there are puzzles, games, toys, building blocks, coloring books and trampolines. But he wants no part of those. He calmly and quietly sits on a wooden chair, mind focused, untangling a slew of black wires attached to electronics from the cabinet. His tiny fingers work their magic… and voilà! Cords detangled.


Long road to ‘normal’—

Born Aug. 17, 2005, Ethan was just 4 lbs., full-term. His mom, Heather, says that he failed his newborn hearing screening and was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which can lead to deafness, blindness, ADHD and cerebral palsy. As a result, he had profound bilateral hearing loss.

At 13 months old, Ethan received his first cochlear implant, receiving his second just a year later—allowing him to finally hear the world around him—his vision, still impaired.

The glasses that he so often pushes up on his tiny nose during class have been a part of his appearance since infancy. But his parents were optimistic and moving forward. In fact, Heather says, it seemed like her baby would walk and talk, however, his progress was seemingly slow.

He was later diagnosed with apraxia of speech—which is rare and unusual in cases where the child has cochlear implant. He could hear some, but could not speak. 

Therefore, when Ethan was 3 years old, Heather, a teacher, and Richard, a self-employed IT trainer, looked to where they could receive the best care for their son. They moved from Athens, Ohio, to Cincinnati, where Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is located, as well as St. Rita School for the Deaf.

As they started to settle into their West Chester home, a Cincinnati suburb, Heather knew there was something more that her son was struggling with. A year later, Ethan was diagnosed with autism. Because of his CMV as an infant, it was confused with severe ADHD, she says.

St. Rita was not equipped to handle autism. Therefore his parents moved him into the Lakota School District near their home, where Heather says, he “loves school.

She has since left her teaching career for the time being to take care of Ethan and make sure he gets to his numerous appointments. 

“I’m president of Ethan’s world.”


Sheer panic leads to turning point—

While meeting with some folks at St. Rita, someone told Heather about 4 Paws for Ability and how an assistance dog might be able to help serve as a hearing ear dog, as well as assist Ethan with his autism. 

She says that she immediately thought, “That’s what we need!”

Heather immediately called 4 Paws. She was instructed on fundraising $13,000 on behalf of 4 Paws, but says it wasn’t something that she felt they could do at the time.

“Fundraising was overwhelming—we had no local connections, no community [yet].”

So she says, they put it off… thinking ‘maybe in a year.’ That year would come drastically quicker and much more dramatically than she ever imagined.

Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011. She had to undergo a double-mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. (She is now cancer-free.)

Later the next month recovering, she was standing in the front yard with Ethan, who she calls a “runner.” She turned her back for less than 30 seconds and he was gone, down the street, climbing inside a brown UPS truck. She bolted and retrieved her son from the delivery truck, thankful he was OK, but knew he could just have easily not been OK.

“[It] could’ve been really bad,” she says, remembering how frantically she scanned the neighborhood and street until her eyes locked onto her son; seeing him in what could have been a very dangerous situation. 

Several scenarios raced through the young mother’s head.

“What if he fell?”

“What if the driver drove off with him?”

“What if…?”

“What if…?”

“What if…?”

The possibilities of a tragic ending seemed endless.

While he can hear to a degree, Ethan wouldn’t be able to answer questions that most children could in that sort of situation.

“Autism makes it hard for him to make sense of his world,” says Heather.

Questions like, “Who are you?” “Where do you live?” would be lost on Ethan.

It was in that singular moment in time that she froze in thought, realizing, knowing, “We need something to keep him safe.”


Finding the 4-pawed best friend they needed—

Heather hit the computer. She furiously typed just as quickly as her fingers could pound the keys, researching everything she could about a multiservice dog at 4 Paws. It was everything that she was looking for and been hoping for. She couldn’t believe that something so ideal was right in her own back yard—about an hour’s drive from their West Chester home. 

“[It was] perfect. We’ll get a dog to help with all these issues… this was meant to be,” she says she remembers thinking. It wasn’t an either-or service dog, assisting in one disability or another, but rather, all in one. 

“We needed that combo.”

That’s when Heather called 4 Paws ready to get started on fundraising or whatever she had to do to ensure her son’s safety. To her surprise, 4 Paws had a scholarship opportunity for Ethan, due to his hearing disability.

The Erma A. Bantz Foundation Scholarship covered the entire fundraising requirement to 4 Paws, putting Ethan on the list for a trained multipurpose service dog.

Bantz lived in Cincinnati for 95 years. As a child and through most of her adult life, Erma suffered from severe hearing loss. Later in life, she fought eye problems, which diminished her sight. The Erma A. Bantz Foundation was established after Erma’s death to carry out her desire to improve the lives of people who suffer hearing or visual impairments.


Super Dog—

“My expectations would be that we’d get a ‘Super Dog’ and we did,” says Heather.

Dazzler, an 11-month-old, chocolate Labrador Retriever, was part of our Mission PawsibleTM program, trained at London Correctional, along with a semester at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in the 4 Paws Campus Program.

As a multipurpose assistance dog, Dazzler will primarily be Ethan’s hearing ear dog— alerting him to sounds like smoke alarms, his name and car horns. With 4 Paws’ expertise in treating children with multiple disabilities, Dazzler will also provide further life-saving capabilities to assist with Ethan’s autism—tasks like tethering, tracking and disrupt behavioral meltdowns due to Ethan’s autism—comforting him when he’s distressed, which Heathers says can be several times a day. Tools that Heather thinks will be a relief to their entire family.

“A lot of worry has been lifted,” says Heather. “[It’s] tremendous.”

It was time for best friends to meet.

Well, it wasn’t love at first sight. The first day of class, they met; however, Ethan was not interested in the brown dog, eagerly awaiting a pat on the head or a “good girl!” from her new boy. 

Heather remembers the first three or four days of class, Ethan was petrified of Dazzler. However, by Day 11, the last day of class, they were sleeping in the same bed and enjoying each other’s company; working together.

Once a boy who barely spoke, wakes up in the morning and the first thing he says is “Feed Dazzler.”

“It’s incredible. He told her to sit, then go outside and go potty,” says Heather beaming with enthusiasm and pride.


Freedom with tethering & tracking—

Dazzler, in addition to being his hearing ear dog, is trained to track Ethan if ever he wanders off or runs. She will be able to find him—potentially saving his life, like so many other tracking service dogs have done in the past for children with autism.

 When in public, Dazzler will be tethered to Ethan, leaving no chance of him running off or drifting from his family while shopping.

Going to the store or grocery has always been a planned event and not always the most enjoyable time spent with her son, says Heather. Because he’s a “runner” and will dart off when he gets the chance, she has to keep a hold of him at all times. Leaving him with no independence and leaving her without the ability to communicate with her son via sign language—his language.

“Holding him tight means he’s being oppressed and doesn’t know what’s going on—it’s layers of frustration [for him],” she says. He is “a prisoner to his condition.” 

Dazzler, seemingly Ethan’s get-out-of-jail-free-card, will be tethered to the young boy, giving him the freedom that his mother has yearned for, for Ethan his entire life. 

A few days ago, she says, while at home, the family walked down the sidewalk on their street for the first time EVER. Ethan tethered to Dazzler. Mom and dad elated.

“It’s really emotional. He’s never experienced freedom like that,” says Heather. “It’s cool to see him walking freely like a normal kid. He’s confident and happy.”

It’s a release of emotion for Heather, who says they can finally go out and not worry that her son will run off and they may never see him again.

“We have felt like prisoners in our own home. It’s hard to experience a normal life like going to the grocery store,” the zoo, aquarium, or even the park.

“As a parent, you dream of all the things you can do with your child—but we couldn’t. Dreams are dampened, stolen when [your] child has autism.”

But now, Heather sees a light at the end of a very long, treacherous tunnel, where normalcy for her family will reign. Normal. In seven years they’ve never ventured out to normal. Going to a parade. Going to an amusement park. Normal… all with their son in tow and Dazzler by his side. “[We] never felt safe enough… now we do.” 

“Dazzler is giving us the gift of experiencing a normal life.”

Read Ethan’s story from the beginning:

-Article and photography by Jessica Noll  

STAR Volunteer – Ruth White

By | Miscellaneous

XENIA, Ohio – Ruth White walks into 4 Paws, hands full. She is carrying a bucket of colorful blocks, a handful of coloring books and boxes full of small, metal toy cars. She makes her way into the play area, where she places them on the table and into the cubbies where they match other toys and art/crafts items. She then steps back, watching the children play and giggle and color. A luminous smile stretches across her face.

It’s what she does. She’s a volunteer.

Today is White’s first time witnessing a class’s graduation from 4 Paws, and she’s overwhelmed with glee, watching families and friends gather for their big day.

“A village comes with each kid. It’s amazing—don’t you wish the whole world, country could be like that? Gather together to solve a problem?”

She scans the room looking at not the only the children, and the dogs that will change their lives, but she also pans over to the parents, who are equally in love with their child’s new companion—bending over and giving a hug and overzealous scratch on top of dog’s head. They are adding a new family member and heading home today.

“It must be an enormous relief” to see their child wrap their arms around a “companion that licks them and keeps them safe,” says White.

The 78-year-old who lives in Tipp City is a grandma four times over, with three children and three great-grandchildren. So she understands a thing or two about children, especially since she was also a kindergarten teacher for more than 30 years. She comes from a long line of teachers—her mother, daughter and granddaughter all have the same compassion for learning and children that she does. But now she says, 4 Paws is her classroom.

White started volunteering at 4 Paws in January 2010. She came in every Thursday for a year, socializing new puppies that needed interaction with the public at stores. She harnessed them, carried them, loaded them into the van, and to places like Wal-Mart they’d go. She says that she has been fortunate to have been around long enough to get the chance to see those pups find their forever homes with their new best friends, like today.

“It makes it worthwhile. When that child hangs onto that dog,” she says with a sparkle of excitement in her eye, describing a child with a disability meeting his/her service dog for the first time.

“The feeling you get when you see the dog and the child bond, and you’re driving home… [It’s] a [feeling of] satisfaction that you had something to do with it.”

What started out as a generous journey for her in 2010, ended in sadness. By the end of the year, she lost someone very important to her, her Jack Russell Terrier, Fletcher. 

White found herself in need of help, so she turned to 4 Paws, where she says; she found solace by being around dogs and puppies. The place that she lent 

a helping hand or a friendly lap was now comforting her when she needed it most.

Over the years, she’s helped countless dogs learn to interact with the public. And while she is no longer able to socialize and carry puppies around store to store, after an illness in 2011, White is able to carry dozens of delicious cookies to 4 Paws.

A note on top of the metal container, overflowing with homemade treats reads, “For the best crew anywhere!” She describes them as ‘Betty’s Crunchy Cookies.’ Always thinking of children and their possible ailments, she says that the cookies are crunchy as if they have nuts, however, have only Rice Krispies and rolled oats for the crunch, in case anyone is allergic to nuts.

On a cookie drop-off and visit last week to show her great-grandson 4 Paws, she sat in amazement watching the trainers and a class full of parents work with their child’s dog.

“This is where the action is… this helps families get through life,” she said during the August class. “They’re the true heroes—forget them on TV, sports people, political people, rich people—the true heroes are the families who raise children with special needs.”

White continues to volunteer at 4 Paws about once a month, always with something in her hands and a smile on her face—ready to love dogs, all the while raising money for 4 Paws through her church.

It’s a rewarding opportunity, she says, that she is able to see come full circle—from puppy to service dog, a dog that is ready and willing to be a best friend to a child with disabilities.

“The end product of this volunteering has four legs and a tail. What we all work for is a bundle of love. How many places can you work where that’s the end product?”For her, volunteering is, “Good for your circulation of your whole body to do good” for others.

As of recent, White, along with Blue Star Mothers, Zion Lutheran Church, helped to raise money for Eagles Wings Therapeutic Riding Learning Center, in Piqua, Ohio.

-Jessica Noll 

‘Truly a Wonder Dog’

By | Miscellaneous

“Our hero, Max absolutely INSISTED on being in bed with Will during hiss EEG yesterday. So thankful again to those of you that made this possible… especially to 4 Paws! Without Max alerting we would not have known to bring Will in for this possibly life-saving test. He is truly a Wonder Dog.”

-Meredith Moore Redfern

Evan makes best friend for life

By | Charity, Fundraising, Misc, Miscellaneous, Multipurpose Assistance, Seizure Alert, Service Dog Stories

Boy-turned author gets long-awaited service dog

XENIA, Ohio – Evan Moss, a bubbly, very interactive 8-year-old plays with his electronic game. Legs stretched out behind him as he lay on his stomach, atop a quilted blanket. Next to him, legs stretched out, lying on her belly too is Mindy. Paws up, she is chewing on her large, clear, Nylabone. They won’t be sharing toys anytime soon, said Evan, but they are already sharing a bed.
“It’s cool to see them bonding,” said Lisa Moss, Evan’s mom, who said they spent each night cuddling in their hotel bed while training at 4 Paws. “He’s really taking to her and she’s really taking to him too.”
The two have become fast friends over the course of the past 11 days—in sync; in a way that is, well, magical. Evan has found in Mindy, a BFF, to share his love of life with. When asked what he’ll do with his newfound friend?
“Everything!” he said with a bashful smile engraved on his face. He said that he couldn’t wait to get home to their sprawling Alexandria, Va., back yard and race with her.
“She’ll play catch with me. She’ll race with me!”
It’s important that Evan has Mindy by his side—not just for companionship, but for life.
“Not much slows him down—except taking away his iPod,” Lisa joked. But one thing does slow him down. Epilepsy.
Evan was born with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), which causes tumors to grow within his vital organs; most prevalent in his brain, eyes, heart, skin, kidneys and lungs. The soon-to-be 3rd-grader, had his first seizure when he was just a few weeks old. Soon thereafter, doctors had to remove a tumor from his brain.
“He handles [seizures] surprisingly well,” said Lisa. “It’s part of who he is.”
Evan has nocturnal seizures just about every 10 days, said his parents, Rob and Lisa Moss. They occur mostly while he’s sleeping. He usually doesn’t recall them; however, the seizures often leave him unbalanced the next morning, making it difficult to walk. It’s a scary time every two weeks for the Mosses. Lisa said she fears that they’ll sleep through a nighttime seizure. It’s an unnerving feeling that creeps into the mother of two’s mind from time to time—especially since they never know the severity.
For most of his seizures, medical attention is necessary. And that’s where Mindy comes in. Evan knows exactly what his best friend is for.
“She’ll help me when I have seizures. She’ll help me when I get off balance,” he said.
Mindy will be a brand new part of the family, waiting in the wings, to help alert them to seizures and to play when he needs a friend.
“I think she’s going to help us in ways we don’t even know yet,” said Lisa, hopeful of what’s to come.
Service dogs need not apply—
Lisa wasn’t always so pro-service dog.
For a long time, Lisa and Rob, creators of, a seizure diary system website, avoided the notion that their son neither needed a service dog, nor that he would benefit from having one.
“As helpful as they can be, they can complicate your life,” expressed Lisa with understandable concern.
It’s no longer just going into a mall with a child with special needs or disabilities; it’s going into a mall with a dog—and the attention and questions that follow from that.
As Rob and Lisa frequented epilepsy conferences for their website, year after year, they always came across one booth regularly. It was a table set up for service dogs, specifically for those with epilepsy.
And since they didn’t teach their son to be neither embarrassed nor ashamed of who he is, they started vigorously digging into and researching everything that they could about service dogs, hoping the assistance a dog could provide would outweigh their concerns.
They had a long list of demands. The service dog had to perform seizure-alert, be trained for a child and hypoallergenic, due to Lisa’s allergies. It was a tall order, but an order that 4 Paws could and would fill.
Enter through the doggie door: Mindy.
An author is born—
Evan was 7-years-old when they started the application process with 4 Paws. As one of the requirements, he would need to write or draw a photo to include with the application materials. The then-2nd-grader who’d written stacks of books in class, said, he didn’t think so. Rob and Lisa then explained to him that they needed it. What he meant was… ‘I don’t think one picture is enough.’ So he asked, “Can I write a book?” Lisa: “Of course!”
Once they self-published his book, “My Service Dog,” several media outlets featured the young author, bringing awareness to epilepsy and service dogs. As a result, they ended up using the money they made through book sales as the required $13,000 that they needed to raise to make “My Service Dog” a reality for Evan. Lisa chuckled, remembering that they had had all kinds of fundraisers planned and in the works, like a 5K run and a yard sale.
“It ended up all we needed to do was the book,” she said. They did, however, hold the yard sale since their home was exploding with the generosity of donations to sell.
They raised the funding for a service dog selling one book at a time, signing one copy at a time. Hundreds lined up, wrapping around their local coffee shop, during his book signing near Washington, D.C. Her son’s fans continued looping around the block. It was like nothing they had ever seen before.
There were so many people, nearly 600 that they sold out of books on-hand. They took orders for more books—many from people who drove in from out of state just to meet Evan. It was a community coming together to support one little boy, determined to achieve his dream of sharing his life with a service dog.
“So many groups of [our] friends—to look at into the crowd, it was like a history of our time, with all the people who had been supporting us,” said Rob. Those who came out in support at the event included nine service dogs, some from 4 Paws.
From that moment on, everything was a whirlwind for Evan and his family. His book, “My Service Dog” sold about 4,000 copies, was the No. 1 bestseller on’s ‘Kids Health’ section and was featured on Amazon’s homepage. Now, there’s even a Kindle version.
A few days after the book signing, Lisa said, the coffee shop, where it was held, called her. They said an unnamed woman came in, wanting to donate $13,000 to Evan for his dog. Since they had already raised what they needed, Lisa quickly suggested that they make that donation to 4 Paws, in turn helping more children with disabilities to reach their fundraising goals as well.
Boy meets dog—
The only pet Evan had ever had was a fish, until now.
It was only a matter of time before the determined, talented, little boy was introduced to his very own service dog.
Dressed modestly in a sweater, Mindy, a Goldendoodle, had been freshly groomed and trimmed for their initial meeting on Day 1 of class at 4 Paws. To avoid getting too cold, she was fashionable in her green and blue sweater, 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. For the next 11 days, they trained at the Xenia facility together, learning each other and what they had to do for each other in case of emergency and everything in between.
“She’s going to be his best friend,” said Lisa, beaming ear to ear on graduation day at 4 Paws. “She’s a great dog—such a sweet girl.”
Mindy will alert Lisa and Rob at night when Evan has a seizure. In addition, she will assist him with behavioral and socialization skills, balance after a seizure and will be tethered to Evan when they are out in public—since Evan has a tendency to get lost in the shuffle, disappearing into crowds. Mindy will give them piece of mind, and Evan, a companion in all aspects of life.
“It will give him the freedom of sleeping alone,” said Lisa of the relief having Mindy to watch over her son at night would be for him and the entire family. Relief, because Rob and Lisa would have to take turns sleeping with their son in case he had a seizure.
But aside from Mindy’s main duties, the best part for Evan? Mindy will accompany him to school this year—which to Evan is, “awesome!”
“She’s a part of the family—it’s like having another kid.”
The hand-drawn dog on his book, “My Seizure Dog” looks an awful lot like Mindy, but Evan said that was just sheer coincidence.
“I was just drawing an extraordinary dog,” he said. Extraordinary indeed.           
A sequel to “My Service Dog” may be in the works… but Evan said, not for a while.
-Jessica Noll
Check out “My Seizure Dog,” click here. Evan has been featured in the Washington Post, People magazine,, CBS Early Show, Fox News and

4 Paws named Midwest CHARITY OF THE YEAR!

By | Charity, Miscellaneous
XENIA, Ohio — 4 Paws for Ability has been named the Midwest region’s Charity of the Year, by the 4th Annual Classy Awards, hosted by StayClassy.  
4 Paws Dog“It was awesome just to be nominated but to win the regionals, that is just amazing! As the founder of 4 Paws I am humbled,” said Karen Shirk, 4 Paws founder and executive director.
4 Paws for Ability will be honored for enriching the lives of children with disabilities by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs. This provides increased independence for the children, and assistance to their families. And 4 Paws also works with veterans from recent conflicts who’ve lost the use of their limbs or their hearing while in active combat. In all cases, the results speak for themselves.

The winners will be honored in San Diego on Sept 22.

StayClassy is a fast-growing San Diego-based start-up that develops an online fundraising product used by thousands of non-profit organizations around the world. (

For additional information or an interview, contact Jessica Noll at 937.768.9096 or email to

4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to place quality service dogs with children with disabilities and veterans who have lost use of limbs or hearing; help with animal rescue, and educate the public regarding use of service dogs in public places. 4 Paws for Ability relies on the generosity of individuals, as well as corporations, and accepts donations for operating expenses, training, food, toys, training supplies, medication, and our building fund. 

-Jessica Noll

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4 Paws for Ability | | Twitter@4PawsForAbility

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

Pirate, the one-eyed puppy, to help others… But first, he needs your help

By | Fundraising, Miscellaneous, Service Dog Stories

Pirate will be having surgery, but after that he’ll be ready for training as a service dog. We’re reaching out to the public for help with the cost of his surgery.

XENIA, Ohio — 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 to a single-puppy litter.

A lone puppy, he is 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.”

Before he can begin saving lives, he will be undergoing surgery next week. He will have his congenital ophthalmic defect repaired—the vet will remove his tiny, blind eye and the tissue surrounding it; then sew it closed, preventing infection.

Pirate doesn’t let one eye slow him down.

The cost is approximately $2,500. And that’s where dog lovers from all over come into play! 4 Paws needs to raise the money for his surgery—a surgery to help him become someone’s furry hero. (Click here to donate.)

While he may have only one eye, Pirate is going to use his other senses to assist someone else with a disability. Once healed, the Papillon will be trained as a diabetic alert dog, a seizure dog or a hearing ear dog.

“I thought, a service dog doing alert work does not need two eyes and it is possible that having only one eye could mean his other senses could be even more heightened. It was, in my opinion, meant to be,” said Shirk.


-Jessica Noll

4 Paws for Ability | | Twitter@4PawsForAbility

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

NH students walk the coast to raise funds for 4 Paws!

By | Fundraising

My name is Don Barber and I am a teacher of a 4th-6th grade class at the Cornerstone School in Stratham, NH.

Hello Karen, 

This past Friday, 19 students from my classroom and another 19 students from a second 4th-6th grade class at our school walked 4 miles of the New Hampshire coast in order to raise money for “4 Paws.”

I initially became aware of the organization when a friend mentioned to me that she had a cousin whose family was trying to raise money so he could get a dog through your group.  Her cousin is Gabe Kakitis.

I still do not know how much money we raised, as money will be coming in during the week, but I was in contact with Gabe’s mom over the weekend, and she let me know that they have been able to raise everything that they needed for him.

That means we will be looking to make a different donation of some kind to your organization. Gabe’s mom and I are thinking of it as a superabundance on behalf of Gabe.  

Having just heard from a couple of the walkers, there are some who raised several hundred dollars each! Can you give me some guidance on how an over one thousand dollar donation from an enthusiastic group of 9-12 year olds might best be directed?

I see on your web site that it is possible to give to specific children, but any advice from your perspective on things would be helpful. 

Attached, please find some pictures from our walk. Note especially the T-shirts students made for their walk.  Also, because we were walking at low tide, there were many students who were writing ““ in the wet sand along the way.

You had 6 hours of free beach front advertising! Some of the students were telling other walkers along the beach about the cause. It was especially neat to see people who were walking dogs take an interest. 

I look forward to hearing from you, Don Barber