Maggie, basically forced me to become a part of 4 Paws, and for that I’m infinitely grateful! Maggie is my sorority twin sister, and she was so passionate about 4 Paws and about eventually becoming a handler that it was contagious. There was no way to listen to her talk about her experiences without desperately wanting to join yourself (and trust me, it’s still that way).
Since we were becoming roommates this year, we applied to be handlers through 4 Paws at Ohio State, and anxiously waited to hear. I spent all of last summer watching Roen from the Gracelings litter, and that was it, I was in love. What sent me over the edge was bringing Roen to visit my grandmother in the hospital: Roen spent the entire time curled up across my grandmother’s lap, giving her immense love and comfort.
Maggie and I had the privilege of fostering Luther from the Activist litter beginning in August, and I’ve never loved a creature more. Luther made me kinder and more patient, and he was the most incredible, loving and well behaved foster you could ask for. He brought such life into our lives, and everyone who met him was impressed by this incredible dog. If any dog deserves to be a service dog, it would be Luther, and saying goodbye to him as he began advanced training was one of the most gut wrenching things I’ve done. It’s so bittersweet, and I’m so proud. Being a part of this organization as a sitter and a handler has helped me grow in ways I didn’t think were possible, and have given me the most incredible opportunities to change lives, and be a part of something bigger than myself.
After my little brother received his seizure alert dog, Coffee, I knew I wanted to be a part of such magic. This program has helped me grow & become a better person, in such the short time we have them, each dog teaches you something different. These dogs do such amazing things for even more amazing families. I am so grateful for 4 Paws & all they do for my family & many others
From the second I met Cessna, I was head over heels in love. Being my first 4 Paws for Ability foster, I had no idea how quickly he would become my best friend and how deeply I would bond with him. Throughout the 8 ½ half months that he lived with me, we only grew closer, which made his give back day all the more difficult.
My roommate and I picked Cessna up when he was 4 months old. We were shocked at how intelligent he was at this age, already knowing sit, down, and shake like he had been doing them for years. When we introduced him to new commands, he was such a quick learner, easily mastering things like ‘place’, ‘under’, and ‘hit it’. He wasn’t frightened by any loud noises or strange sights that he encountered, making it easy to take him practically anywhere with us. He thrived during trips to the grocery store, sporting events, and malls, and we were amazed by his unwavering confidence at all times.
Fostering was not without its challenges, but as Cessna grew up before our eyes we realized that it was his destiny to become a service dog. Cessna never met a person he didn’t like – he especially loved children of all sizes! He behaved impeccably in public and listened very well when given commands. There was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Perhaps his best quality however, was his ability to love unconditionally. The moment that best describes this was a night in which I had a mental breakdown, something that had greatly decreased in frequency since getting Cessna. That night, I had already put Cessna in his kennel for bedtime. Approximately 15 minutes later, the breakdown began and I knew immediately what I needed to stop it. I opened the kennel door, and without saying anything walked back into my room, where I curled up on my bed. Cessna jumped right up after me and began to nuzzle my arms before laying down with his body right up against mine. I’m not entirely sure how he knew what to do in the absence of commands, but it worked. He performed his first behavior disruption that night and I saw what an amazing service dog he was going to become.
Cessna and I were practically attached at the hip, so his sense of intuition was strong, but my love for him was even stronger. When I received the message that he was matched with a family after advanced training, I was ecstatic. I was overwhelmed with pride and joy at the fact that I had helped socialize a service dog and that I had thereby helped a family in need. Hearing that he was going to be an autism assistance dog made so much sense to me because he was always so loyal and perceptive. Cessna knew what I needed even if I didn’t know, and he stuck with me through good times and bad. His incredible sense of smell makes him perfect for tracking, and his ability to adapt to new situations assists him in helping his kiddo deal with change. On the day I watched him graduate as an official autism assistance service dog, it was a dream come true. I beamed from ear to ear at having the chance to meet his new family and see him one last time for a final goodbye. That day was bittersweet, but still today I feel extremely blessed to have been Cessna’s foster mom. Cessna will always have part of my heart wherever he goes, and he will forever be in mine.
2011. Alaska mom one year later, writing on Facebook. If you in any way donated time, money, mushed dogs, bid in the auction, did a news story, donated items, fostered a dog, trained, or helped us in any way with obtaining our service dog Juke, please know:
You made a difference.
You saved a family from sleepless nights, worry, fear, and stress. You returned normalcy to a home. You allowed a husband & wife to enjoy being married again. You allowed a boy to have calm in his storm of affliction. You gave him a friend to sleep with & feel safe with. You gave many families hope.
We have had Juke for one year now. I cannot thank you all enough for what you have done. Juke is not a cure for autism, but an anchor in a storm. We are so blessed. You know who you are ~Thank you. Donna Erickson, Unalakleet, Alaska
Meet a Puppy Raiser
Tori Shishler | University of Kentucky Foster, Fall 2012
I have people come up to me all the time and ask me how I can give up the dog after getting attached to him and that they could never do the program because of that. I know that its going to one of the most difficult things that I have ever done, but I also know how completely worth it it will be. Neo will eventually go to a family who has wanted him longer than he has probably been alive, a family who will love him unconditionally and most importantly to a child who needs that forever friend that will help them live their lives to its fullest potential. Sure, Neo can be a handful at times, but its all worth it when I’m out in public and people compliment his behavior or thank me for helping such a good cause. Giving up Neo after being with him 24/7 for the past three months is going to be hard, but knowing I’m helping change people’s lives and giving Neo to a family that’s going to enjoy being him 24/7 for the rest of his life makes it all worth.
Emily Rudman | Wittenberg Foster, 2009, 2010
I don’t know if I can truly explain in words what the 4 Paws program on Witt’s (Wittenberg) campus has meant to me. It’s been everything really. It helped me find my passion, my vocation, and taught me so much about caring for dogs, the importance of service, and about who I really am. The four dogs I trained through this program taught me more about responsibility, patience, and love than any human I have ever known. Because of my involvement in this program, I really hope to work with either 4 Paws or a similar organization in my future. I’ll be attending Vet school at Purdue in the fall, and I hope to use my degree to continue training and caring for service animals. It is also my goal to keep up with the program on Witt’s campus, and maybe even help to start a similar program on other campuses (like Purdue maybe!) I think it’s such an amazing opportunity for the students involved and a great environment for the dogs to be socialized in. I wish I had more words to describe just how much this program means to me, but I am truly at a loss for words. All I know is I will never be the same, and I feel so incredibly blessed for that.
Heidi Miranda Clinger | Wright State University Foster, Fall 2012
Fostering a puppy for 4 Paws has been such a good experience for me! It’s so cool to watch the puppies develop and change throughout the semester, growing in their social confidence and obedience skills. I really enjoy having my foster in class and with me everywhere I go, but the best part about this program is knowing that I’m helping someone. That my foster will be someones hero one day, and I got to play a part in helping him get there! I absolutely love 4 Paws for Ability and I am so glad I joined the university program!