“A Dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” - Josh Billings.
I am a mother of three happy, healthy boys. On days when the boys are not in school and the TV is not on in the family room, you can pretty much imagine a wrestling ring on my carpet with three contestants sparring all the time. Needless to say it is an uphill task keeping the house clean and finishing the chores. For years now the boys have been asking me to get a pet dog, yeah ….like I have it in me to raise another child…I have never even been a dog person…so getting one is definitely not happening. Well that is what I firmly believed till a month ago. My sister who has a 130 lb Australian Shepherd went away on a 4 week vacation and somehow, because the boys were home for summer, I suckered up to dog sitting Max for her.
Three weeks later, it is hard to imagine our home without Max! The boys dote over him. They don’t get along as well with each other as they all do with Max, no surprise! They will walk him feed him, pick up his poop, whatever it takes to convince me that this can be a regular thing, we can own a dog and they would help! It is hard to put in words the extra dimension of life and love that Max has added to our lives in the past three weeks. Max has changed me, so much so that I could say I am almost a borderline dog lover now…but shhh don’t let my kids know I admitted to that.
The company I work for, a health products ecommerce store, supports a new charity each month and donates a part of their sales once a month on Giving Day to that charity. This month, for August 11th coincidentally they have picked 4 Paws for Ability a 4 star rated non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that trains and places service dogs with families in need. Having lived with Max for three weeks now, I cannot even begin to explain the emotions I went through as I read story after story of people who had used 4 Paws for Ability and how it had affected them. Max brings so much joy in the lives of my healthy kids that I totally see the need for an organization like 4 Paws in our society for bringing this joy and respite in the lives of the less fortunate. I feel so grateful to this four legged furry guest in our house for making this summer so special. Knowing the effect Max had on my kids, I can only imagine the effect a service dog would have in the lives of special need kids or adults.
Thanks to the choice www.healthproductsforyou.com made for this month’s Giving Day, I learnt of the ability that service dogs have to avert major crisis in the life of special need kids. It is nothing short of a miracle that Pip, an 8-pound Papillon trained by 4 Paws for Ability could bark and alert Megan, an insulin dependent diabetic girl’s parents when her blood sugar spiked or dived. What Pip did for Megan is not humanly possible but a service dog can be trained to respond to the smell generated by the chemicals released when a child is experiencing a sugar high or low. The crisis can be averted even before it starts to affect Megan. The wonder and joy of having a 4 legged savior is doubled in Megan’s life because of Fern, a Labrador retriever trained by 4 Paws for autism assistance. Megan has two brothers, Justin and Jacob who are both autistic. Fern is so tuned into the boys that she can sense when Justin is spiraling into distress and will press her paw firmly against him to calm him down. Something that would otherwise be achieved with a weighted vest or blanket but more often than not, unless they are constantly wearing a weighted vest, a meltdown has already occurred before those are used. Jacob isn’t comforted by Fern pressing her paw on him so she does not do it to him. However he has a tendency to run when in throes of an episode and would typically lash out at adults who try to stop him, does not resist when Fern halts him with a tether.
Not all dogs can do what these trained service dogs do. It requires extensive and individualized training before a dog qualifies as an Autism Assistance dog, Diabetic alert dog, Mobility assistance dog, Seizure alert dog, Hearing ear dog etc. It is not easy or cheap to get a trained service dog to help with the condition your child may be suffering from. As per the latest study, 4 Paws for Ability determined that it costs them approximately $40,000-$60,000 to train and place a service dog. The family in need pays $17,000 and 4 Paws for Ability covers the rest. The families are encouraged to fundraise in their local communities to raise their share.
“There’s training,” says Karen Shirk, founder of 4 Paws, “and there’s also things the dogs do that no one can really explain. Some of our parents have reported that their children have fewer seizures since their dogs entered their homes. This is believed to be the result of a reduction in the stress level the children have through the comfort they find in their new companions.”
4 Paws for Ability is touching hundreds of lives every day and giving them the peace of mind and happiness that no medical treatment could. With my newfound love for dogs, I wish they get all the support they need to touch even more lives with their service dogs. May this Giving Day for 4 Paws for Ability be a huge success!
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Gazala lives in New Jersey with her three boys and a loving husband. In her past life she was an Engineer in the field of Electronics and Communications. She took a sabbatical from work for a little over a ...
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