Meet a Puppy Raiser
Name: Gabrielle Bowers
School: University of Kentucky// Traditional Foster
Degree: BA in Learning & Behavior Disorders in Dec 2014, Masters in Behavioral Psychology from Ball State in May 2016.
Dogs fostered: I fostered 5 dogs through the UK program & 2 through the traditional fostering program, bringing my total to 7 dogs.
The university program helped me to find a path and a purpose at a large university. It helped me to make friendships that I still have today. It connected me with special needs families near & far and enabled me to be an even bigger crazy dog lady. I gave up 7 chunks of my heart, but when I get to see the impact that they each have had on their person’s life, it makes it all worth it to me.
Pictured: top to bottom, left to right:
Nonie, Bunny, Bilbo,
Monroe (non-4 Paws forever dog), Zuri, Poseidon
Meet a Puppy Raiser
Name: Bennett Baber
School: University of Kentucky
Degree: BA in Health Communication, May 2015
Dogs fostered: I fostered 6 dogs through the university program and 3 dogs as a traditional foster for a grand total of 9!
The university program benefited me in more ways than I can count. Not only did it help me find my niche at a huge school, but it also allowed me to make an impact that I never thought I would be able to. To see my dogs go from potty training, playdates, and snoring through classes to behavior disruptions, medical alert, and changing lives is so rewarding. Although they all took a piece of my heart and I miss them dearly, hearing from the families they went to, whether they became a service dog or a pet, about how much they care for them and the influence they’ve had makes it all worth it. I would definitely go back and do it all over again. I can’t imagine my time at UK without my sweet sidekicks.
WAYNESVILLE, Ohio – Big and lanky Boss (Bobo) bounded toward his mom, as his long black and gray, tousled fur swayed from side to side. His tongue darted out to saturate her face. Jaki Waggamon was the first human mom this furry, fun-loving, excitable puppy—who had more than tripled in size—had ever known, and now it was time for him to graduate and move to his new home with his fur-ever family and girl Danielle.
It was the first time that husband and wife, Nick and Jaki Waggamon of Waynesville, Ohio, had experienced the graduation of one of their foster pups. The young couple has been a foster home to two 4 Paws for Ability dogs since February 2012, and intend to be lifetime volunteers, she said.
While currently, they have no children… they do have little ones running around the house.The high school sweethearts and graduates of Ohio Northern University, both jumped headfirst into their careers—and because of their love of traveling, said Jaki, it was difficult to convince her husband that they should have a full-time puppy at home. But fostering a puppy is a happy alternative and compromise. Jaki gets a puppy, and they both still get to travel.
“Puppies are such lovers!” said Jaki. “They’re so little and cute, and they just want you to love them as much as they love you—which they do immediately and unconditionally.”
What started out as her wanting a puppy of her own, turned into a “phenomenal opportunity to do something much more amazing,” said Jaki, who for a while was looking for something she could do to give back, but nothing until 4 Paws for Ability had jumped out at her.
“4 Paws does so much good with the resources they have—it takes a lot of people, time, money, treats, and toys to pull off a single service dog placement.”
“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful thing happening right here in Ohio—people cross the country, and sometimes even the globe to get here, for the opportunity to have an ability-filled life with their service dog partner.”
Fostering soon-to-be service dog puppies has been a learning experience for her and the puppies. The ability to see them experience something new for the first time is by far her favorite part. Take laundry for example… she chuckled.
“So far both of our fosters have been terrified of our laundry hampers—it’s unexplainable to us, but something about them must be very scary for a little puppy. Let’s face it, I’m scared of the dirty laundry pile too, so who can blame them!”
Together, Jaki and her husband have fostered both Focus, a Golden Retriever from the Luxury Car Litter and Boss aka Bobo, a Goldendoodle from the Pirate Litter.
Bobo, her first foster puppy, never wanted her out of his sight, and would lie on her feet until you were ready to move on to the next thing.
Focus, her current pup, is an “adventurous little fellow, who loves to jump up on the ledge by the fireplace and act like he is king of the living room.”
Every day there is something different to laugh and smile about, she said.
“Once Bobo knocked the broom over in the kitchen. When I heard it, I went to find him and he was nowhere to be found—because he put himself in his kennel! Focus knocked down the Christmas tree, but instead of self-mediating, he was climbing into the branches when I found him! Both situations were worthy of a good laugh by all!”
Bobo graduated during the December 2012 class, finding his fur-ever home with his girl Danielle in Vandalia, Ohio.
“It is a beautiful experience. It’s fun to guess what the dog will be trained for in the end, based on the personality and strengths they develop while they’re with you. Nothing beats seeing them at graduation. That’s when the whole picture really comes together,” said the 25-year-old, who described that day as, “amazing, awe-inspiring, beautiful, wonderful, remarkable, overwhelming, incredible, miraculous, extraordinary.”
“I literally cannot describe the joy I felt when I saw Bobo and his family for the first time—it is an understatement to say it was beautiful.”
And as excited as Bobo was to see Jaki and Nick, she said that they could already tell how much he had bonded with his new family.
“We were really blessed—Bobo’s forever momma keeps us well updated with pictures and stories. Again, the joy of this moment is so much more powerful than the brief sadness of sending Bobo back to 4 Paws. The joy is continuously multiplied as we hear about Bobo’s new achievements with his partner. I mean, he gets to go to school… How neat is that?” said Jaki.
As hard as it is, returning the foster puppies to 4 Paws is part of the job that she signed up for, as do all the foster homes.
While it’s what Jaki called, “dreadful, awful, heart-breaking, terrible, horrible, painful, distressing, tear-jerking,” it’s only for a brief moment in the overall scheme of life and what these dogs are meant to go on and do for children with disabilities, she said.
“It would be silly to think that after six months it would be easy to send them back on their way—after all you’re not just housing and feeding a puppy, but loving him and taking him everywhere you go! Even knowing they have a greater purpose, it’s still hard.”
Through that heartache, the best advice she received as a foster mom was from a family who was on their 18th 4 Paws puppy: “Get another one. Who can be sad when they’re busy chasing around a new ball of fur and energy that’s excited to explore their new surroundings?”
So she did.
But Jaki isn’t just giving the puppies something that they need… they are giving her a better understanding of the world and the good that is in it—as well as the unconditional love that a dog can provide in trying times.
“They are cuddle-bugs, and truly loving beings. In an amazing feat of human-like understanding, Focus, the adventurous and hyper puppy, cuddled on the couch with me the whole day after someone broke into my car. Nothing important was taken, but someone was in my driveway in front of my house inside my car—my puppy was apparently grateful for the extra day I spent at home, instead of work, and spent the morning cuddling and doing my favorite tricks.”
Both of her foster puppies have also provided the opportunity to spread education about service dogs and conditions that they might one day assist with like autism, diabetes and seizures. They have also given Jaki new insight to the world we live in, at a time, she said, “when we are seeing and speaking of a broken society, we typically look and find the bad and often only the bad.”
But once again, foster puppies to the rescue!
“On Christmas Eve, my husband and I decided to stop at a church on our travel route between my parents’ and our home. We were greeted by a gentleman that seemed confused when I asked if my service puppy was welcome and said, ‘Of course!’ We sat near a family who was more interested in meeting our puppy and learning about what he would do, than about the fact that there was a dog in their church. We were surprised to hear, ‘and peace be with your little friend,’ when the congregation began greeting those around them. There is good in the world—we just have to be it if we want to see it.”
In the end, Jaki said, fostering is a blessing for her and her husband.
“I wish I were as happy about anything as these foster puppies are when they see me after work. A house with a puppy is a crazy, disorganized, frantic house, but it is a very happy home!”
Fostering puppies, however, is not for everyone Jaki warned.
“It must be said—puppies are a lot of work!”
From scheduling potty breaks and playing to teething and socializing, Jaki said it’s a balancing act that she and her husband somehow manage among the hectic atmosphere that is their home. But that chaotic world of puppy-raising is an experience she wouldn’t give up, however, that doesn’t mean she wishes for just a little help…
“If I were granted one wish, it would be that every puppy was born with the instinct to heel gently next to his human—but instead their instincts seem to be to run and to chase leaves! All of these things take a lot of work and a lot of time. Even so, I’m sure I’d be lost without a puppy romping around!” Jaki laughed.
“If life’s not fun, I don’t think you’re doing right.”
-By Jessica Noll-Korczyk
A brand new, furry, cuddly, ball of energy and excitement who needs love, attention and a warm home… what could be better than a fluffy, jumpy, tongue-hanging-out smiling puppy? Not much compares to being a foster home with 4 Paws for Ability.
If you’re interested in fostering one of the 4 Paws for Ability’s service dogs in-training, contact Karen Shirk at Karen@4PawsForAbility.org.
You can become a foster home or help us place more service dogs, DONATE NOW!
Elly: Mom teaches, learns
NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio – For Elly Organiscak, it all started with a Google search.
“You will read it and hear it that 4 Paws is magical. It really is…”
After researching service dog agencies, she found her home with 4 Paws for Ability. That’s when she and her family decided to open their home and took in their first foster dog April 25, 2009. He was 5-month-old, yellow Labrador Retriever, Monkey of the Ben and Jerry’s Litter.
Over the next 2 ½ years, 42-year-old Organiscak would foster six puppies from Labs to Papillons.
Beyond that, the Organiscak household includes two of their own rescue dogs, Cabela, a miniature pinscher, rescued from a puppy mill and Sonny, a German shepherd, pulled from a high-kill shelter. But she calls her family, ‘typical.’
“My husband Tim is very supportive of my passion [for dogs] and loves to joke around. He is the ‘social part’ of the relationship I like to say,” said Organiscak.
Aaron is Elly’s oldest at 14 years old, but does not share his mom’s passion for dogs. That bond is with her 12-year-old daughter Hailey.
Her lifelong inspiration has always been her dad, she said, who was born with low vision, losing his sight completely at 3 years old.
“He was a dog lover, but my mom had allergies so we could never have a dog. I always loved dogs and I loved watching the seeing-eye dogs, and always wished my dad could have one,” said Elly.
In the back of her head, she said that she always thought how cool it would be to puppy raise a GED puppy. However, after looking into it, she realized that having a dog for two years would be too much for her family to take on at that time.
“After my dad passed away in 2005, the thoughts kept dancing in my head, and our family came to a time in our lives when it would be possible to follow this dream of mine.”
That’s when she said she Googled service dog agencies and came across 4 Paws for Ability. It was a pawfect match!
“I was intrigued with their short-term fostering. I read all about Karen. I watched her video, [watched] her struggles [and it] reminded me so much of my dad and how much he fought for position in life,” she said. “He was one of the first blind college students to graduate from John Carroll in 1955. In a nutshell, it was something I could do to give back.”
Now, having fostered several service dogs in-training for 4 Paws for Ability, she said those foster dogs have taught her a thing or two as well.
“They have taught me patience!”
And she remembers each and every one of them.
-Monkey, the yellow Labrador Retriever, was so laid back and calm, but look out if a dog walked into the room BAM! out the door play, play, play. We worked really hard on doggie distractions but it was just him he believes all dogs should love him and still does. If there were no dogs around you would have to look for a heart beat.
-Desi, beautiful Desi. She was my longhaired GSD. She was glued to me and service dog work was just too stressful for her. She just wanted to be your loyal girl and be with you and because of this she ended up in wonderful pet home that loves her dearly.
-Tye, the golden boy of the clan melted my whole family and he was on track for service dog work. He loved kids and attracted a crowd. He was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and so it was decided that he was to be placed in a pet home. He is a Certified Therapy Dog.
-I was honored to foster Ezekiel, Karen’s own personally bred GSD. He was such an amazing dog. He was confident, calm, obedient and a handsome boy. He is a service dog in Arizona.
-Jubilee lived up to her name. If you have never had a Papillon or you thought, ‘I don’t like little dogs,’ all you had to do is meet her and she would warm you right up. She absolutely loved my husband (who is not a little dog person) and had a huge personality to boot. She was saucy, bossy and demanding. Social butterfly = Jubilee.
-My last foster was Pirate and I thought I had challenges before. He is keeping me on my toes. While he didn’t make the cut as a service dog, he has found his furever home.
-My present foster is Clank, a Golden Retriever puppy.
Each personality is unique and precious to her. But with as many dogs that she has fostered, giving them back to 4 Paws for Ability so that they can receive their training to ultimately become a much-needed service dog, never gets any easier for her.
“I miss them and I would be lying if I said I don’t cry. I always cry,” she said. “I cry because I will miss them. I cry because I know they are going on. My family just shakes their head and says, ‘Oh mom.’”
“You think it will be easier after you have fostered so many, but each of them leave a permanent mark in your heart and ‘goodbyes’ are very hard.”
However, when Elly sits among other families and foster homes and volunteers at 4 Paws for Ability during class graduation, it makes all those tears turn from sadness to sheer joy.
“[It’s] totally serine, but it makes me feel complete inside,” said Elly, who just recently watched Jubilee aka JuJu Bean, a seizure-alert Papillon, graduate in December with her boy Joel.
Knowing that she has given a home to a dog who will be such an amazing animal is like no other feeling, she said. It’s the best part of fostering.
“I don’t think it is something you can explain. It is something you have to experience for yourself. When I see pictures of my foster dogs in their homes with their families my heart just beams with pride, sometimes I just stare at their pictures and tears of happiness stream down my face.”
On the other hand, it’s also hard when she finds out one of her foster pups didn’t make the cut as a service dog.
“When I get that e-mail I just cry, it breaks my heart. Jennifer has told me every dog is a success, but when you foster you have that goal in your mind, you dream of your foster dog kissing their partner. You dream of who they could be with and what they will do you never dream they won’t make it as a service dog.”
These dogs who Elly fosters, training them to be more social and comfortable around people and public spaces, have essentially taken her out of her own shell. A once self-proclaimed anti-social person now joins other dog-friends on Facebook and is constantly planning her next social outing with her foster dog.
Fostering for Elly has helped her just as much as she helps these dogs.
Photos & story by Jessica Noll-Korczyk
*To help us place seizure dogs like Jubilee, DONATE NOW.