Welcome to our 4 Paws for Ability mission! We, the Watson family, are working to raise $17,000 to bring home a highly trained Multipurpose Service Dog for our two oldest children, Zeke and Eli. With a constellation of conditions they wake up to face every day, each boy is a small but mighty warrior with incredible courage and endurance. A service dog trained and matched to their unique needs will be the faithful partner they need to thrive.
Zeke, age 9, and Eli, age 6, both have Autism and ADHD. In addition, Zeke has hypermobile joints and hypotonia that causes gait problems, as well as severe food allergy and asthma. Eli also has Epilepsy, hypotonia, and difficulty with coordination. He has a unique genetic condition, 1q21.3 Duplication. They are no strangers to hospitals, doctors, medicines, tests, therapies, and medical equipment. These are often overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. When overwhelmed, both tend to cope by stimming, shutting down, melting down, or sometimes even hiding or lashing out.
Zeke is highly verbal and will talk your ear off about his favorite topics: wolves and their conservation, the Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon. He has a brilliant, wide grin and nearly vibrates with energy. If you see him in his element, he might seem to blend in. But just under the surface, he struggles daily with anxiety, social skills, sensory processing, and self-regulation. Change and new things are very difficult for him, and as much as he desperately wants friends and social interaction, he often needs help to navigate situations that remain mysterious to him.
Eli will wiggle right into your heart with a blink of his green eyes from behind his thick glasses! Eli loves dogs and cats, pirates, digging in the dirt, and collecting rocks. Eli also enjoys singing, and can often be heard humming or singing as he plays. Eli has severe delays in social communication and does not engage consistently with his peers. He is extremely impulsive and has little awareness of danger, and is prone to distracted wandering and darting off.
Eli’s seizures began suddenly with Status Epilepticus (a medical emergency, where an extended seizure or repeated seizures do not stop on their own without extensive medical intervention) when he was 3.5 years old. Although medications have helped, he continues to have focal seizures, some of which can be difficult for a human care-giver to catch. Like other seizure parents, we are constantly on alert. We worry not only that he will wander off, but do so and then have a seizure, unable to stay safe or call for help. Because of his type of Epilepsy (focal, beginning in one area, which then spreads to the rest of his brain) and the lack of seizure freedom, this is considered a life-long condition for him and he is always at risk for another Status seizure or a worsening of seizures as his brain grows and changes.
Zeke and Eli’s service dog will be trained in the following:
- Behavior Disruption (Lap, Nuzzle, Touch, Deep Pressure) for anxiety, sensory overload, and shutdowns/meltdowns. These tasks will also help Eli to recover after more significant seizures, which can leave him tired and disoriented.
- Tethering will help Eli to stay close, and if he does slip away, scent tracking will help us locate him quickly.
- Seizure alert will give Eli a little bit of independence, knowing the service dog will get our attention if he is about to have or has a seizure.
Other benefits include a social bridge, the steadying routine of participating in the dog’s care, and the opportunities and motivation to learn new skills and be physically active while exercising and playing with the dog. And you can’t beat its snuggly, furry package!
Our family has been accepted into the program at 4 Paws for Ability, a non-profit 501(c)(3) with over 20 years of experience placing highly trained service dogs with children and veterans with disabilities. Although families are asked to raise $17,000 toward their dog, that is only a fraction of the $40,000-60,000 it takes 4 Paws to breed, raise, and train a dog like ours. As a U.S. military veteran family, we know we’ve come through overwhelming challenges before with the support of friends and family. We can see this mission through as well, with your help!
Donations can be made at https://4pawsforability.org/donate-now/. If you make a donation on the website, please make sure that you include my name (Zeke and Eli Watson) in the description field. Donations can also be made via check and mailed to
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Zeke and Eli Watson
at 253 Dayton Avenue
Xenia, Ohio 45385.
In the memo line make sure you put “In honor of Zeke and Eli Watson.”
Thank you for helping us on this journey!