In honor of PAWS turning forty, we will be sharing forty client stories over the next year. We are so grateful for all of the support we have received! We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we have.
First Guide Dog/Service Dog Certified- Story 1 of 40
What follows is a story which ran in the Winter 1993 issue of SouthEastern Guide Dogs Newsletter and is being reprinted with their permission:
“He didn’t tell me I couldn’t,” is an attitude worn by Will Kuhlman in much the same manner as that white Panama with left brim turned skyward.
It’s a certain air, a demeanor that has carried him through illness, accidents, paralysis and blindness – and a long wait to regain mobility in the face of those seemingly insurmountable odds.
It serves him still as he trains with LIBBY, the first dog to be certified as both a guide dog and service dog. Will and LIBBY are a team now, the results of months of training and planning.
Will likes to say, “This is about LIBBY.” And it is. But it’s also about a group of people, including Will Kuhlman, who had the courage to try anyway when people said it couldn’t be done, that one dog couldn’t do the job of two.
People like Southeastern’s Executive Director Mike Sergeant, who said, “When people say it can’t be done, I want to know why.”
People like Paws With A Cause® President Mike Sapp. He said, “For me, it was just a cause of ‘we need to modify this.”
Our program concept is different, we just add the training needed to give the individual what they need to be independent.”
It’s also about people like Southeastern Instructor Bob Roberto, who said, “It’s not a question of ‘can it be done.’ It’s a question of ‘when.’” And Candace Smith, PAWS Regional Representative, who worked hard to see that LIBBY polished her service dog skills.
And men like guide dog trainers Denny Nowiski and Don Muisener… service dog trainers Ken Kirsch, Jock White, and Dave Betournay. It’s about these people who worked their hardest, gave their best and went the extra mile to make sure IT had every chance to work. But, most of all, it’s about time. Time for consultation with the PAWS® team, to merge commands, to build trust, to develop rapport… time to choose the right dog, the one that promised to be that required “cut above.”
Time for training…to develop solid skills, build confidence, ingrain responsibility. LIBBY trained for a year to most other guide dogs’ four to six months. Time to fly across the country to learn to pull a wheelchair, to open doors and snap off lights, to retrieve a can or a dime.
Time for travel…from Palmetto to Michigan to Palmetto. Time to settle in Clearwater where that 60 lb. Black Labrador dynamo named LIBBY guides and pulls Will Kuhlman down the aisle of his First United Methodist Church and up the ramp of his favorite restaurant. She whips that Top End chair, low to the ground, sleek and fast, down city streets turning heads as they go.
From 6 feet strolling to 4 feet strolling, inspiration showing in a quote at his back, ‘We walk by faith, not sight —II Corinthians 5:7,’ faith and determination keep will moving forward. “I ain’t quittin’, yet.” He says.
It shows in this sun-filled apartment, much cleaner than most, alphabetized soups, spices, and fruits. Neat little rows of foodstuffs and stores tell the story of a man who won’t give up his independence.
So the story of Will and LIBBY is about courage. It’s about cooperation between agencies that never did before. It’s about stretching and fiddling, with commands and harnesses and daring to do what no one else would try. It’s about people, lots of them, including Will Kuhlman who showed what it all meant when he said, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”
Words of “LUV”- A story about a client and her Hearing Dog- Story 2 of 40
What follows are excerpts from the following stories: “Luv arrives for the Wilt Family” (printed in April 1993); “Luv Works!” (printed in May 1993); and “Luv Takes the Test” (printed in June 1993) which ran in the issues of the WASHHHBoard. These excerpts have been reprinted with the permission of the WASHHHBoard and the author, Karen Wilt.
The WASHHHBoard is the Washtenaw Area Self Help for Hard of Hearing People and can be contacted by writing to WASHHH, Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, 2568 Packard Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48104.
Four years ago I heard about Paws With A Cause® and wondered if one of their dogs could help me. We talked about it, and I even filled out an application, but we decided no.
Then last summer a gas main exploded down the street from us. Mich-Con evacuated everyone to the street behind our house. Much later in the day, I heard about it. During the crisis, I hadn’t heard anything.
That night my husband left at three in the morning to go to work in order to make a deadline. After the door closed, my eyes popped open. You know how it is in the middle of the night, no hearing aids, dead silence, and an overactive imagination. “What if…” started playing games with my brain. “What if the gas main blew again?” I wouldn’t hear the knock on the door. “What if a burglar broke in?” He’d have to shake me to get my attention, and if he had a nylon hose over his face, I wouldn’t be able to lip read his demand for money. “What if PJ has an asthma attack?”
Would he be able to crawl to me and would I recognize his wheeze in the darkened room?
By this time it was four and I was wide awake and not about to fall asleep. I turned on the computer and wrote a long letter to PAWS®. I told them about a time I had been hanging up laundry and a tall man in dark clothes had come up behind me and given me a dozen gray hairs before I realized it was policemen come to warn about some power lines which were down. I told them about the frustration of missing telephone calls and people knocking at the door. And I told them about the added fears of missing my children crying when hurt and calling me.
A few weeks later I got a letter saying I would be interviewed. Lori Paradise showed up with a huge black dog from the Humane Society. She tested him in the backyard while I tried to bring some quiet to the normal chaos in my household.
We filled out a new application since mind had been an old version. She told me to convince her that I needed a hearing dog. I still wasn’t sure what I did, since I am not total deaf, but I listed different incidents Lori said, “Yeah, a dog could help you a lot.” So she approved the request and I waited.
About a month ago she called and asked if the training center had called me. My dog was ready. We headed for Grand Rapids, but because of a mix-up, came home without a dog. One week later we returned and brought LUV home. She’s beautiful, a small black lab with a shepherd’s tail that wags a mile a minute. The training center called her Liz, but that became Lizzie and then Lizard. A new name cured the problem, and she has answered to LUV from the first day. The training center supplied a crate for her which she slept in at first. Last night Paul flew from California, so she slept outside of the crate for the first time. No burglars tried to break in, but at about seven-thirty, I woke up. I lay in bed too lazy to start the day when Christina slipped into the room in her fluffy pajamas. Like a periscope, LUV’s head rose up over the side of the bed to check out the situation, then sank back to her carpet and her eyes closed.
She is a smart dog. When my neighbor called Sunday morning and said LUV ran through her front yard, I raced to the door and started calling for her. She appeared almost instantly, happy to be wanted and need. A few minutes later I discovered that she had figured out how to open the back gate by herself!
These first few days there is no pressure to get her to work as my ears. She is just bonding to me, first, and to my family second. When I felt a growl in her throat when some kids ran by on the bike path behind our yard, I knew she adopted us for her own family.
A nose nudges my hand. “What, LUV?” I ask. She trots through the room with me at her heels and into the kitchen where I finally hear the phone ringing. “Good girl,” I tell her picking up the phone and giving her a treat. I hear my brother on the line saying, “I’m not a girl!”
Later she guides me to the door when the neighbor knocks. I never used my timer on the oven until now. My family swears eternal gratitude for the meals that no arrive unburned. And the buzzer on my dryer now brings LUV running in time to get the clothes out before they wrinkle.
Long ago I quit setting my alarm clock and had switched the sound off on the dryer because it was useless. Now I use these devices. This must be the same feeling people had as technology created new labor-saving devices. “Wow, this really helps!” Not everything runs perfectly. We’ve had a good laugh about the smoke alarm; she began confusing it with the clothes dryer. Several times she has led me outside to save from having to fold the laundry (a true WASHHH dog.”)
But when my friend Michelle’s house burned this week, I thanked the Lord for LUV. Michelle heard a window pane break and thought, “Oh no, a burglar!” With the door closed the fire was contained to one room at first and did not set off the smoke detector. LUV would have woken me had I been in her place. I would not have heard the glass shatter or the smoke detector in the stairway.
I’ve written a new Chinese proverb to quote as I mop the floor, “She who has a white kitchen floor should not have a muddy backyard for dog.” But we run about the same on the cleaning schedule since I don’t have to sweep up the children’s crumbs as often.
Though we don’t feed LUV table scraps, she does enjoy the advantage of having two younger children under her care.
We’ve ventured out to several places though she hasn’t earned her certification yet. The trip to the airport with her as co-pilot gave me extra security. Just having a dog along for the trip at five in the morning gave me protection.
Twice I’ve been told dogs aren’t allowed, but as soon as I told them LUV is a hearing dog, they said it was fine to bring her along.
The other night while I was reading in bed, LUV’s head raised up and she looked around questionably. “What’s making a noise?” I asked Paul. He concentrated or a moment and then said, “Oh, a jet is flying overhead.” I gave her a pat, told her she was a good girl, and she went back to sleep.
Our newest assignment is for her to learn out names. Christina and PJ love hiding in odd places as I ask LUV, “Where’s PJ?” and then, “Where’s Christy?”
We took LUV with us on vacation to a friend’s home in Indiana. Even their runaway chicken didn’t phase her. She really wanted to go along for the rowboat ride, but I wasn’t ready for that! As we stood in the kitchen talking, a buzzer on the dishwasher went off. LUV charged in to alert me to this strange noise.
The first June LUV took her test. She thought it was all fun and games, so that left me to be nervous for both of us! I had to prove I can handle her well and that she is alerting me to sounds, to receive her certification. A small tag about the size of a driver’s license states that she is now a hearing dog and allowed access to any public building. The back of the tag states the law and the consequences of denying us access – jail time and a stiff fine.
I’ve been twice as busy as usual this past month, but LUV has kept up with boundless energy and a zest for life that I admire. I enjoy taking a ten-minute break from my work to throw a couple tennis balls for her to retrieve, or chase her around the pine trees, (or maybe she is chasing me!) I’ve read that a scientific study proved that petting an animal lowers your blood pressure. Min should reach zero any time now. Petting LUV is irresistible (so I always feel bad telling people they can’t pet her in public.)
We’ve had several cook-outs. One windy evening the smoke blew into the house through the screen door and set off the smoke detector in the stairway. Although we were all outside, LUV went tearing up the yard to double check the source of the sound and be sure we were all safely outside.
I’ve been amazed at how well she is loved by my neighbors. They ask about her all the time. She attended a birthday party at my folk’s house. She did great, seven kids and six adults all were truly impressed by her good behavior.
Susan Baughn set up a PAWS® demonstration for the hearing impaired students in the Ann Arbor public schools. LUV and I joined the class with Lori Paradise and her two dogs. The kids asked lots of good questions. Many of them wanted a dog. Hopefully, PAWS® will provide a hearing dog for each of them one day. One boy had his strategy well-planned. He would go to college and keep the dog in the dorms with him. That would be wonderful.
LUV is dozing at my feet as I type here (she does double-duty as a foot warmer.) She’s had a busy day with lots of telephone calls, the dryer buzzing and the oven timer going off. Later we’ll take a walk. She’s proud of her new backpack and likes to show it off. She’s changed our lives. I’m not sure if she’s given me more confidence or Paul more confidence in us as a team. Paul has fewer reservations and much more peace of mind because of LUV.
A letter from 1993 about a client and their Service Dog- Story 3 of 40
Dear Paws With A Cause,
I was born with Spina Bifida and practically grew up going in and out of hospitals. Overcoming many barriers in my 49 years of life, striving always to be independent and somewhat militant in that area, not wanting to ask anyone for assistance if possible. Never taking life for granted, thanking God for each new day with its many challenges doing the best I can one day at a time.
Ambulatory until the summer of 1982 when my legs were no longer strong enough to allow me to walk. Confinement to a wheelchair made me angry and bitter for about a year until I finally adapted to wheelchair life and started channeling that anger in a positive direction, getting involved in wheelchair athletics, 10K races, marathons, basketball, football, baseball, water skiing, snow skiing, scuba diving, and even skydiving. Never having done most of these things before! I don’t think it was the wheelchair as much as it was reaching a mid-life crisis (smile). I still don’t like asking anyone to help me but I’m getting better in the arena.
I applied for a PAWS Service Dog August 3, 1992, and picked up DEVER July 20, 1993. I did not specify the breed of dog I wanted, only that I wanted a large dog because I’m a photographer and have a wheelchair that allows me to stand for photography and video work. It was the first time PAWS trained a “Service Dog” with a standing wheelchair.
DEVER is a large beautiful Chocolate lab whose nickname at PAWS was “Bullwinkle” because of his large head. I live in an apartment that does not allow dogs but by law, they cannot disallow DEVER. I’ve only had DEVER for six weeks and we are inseparable. DEVER goes everywhere with me and the staff, management, and tenants of the building now love having DEVER in the building.
DEVER pulls my chair, opens doors, carries and watches my camera equipment on photo shoots, works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no complaints only needing love and attention which he gets plenty of from me, my friends and even strangers. I must mention DEVER also has an independent streak in him. Here we are on a photo shoot taking pictures of the chairman of Omni Bank Corporation (William Johnson) and his Secretary General Counsel (Kenneth Hylton). The two gentlemen wanted pictures with the Ren Cen in the background and Cobo Hall, I took the picture from the swimming pool deck of the Hotel Pontchartrain. I turned my back for a brief moment to get the photo when a voice said: “there goes your dog.” DEVER was at full gallop when he leaped into the pool, harness, leash and all and swam the full length of the pool climbed out shook the water off and walked over to me. He looked at me with those sad eyes as if to say “I know I wasn’t supposed to do that, but the water looked so inviting, besides it’s hot out here.”
Thanks again PAWS for such a wonderful program. DEVER is a great companion and a dog truly is man’s best friend. Anyone with a PAWS dog is naturally an ambassador for your program. We are constantly asked questions by the public. Keep up the good work.
Good things are worth waiting for- Story 4 of 40
LADY is my key to keep smiling. I have my independence back and I even went back to high school and got my diploma! LADY graduated with me and she was excellent. Hey… Look out college, here we come!
LADY and I like going to places and seeing the expressions on people’s faces while she is working. When she opens doors, picks up things I drop and pulls my wheelchair, they’re always amazed.
LADY is always by my side; we go and play bingo every week. She gets under the table and snores until it’s time to leave.
LADY is my best friend, pal, buddy, but most of all she’s a babe. I want to say thanks to all the Moose Lodge #440 members for sponsoring me and thanks to Ken for finding LADY. They say that good things are always worth waiting for; well she was one of those good things!
I also want to say thanks to everyone who helped train LADY, to Mike and Candye and to everyone at PAWS for changing our lives!
God Bless You
Marie and ARTY- Story 5 of 40
Life-changing moments can come at any time, and in many shapes and sizes.
PAWS Client Marie had one when she was 20 years old. While pursuing her physical education degree at Western Michigan University, Marie and her best friend were in a car accident.
“It wasn’t a major wreck,” Marie recalled. “But this was more than 20 years ago when seat belts weren’t used the way they are now. If I’d been wearing one, I’d likely have been fine. But I wasn’t. I was thrown forward inside the car and slammed back hard enough to sustain a spinal cord injury.”
Marie had permanent quadriplegia and spent six months recovering in the hospital. The young woman left in a wheelchair, her life forever altered.
Life-changing Assistance Dogs can also come at any time, and in many shapes and sizes. Marie was paired with PAWS Service Dog MISSY – a white, Standard Poodle – when she was 28 years old.
“It took a while for PAWS to find MISSY for me,” Marie shared. “But she was so worth the wait! We had an amazing bond. MISSY was every inch a ‘business lady’ and she took great care of me. We went everywhere together.”
Marie and MISSY were a team for 12 years before MISSY passed away in 2010. In 2011, Marie applied for a PAWS Successor Dog. PAWS knew another Poodle would be a good match in Marie’s household since her husband suffers from dog allergies. She received Service Dog ARTY about a year later. “ARTY is all boy and a total lover,” smiled Marie. “He’s so different from MISSY – I know he dislikes going shopping with me, for example, which MISSY loved – but I completely adore him!”
Marie explained that the difference ARTY makes in her life is enormous: “I can’t count the number of times ARTY picks something up for me during the day! It may sound minor, but it’s often truly impossible for me to pick something up from the floor myself. ARTY doesn’t let me try. He can hear a hairpin drop from another room, and he’s always there in a blink to get it for me.”
“I literally couldn’t leave my house without ARTY,” she continued, “I need him to open and close the door behind me. Sometimes things get tangled up in the wheels of my chair, and if I didn’t have ARTY to get the phone for me, I’d be stuck waiting for someone to come to my rescue. He gives me – and my husband, too – a sense of security and peace of mind. I can’t imagine being without him.”
Whether Poodle or Labrador, Golden Retriever or Papillon, PAWS Assistance Dogs make a life-changing difference for their Clients. Thank you for helping to make stories like Marie and ARTY’s possible!
My new life with Hope 2004- Story 6 0f 40
For twenty-some years, I myself was a foster home for all breed rescue, specializing in Chinese Shar -Pei and Chihuahua rescue. For all of those years, I was the one going to the shelter on a daily basis in hopes of being able to give another lost dog a second chance at having a good home with a loving family that all of God’s creatures deserve and desperately need.
I had heard very little about PAWS until one day when I had the pleasure of meeting Lori, a Field Instructor for the Detroit area. It so happened that I had put a deposit down on the rescue of a Lab mix from the shelter. Within a couple hours, I received a call from Lori wanting to know if I would allow her to take the Lab into PAWS program instead of having me take her. She explained to me what PAWS was all about, and feeling the dedication Lori obviously had for her job of training these special dogs in order to help people with limited mobility and very little independence, how could I refuse.
Little did I know that 10 years later I myself would be one of those people with limited mobility and very little independence. My health was failing and I had to give up large dog rescue first and then it came time for me to give up small dog rescue as well. I had to move into an apartment that didn’t allow me to continue my life dedicated to the animals I loved so much. Those beautiful creatures that filled my days with love and a feeling that I was doing something good were no longer going to be part of my life. My world as I knew it had changed and that really depressed me terribly.
Then one day a friend and I went shopping and I ran into a woman that had two Service Dogs (not from PAWS). She showed me what they did for her and told me that I would be a great candidate to have a Service Dog. Even though I knew about PAWS it just never occurred to me that after all those years of receiving love from all of my rescued friends that it did not have to end. After several calls, a home visit or two and several months later, I met HOPE. We fell in love with each other at first sight. She has eyes that can make you melt. Her personality is one that lights up the whole room and she surprises me every day at how smart she really is. I finally have my independence back. More than that I have my life back. HOPE is my guardian angel. She does everything asked of her and more. On July 9th HOPE graduated with flying colors as the two of us earned our certification. Now we are a permanent team and our lives have just begun. I know that we will make great strides together, HOPE and I.
My Guardian Angel 2004- Story 7 of 40
I am a new mom to a beautiful girl who happens to have four paws. Her name is IRIS. I think she is the most precious and “special gift”, other than my children, that I have in my life. I want to thank all of you for your kindness in working very hard at what you do with Paws With A Cause, and making my daily life easier.
Whatever area you work in, the office, or in training prospective Service Dogs, all of you are needed in an important and special way. You have made a difference in my life. All of you make PAWS continue its well-known reputation with placing Service Dogs in the homes of individuals like myself, who suffer from different kinds of disabilities. You have made my dream come true- fulfilling a greater level of independence in my home, and out in public. IRIS is a wonderful and beautiful Service Dog who I look at as my “Guardian Angel Special Pooch.”
All of you who work at or for PAWS have touched my life in a very special way. You have made a positive difference in my life. Just in these past few weeks the dog you have made possible, IRIS, has brought more positive experiences to my life. Now, instead of going out in public and being embarrassed by some individual asking me why I walk funny or, “What is wrong with you?” in reference to when I’m using my scooter, I can now hold my head up proudly with a smile since IRIS takes the attention off of me. Yes…I was told that would happen and it sure has! IRIS needs one SUPER LARGE patch to cover her entire body that says, “I like all of you to look at me because I’m so cute, but PLEASE DO NOT PET ME…I’M WORKING!”
It makes me feel proud to know that not only does IRIS bring me constant laughs and smiles to my face, but she also makes other individuals smile that may have had a “not so good” day. I’m also amazed at how people are very understanding and polite when I ask that they don’t pet IRIS because she is training and working as my Service Dog. I’ve even answered some questions for people who wanted to know what services PAWS has to offer. I need to brush up on “Service Questions 101” since this has happened frequently. I felt honored by people asking me to share information with them about PAWS opportunities such as being a Foster Puppy Raiser. Before IRIS came into my life, I felt alone. That feeling has come and gone.
IRIS helps me in so many different ways. One way she helps me is by frequently picking up dropped items from the floor since my right-hand grip is not so good anymore. Dropping items throughout the day isn’t so worrisome anymore because I know my “guardian angel” with four paws will be there for me to happily retrieve those items. Also, before IRIS came into my life I would be afraid to pick up items because if I bend over too far, I will lose my balance and fall.
IRIS is definitely a true companion for me that I can always count on to be there for me. She couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. This past year my husband passed away and it seems like my two teenage daughters are hardly ever home anymore, as they keep busy with school activities and friends. When the girls are home, I really feel uncomfortable asking them for their assistance. I don’t want them to feel like their mother is more of a burden than a mother. So, with all of this in mind, I truly admire IRIS’ gift of always wanting to “please” and “help me” when I need it.
My relationship with IRIS is also a “give and take” type of rewarding connection in that IRIS gives me the assistance, reassurance, and love that I need in my daily life and in return, she gets the love, respect, honor, praise and a few delicious doggy treats that she has earned. IRIS also enjoys going for daily walks. I take the scooter out in our neighborhood and IRIS and I practice working on the skills that the PAWS trainers have taught her. She loves the outdoors! I am fortunate to have a neighborhood with plenty of sidewalks to keep us on the go. As each day passes, I can feel our bond grow stronger. Now I look forward to waking up each morning with a smile on my face, even though my physical muscular pain from my Muscular Dystrophy never does away. I look at each new day as a “new beginning” which will bring happiness and new memories for IRIS and me to share.
Compliments 1996- Story 8 of 40
From the moment he came bounding though the front door on that frigid December Friday night, excited about his trip and checking over everything in the apartment, life seemed warmer. Black as the night itself, WISCONSIN, a Labrador just under two years old and full of all the vigor and curiosity of a puppy, yet with the maturity and training of a seasoned pro, had finally arrived.
He finished his training with Paws With A Cause in Michigan a little ahead of the scheduled six months and was allowed to come home to his new owner in time for Christmas. That owner is my boyfriend Roy, who, about a year ago, first heard about a PAWS Assistance Dogs. Roy’s fall off a cliff at Turner Falls one night 12 years ago, seven before I met him, left him paraplegic and without the use of his left arm. Thank goodness his good humor was left intact and his penchant for finding the most suitable way to overcome any unpredictable hand that life might deal. The expression on Roy’s face when he saw WISC for the first time was something I’d never seen before – like a child who’s just seen Santa Claus or a father who looks at his baby for the first time. Perhaps he was thinking of all the helpful things WISCONSIN would be doing for him soon. Maybe he was just impressed to see that his new companion, so handsome and full of energy, really was going to change his life. We had already been forewarned that I was not – nor anyone except Roy- allowed to give WISCONSIN any attention for the first month, so that he and Roy would bond properly. But that first night, Barbara Lewis, PAWS Regional Representative for Oklahoma, allowed me and WISCONSIN one hour to acquaint ourselves. It was very difficult after that to restrain myself from petting or looking at him. I know he is Roy’s dog and how important it is for WISCONSIN to be loyal to only him. But I loved that dog from the first moment and could feel nothing but joy when he walked in that night.
WISCONSIN took the first week fairly well. I think he was less stressed than Roy at times. It was a busy week for us, being so close to Christmas. Their first trip out was to a large pet store where dogs and cats are welcome to shop alongside their owners. This was a true test of distraction for WISCONSIN, who was fine until he met up with Santa Claus. When he barked heartily at the jolly old soul, we nearly jumped out of our skins. But, with his furry two-tone suit and long counterfeit beard, Santa was an unnatural-looking sort of guy – enough to startle anyone! True to his training, though, he quieted immediately when told.
A luncheon at the Greystone in Edmond was next on Roy and WISCONSIN’s agenda. Roy’s co-workers, particularly Koveta, who owns several Alaskan Malamutes, love the newest addition to the office. WISCONSIN behaved like a perfect gentleman on this occasion that landed on his fourth day of service.
Aside from his full-time position at the University of Central Oklahoma, Roy also had a black tie affair to attend that first week. Complete with bow tie and backpack, WISCONSIN strutted alongside us into the hotel where ushers stood to open the door. And what should they be dressed as? Elves! WISCONSIN liked their costumes about as much as he liked Santa’s, so we hurried by before WISC could grab hold of any of the temptingly furry trim from their costumes.
By Thursday, a photographer from the Daily Oklahoman had come out to the university to shoot pictures of Roy and WISCONSIN in action. The story ran in the community sections around the city the week of Christmas. WISC is fast becoming a local celeb.
Many who first see WISC make a beeline to pet him. Roy’s main duty, at times, is telling others to leave the guy alone. But, WISCONSIN’s warm brown eyes and wagging tail speak to anyone with a soul, and his fur as sleek as oil and soft as feathers. That he is so behaved for such a young dog is only more appealing, and WISCONSIN, like Roy, endears himself to everyone he meets. To me, they are compliments to one another.
As the weeks go by, and routine takes its hold on all of us, WISCONSIN has become a part of Roy’s life that he could not imagine going on without. After a month, WISCONSIN is already keyed into Roy’s voice, movements, and patterns. The two follow Roy’s regular daily routine as well as they can, and WISC, Roy is assured, will fall into a boring, repetitious and less-excited state as they traverse the grocery stores and malls and restaurants of Oklahoma City. But, I secretly hope WISC will preserve in his personality at least some of his boyish charm that endears so many to him.
My Best Friend-Story 9 of 40
Life is getting more manageable for 19-year-old Michael Mills. Thanks to an organization that provides service dogs to the handicapped.
Mills, paralyzed from the waist down since a near-fatal automobile accident two-and-a-half years ago, is Mississippi’s first recipient of a service dog from Paws With A Cause.
PAWS is a national non-profit organization that identifies and develops ways to establish mutually beneficial working relationships between people with disabilities and dog. PAWS trains hearing dogs and service dogs to carry out tasks for disabled people.
An intelligent two-year-old golden retriever named CHANCE, who’s just finished six months of service training in Michigan, arrived at Michael’s Smithville home August 30, quickly coming his closest friend.
Tracy Sargent, a regional PAWS representative from Birmingham, spends every other weekend at the Mills home as a field trainer for Michael and his dog.
She helps Michael learn commands and get the most use of his dog that has been trained with his individual needs in mind. “I teach them to work as a team,” she said.
The first weekend she spent with the pair, Tracy taught them some commands. By command, the dog can switch lights on and off, retrieve things on the floor from as small as a coin to as big as a pair of crutches, and summon help if needed.
With Michael confined to a wheelchair most of the time, CHANCE also helps pull him along and helps open and close doors, both household and commercial.
When given the command ‘crutch,’ CHANCE goes and picks up Michael’s crutch in his mouth and gives it to him. All CHANCE expects in return is acknowledgment and a hug or pat on the head. “All of the training is done with positive reinforcement,” said Tracy.
The dog has even been taught left from right and knows which way to turn on command. They’re still working with me to teach me my right from left,” Michael joked.
Employed as a recreational therapist at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, Michael takes his service dog to work with him each day. The dog also accompanies him to the mall and even to church.
“He sleeps through the sermon,” Michael laughs.
“That should tell the preacher something,” he teases.
The dog has even been trained to help Michael with his banking. He will take his check or deposit slip in his mouth and jump up to the teller’s window and leave it. He will then get it when it’s finished and return the money or envelope to Michael.
During a recent outing at the mall in Tupelo, Michael and Tracy had CHANCE put the book Michael was purchasing up on the check-out counter at the bookstore. The dog then relays the money to the clerk and does everything for Michael while he remains seated in his wheelchair.
Tracy admits that banking and sales transactions can get a little soggy, but it enables Michael to handle these chores.
Besides making everyday tasks more manageable for Michael, the dog has been a real boon to the teen’s social life. “Lots of nice looking girls come up to Michael at the mall since he’s got the dog,” Tracy said with a smile. “It’s really been quite a boost to him in that regard.”
Michael’s progress in learning to use the service dog is ahead of schedule. “He’s really learning quickly,” Tracy said.
Once Michael and his dog are officially certified as a team, they’ll be ID’d and have legal access to any place the world. “They can legally go on airplanes, in subways, into restaurants, malls, anywhere together,” Tracy explained. “The dog will then wear an orange collar and have an orange leash, designating this.”
CHANCE was selected for Michael based on their common personality characteristics. “PAWS want the client and dog to have a special bond,” Tracy said. “Because it could mean life or death to the client depending on the circumstances.”
She said CHANCE is an outgoing dog, just as Michael is an outgoing young man who likes to be out in public a lot. She said a shy-type dog would be better suited for someone who is more confined to their home.
Michael has discovered that having a service dog means having new responsibilities of his own. “It’s kind of like having a baby,” he said. “I’ve got to get up at 5:30 to feed him every day. He insists on it. I’ve got responsibility now. It’s as if I were a father. CHANCE is like my child.”
It hasn’t taken long either way for Michael to become bonded with his dog just as a parent would to a child. Michael really understands now why canines are considered man’s best friend.
“I give him a hug first thing every morning,” Michael said. “I talk to him, too. I even tell him my troubles if no one else wants to listen.”
It’s all about good Karma- Story 10 of 40
I got my first wonderful, incredible, beautiful, smart service dog on July 15, 2008 – I remember it well. Her name was KARMA and boy did that name fit for her and she lived up to it spreading good love, kindness, and beauty to each and every life she touched. She touched my life and changed it forever! She gave me, my friends and family the freedom to not worry about me having a seizure and being left all alone, and possibly dying….and in return, I gave her a great life and many adventures. We were an awesome team – living life to the highest and keeping each other safe.
Some of my most incredible memories I shared with her – the first day I received her was at the Muskegon Lake Express dock. From the top deck of the boat, I could see her standing there, a bit worried, not sure what was going to happen next. I was handed her leash, gave her a big hug and whispered in her ear “I’m your new mama”. We hopped on the boat headed back to Milwaukee – our new life and story started there.
I have so many incredible memories it gets hard to pick out just a few. Another life-changing memory was the day I flew to Las Vegas to meet her puppy raisers Ken and Mary. Wow, it was an incredible weekend with them – loved seeing her expression when we pulled up to their house. KARMA knew in an instant where she was. She squirmed and barked to get out of the car inside their house where her “herd” of doggie friends must have been barking…I swear she smelled them. (two black labs and one yellow lab). After greeting her doggie peeps she ran back to give both humans a big, hug – it was touching to see the love shared. Next, they brought me to see the Vet who took care of her as a puppy. The doctor cried when he saw KARMA, how big she now was and how great she looked as a Certified Working Service Dog…I think we all cried that morning, it was so touching. Vets are so cool, aren’t they?
This special yellow lab of mine was pretty much perfect – so loving and caring. We traveled the world together and she was a great, relaxed traveler. I took her to the top of mountain tops, skiing at Jackson Hole, Steamboat, Winter Park just to name a few. We went on eight wonderful cruises together stopping at ports like Cozumel, St. Martens, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Costa Maya, and Mazatlán. We visited New York City, Cape Cod, Disneyland, Epcot, Sea World, Universal Studio, Kennedy Space Center and then we carried on to places like six more trips back to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, Minneapolis, Iowa, Kansas, Chicago and Ohio…..the list goes on.
We did it all together, as a team – living a great life and being safe together. I lost my girl KARMA in August and it broke my heart – I’ll never forget her and always remember the best 10 years of my Life she gave me. Today I have a new incredible girl in my life – she has some pretty big paws to fill but she seems up to the task and works to keep me happy, safe and well-loved each and every day.
Thank you Paws With A Cause for the incredible difference these two, beautiful working dogs have made to my life.
Patty and Owen- Story 11 of 40
Patty leaned, sobbing, against her daughter’s kitchen counter as she made some toast. Patty’s daughter, Andrea, found her there and couldn’t understand why Patty was crying: it was her long-awaited Service Dog OWEN’s first day home.
Once, Patty had been a nurse who cared for those in need, including the homeless and HIV communities. Then, Patty was diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia which – along with other medical issues – stripped away almost all of her independence. Patty moved in with Andrea. She could no longer work, was ill and deeply depressed.
“I can’t take care of myself. How can I possibly take care of a dog?” Patty exclaimed to Andrea.
But take care of him Patty did. “Her life started again the day OWEN came home,” Andrea says of her mom.
Day-by-day, OWEN – a big black Lab with a very gentle spirit – and Patty learned to work together as a team. OWEN was trained to brace for Patty when her balance was wobbly. He also picked up things Patty dropped and aided her with tasks like getting dressed. OWEN learned and helped her remember all the steps in her daily routine. He would sit by the spot where Patty kept her medicine until she took her dose.
In time, Patty became strong and happy again. She was able to return to work, and move into a place of her own. Patty and OWEN traveled all over the United States together.
“We got our mom back!” Andrea declared.
In fact, OWEN quite literally saved Patty’s life: one night, OWEN licked and nudged Patty until she woke up to hear the carbon monoxide detector. She was able to call 911 from her bed and got out of her house safely.
Seven amazing years after she was partnered with OWEN, Patty succumbed to her numerous health issues. OWEN was there to the end – a faithful companion, trusted helper, and precious gift.
Stephanie, KEEPER, and HUNTER- Story 12 of 40
Lying in the snow, Stephanie wondered what she was going to do. She lived alone, her phone was inside, she was in pain and could not get up. She looked over at the PAWS Assistance Dog, a black Labrador retriever named KEEPER, standing nearby gazing back at her and thought, “It has only been seven days, will this dog be able to do what she was trained to do? What if she can’t hold my weight?” It was now or never. Stephanie called KEEPER over and told her to brace. “It wasn’t pretty, there was still a lot of ice on the ground,” Stephanie shared, but with KEEPER’s help, Stephanie was able to get up off the ground and go inside. “Things could have gone really badly,” she continued, but KEEPER was there to help.
Stephanie was born with a neurological form of Muscular Dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth. It causes her to have poor balance, low endurance, and when she falls she is not able to get back up without assistance. From a young age she has worn leg braces to assist her.
Stephanie grew up with the support of her family. With her determined spirit and their help she was able to attend college. But as supportive as her friends and family were, Stephanie knew that when she got into the workplace she did not want to depend on co-workers to help her. She also knew that she did not want to continue to live with her parents, so she started to research Assistance Dog organizations and found Paws With A Cause. “I was the epitome of mom and dad’s baby girl moving out on her own and when you add in the disability part, it [an Assistance Dog] gave them a lot of peace of mind.” KEEPER and Stephanie’s partnership was put to the test early on when Stephanie fell and once she got back inside her first phone call was to her parents letting them know what she and KEEPER had been able to accomplish together. “It is awesome, it makes you independent. Once I got a taste of the freedom of not having to depend on another person, that was a very cool feeling.”
Stephanie started a job at the Department of Corrections after graduation. Her job was physically demanding and being on her feet for eight hours a day tested Stephanie’s limited endurance. With KEEPER, Stephanie saw an immediate improvement. She was able to walk longer distances, partially because she did not have to concentrate so hard on keeping her balance. “For the first time I could walk with my head up, not really having to look at my feet,” Stephanie said. She continued, “There was no more fear or panic if I was in the middle of the room and dropped my keys or something else.”
In addition to bracing and helping Stephanie get up if she fell, KEEPER was also trained to retrieve the house phone in case of an emergency, open doors and turn the lights on and off.
Two years ago Stephanie, her husband and child drove to meet with a doctor in California who was able to fit her with new leg braces. “Working with new leg braces, my balance is 250 percent better,” Stephanie shared. Her balance was so much better that when KEEPER started to get close to retirement Stephanie debated on whether or not she really needed another Assistance Dog, but she decided that there was still a need. When Stephanie met HUNTER in the fall of 2015 it wasn’t long before Stephanie knew she had made the right decision.
One evening Stephanie went out to the garage to grab something. She was alone with the kids, because her husband was working the second shift and as she leaned over she lost her balance and fell. She could feel the panic rise; she didn’t have her phone, her kids were in the house and there was nothing in the vicinity that could bear her weight. She called out, her son came to the door and sent HUNTER out to assist her. “It is those moments when you realize what could happen if you can’t get back into the house.” While the new leg braces had made a huge impact they still did not take the place of having an Assistance Dog.
Mark and DANTE- Story 13 of 40
Adjusting to the limitations Multiple Sclerosis imposed was hard on Mark. Walking more than a few steps exhausted him. Reaching to pick something up could topple him off of his scooter. It was the most frustrating experience of his life.
Until he met DANTE, he had no idea the difference a Service Dog could make. Mark is still amazed by all that DANTE can do: pick up anything Mark drops, turn lights on and off, open and close the refrigerator and patio slider doors — even help pull Mark’s pants and socks off at night!
“I work from home as an engineer, so having DANTE with me makes everything better. He gives me the ability to remain independent. I don’t go anywhere without him!”
Linda and SAWYER- Story 14 of 40
At 27 years old, Linda’s life was full. She had two young children, a full-time job and was always on the go. She was quick to laugh and hopeful for what the future had to bring. One evening after cleaning the house, she felt a burning sensation on the bottom of her feet. When the sensation didn’t go away, Linda made an appointment with her doctor who couldn’t find a cause. The next morning she awoke to feelings of numbness from her chest down and in that moment she knew something was seriously wrong. Her diagnosis? Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
According to Ron, his wife has always been a “strong-willed and determined redhead,” so she wasn’t going to let MS slow her down. But as hard as she tried to outrun it, more symptoms caught up with her. She started experiencing sharp eye pain, fatigue, and walking became increasingly challenging. Even as her strength waned, Linda stayed active swimming 5-6 days a week. When she was in the pool, she could walk again without difficulty, giving her a feeling of freedom that was becoming harder to experience. As her disease progressed, she went from a cane to crutches to a wheelchair. She lost much of her upper body strength, making things like opening the refrigerator door nearly impossible.
The idea of applying for a Service Dog was first planted while she and Ron were attending church with a PAWS Foster Puppy Raiser. Initially, Linda was hesitant to apply for a Service Dog. She believed there were other people with disabilities who needed the help more than she did. But as Linda’s symptoms worsened and Ron became increasingly uncomfortable leaving her alone, they made the decision to complete the application for a PAWS Service Dog.
In 2013, Linda received a life-changing phone call from PAWS. They wanted her to meet her potential Service Dog. A beautiful Golden Retriever named SAWYER was brought out to a small group of people including Linda and Ron. SAWYER walked around, greeting each person and then he walked over to Linda and placed his head in her lap. “It was love at first sight,” Linda shared. “She was smitten,” said Ron. In that moment, any hesitation Linda had about getting a PAWS Service Dog vanished.
As Linda’s teammate, SAWYER takes his job very seriously and doesn’t let her down. He opens doors and picks things up when she needs it. Most importantly, he doesn’t give up. During a trip to the mall, Linda dropped a credit card on the slippery tile floor. SAWYER struggled to pick it up until he realized that he could push the credit card to the grout and gain enough traction to pick it up. Every time SAWYER completes a task, tail wagging, he looks to Linda as she gives him praise.
When they go out in public, SAWYER provides Linda with a new found confidence. She said, “People aren’t looking at me and saying, ‘Aww.’ Instead, they are looking at him and saying, ‘Wow.’ Children don’t point at me and say, ‘Look, she is in a wheelchair.’ The wheelchair is no longer visible. SAWYER makes my disability invisible.”
Time and time again, we see the ways a PAWS Dog’s impact goes way beyond a client. Ron worries less knowing his wife has SAWYER by her side. He said, “I don’t worry about SAWYER’s capabilities. I know that if Linda needed to get out of the house for any reason, he would get her out.” Now Ron has started volunteering because he feels confident leaving Linda alone. He said, “SAWYER has liberated Linda in many ways, but he has also liberated me.”
SAWYER has made a tremendous impact in Linda and Ron’s lives in ways they never believed possible. With SAWYER, Linda is even more determined to live a life full of hope and possibilities
You needed me- Story 15 of 40
Click here to watch a video before reading the story.
In “You Needed Me”, you see ARCHER’s growth and training from newly-born pup to working Service Dog through his eyes. You watch how he helps his partner Jill open doors, pick up dropped items and get the phone. You discover how he makes it possible for Jill to do many things she would otherwise have a tough time doing on her own.
When we set out to tell PAWS’ story from the dog’s point of view, we knew Jill and ARCHER would be the perfect pair to play our “grown-up” Client Dog Team. That’s because “You Needed Me” essentially captures a day in their life – and when they’re not busy playing themselves in the video, they’re busy living that life!
Jill, who has low-level quadriplegia as a result of a birth injury, works full-time at a West Michigan college coordinating tutors and other educational services. She’s also working towards her second Master’s Degree. Jill has traveled in the U.S. and Europe, drives her own car, and cooks a tasty lemon chicken. The physical limitations of her disability mean she has to have an attendant come to help her in the mornings, but otherwise, Jill lives on her own, in her own condo with ARCHER.
Whether you watch them on video or meet them in real life, it’s clear ARCHER does more than bring Jill physical independence. He provides emotional freedom and confidence. Truly, they need each other. And that’s a story we’ll never get tired of telling!
My Hardest Goodbye- Story 16 of 40
No matter how she tried to fight it, Janey’s life changed when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. But the one thing she was unwilling to compromise on was her independence. Janey shared, “When you have a chronic illness or disability, you don’t want to give up that one last thing you can do for yourself.”
Then Janey met COLONEL, a PAWS Assistance Dog. “MS took my confidence and independence, but COLONEL has let me reclaim them,” said Janey. COLONEL kept her steady as she walked and helped her stand up if she fell. He opened doors and pushed elevator buttons. “With him at my side, I’m not afraid to go out by myself.” Then came the moment when Janey had to say goodbye after her best friend and Service Dog of eight years COLONEL passed away.
My days will never be the same without COLONEL. When he passed away on April 23, he left a hole in my heart. Describing COLONEL is almost impossible because, as I think of him, almost every accolade falls sadly short of who he was and the impact he made in my life.
Loving? COLONEL was such a loving, caring boy. I remember many a day when my legs weren’t very good and walking was even more difficult. On those days, it seemed like COLONEL was extra vigilant and kept an extra close eye on me. He had an innate sense of when things weren’t quite right. He always had my back and provided my confidence on the end of a leash.
Smart? COLONEL was what I call scary smart. He had a lot of friends who bought him a large collection of toys over the years. I could never get rid of any because he played with them all. When our doorbell rang, he would go to the door to see who was there; he always assumed the visitor was there to see him. He would then run over to his toy box, root around, and find the exact toy the person at the door gave him. He would then take the toy to the door and show them. That earned him the nickname of Toy Savant.
Friendly? To the max. COLONEL never met anyone he didn’t like. When he wasn’t working, he would go out of his way to engage people. He was particularly drawn to people he sensed were in need. If we were with someone grieving a loss, or someone in a wheelchair, he gravitated to them. He’d lay his head in their lap, as if to offer a measure of comfort. His sensitivity level was off the chart.
Funny? COLONEL had a wicked, highly developed sense of humor. I remember one day I was weeding and he was lying in the shade. He had apparently decided he had enough lying around and ran as fast as he could from one end of the yard to the other. On one of his passes by me, without losing a stride, he scooped up my cane and ran away with it. He dropped the cane and looked at me, grinning and panting. I gave him my stern mom look and said: “bring.” He scooped it up and ran back to me, placing it in my hand. Then he looked at me with anticipation of getting a treat for a job well done. I stared back at him and said, “Umm, I don’t think so, Buddy.” He just looked at me mischievously, as if to say, “Well, I had to try.”
Beautiful? Oh, most certainly! His big, blocky head, soulful face, expressive brown eyes and luxurious coat that seemed to flow and float when he moved made him a joy to watch. I met an AKC Judge in an airport once that told me if COLONEL wasn’t my Service Dog he would have done well in the show ring.
COLONEL was just shy of his ninth coming home day and eleventh birthday when he died. It somehow doesn’t seem long enough. But I know he’ll be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge. Quite simply, he was my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.
Dave and CLYDE- Story 17 of 40
“It took a small army to make life happen for Dave, but it did. Life happened.”
So says Dave’s brother, Matt, jokingly, like a brother would.
Dave was born in Minnesota, in January 1969, the second of three boys in a close-knit family. He was born with a central nervous system disorder similar to cerebral palsy. Like so many, Dave’s disability was diagnosed in early childhood; his parents saw he wasn’t developing as fast as other kids his age and took him to the doctor.
Dave’s disorder was degenerative. As a youth, he could communicate verbally. By the time he went to college at the University of Minnesota, Dave was nonverbal. He spoke by finger spelling and writing. He used a wheelchair and had very limited mobility. Family and attendants helped him morning and night.
“My brother had every reason to not want to do something,” Matt noted. “But Dave’s physical condition didn’t stop him. He was very bright and incredibly motivated.”
And Dave had one driving ambition: he wanted to live as independently as possible. He was finishing a master’s degree in epidemiology and public health in Minnesota, and dreamed of continuing his studies at the University of California in Berkeley. But he wasn’t sure how to make that happen.
One day, in a cafeteria on campus at the University of Minnesota, Dave met Emiko, a nurse and professor visiting from Japan, and things fell into place. “Emiko became Dave’s advocate and benefactor,” Matt explained. With the support of his family, she helped him move to California, get set up in a condo of his own near UC Berkeley and apply for a Service Dog from PAWS.
Dave and PAWS Service Dog CLYDE became a team in 2002. For the next 10 years, the two were inseparable. Matt shared, “Dave and CLYDE had a whole system of hand signals down. Their bond was remarkable. CLYDE was Dave’s ‘wing man.’ He improved Dave’s quality of life so much, even beyond the tasks he did. Dave’s physical appearance and challenges communicating could have kept him isolated. CLYDE broke the ice.”
Dave did go on and earn his degree from Berkeley, with CLYDE at his side. In 2011, Dave retired CLYDE from service. He applied for a PAWS Successor Dog, but ultimately decided his disability had advanced too far for him to handle another dog. Sadly, Dave passed away in 2012. He met CLYDE at the far side of the Rainbow Bridge in 2013.
But that’s not quite the end of the story. Dave’s spirit continues on at Paws With A Cause thanks to the estate gift he left to support our mission work.
“Fueling independence for others was important to Dave,” said Matt. “He wanted to help others the way he’d been helped.”
Dave’s drive and achievements are an inspiration. We are so thankful for his example and thoughtful generosity. And we thank you for your support, which makes “life happen” for the clients we serve!
Art and OLLIE- Story 18 of 40
Whether Art is teaching class at Chapman University, riding his bike to the pier or running errands around town, you will always find PAWS Service Dog OLLIE by his side. And it’s obvious that there is no place he would rather be.
Their journey began when Art was 40 years old and had a stroke that resulted in him being diagnosed with quadriplegia. Yet Art didn’t let his disability slow him down. His positive attitude and perseverance kept him active and independent. Art said, “Social and political change toward valuing rights and away from deficit thinking about disabilities made this possible.”
As his children grew older, Art desired an Assistance Dog that would enjoy his active lifestyle, and act as a companion. But more than that, he was looking for a dog that would enhance his independence by opening and closing doors, removing his jacket, retrieving dropped objects, and pulling a personal alarm when he needed help.
When Art first met PAWS Service Dog OLLIE, their Field Rep Lynn knew it was a great match. Art’s stroke impaired his speech, but one of the things that struck her and Art was how patient OLLIE is with him. Lynn shared, “The bond between the two of them is fantastic. It is clear that OLLIE wants to help Art.”
Sometimes the larger–and often unexpected benefit of having an Assistance Dog is the bridge it provides to the community. This is true for Art as he explained, “OLLIE’s help enable me to be a more active participant in the community.” He allows Art to connect more easily with students and faculty members. Art added, “Not only are PAWS Dogs assisting individuals like me; their presence is also transforming society. OLLIE has made two decades of a good life with a disability even better.”
Anna and DINO-Story 19 of 40
Anna sits in the middle of the sidewalk looking at the ground where she dropped her keys. Looking around, she doesn’t see anyone who can assist her, so she waits. Then it dawns on her that she does. “DINO, take it,” Anna says and then smiles as she watches DINO, her goofy and enthusiastic black Labrador Retriever, scoop up the keys and bring them to her lap.
In addition to retrieving dropped items, DINO closes the door for Anna and helps her dress. She no longer has to rely on other people so she can focus on the things that are important to her – her friends and family. “I have dreamed of getting a Service Dog since I was a little girl. DINO is not only a dream come true, he is beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you!”
Watch Anna tell her story here.
Brianna and CHLOE- Story 20 of 40
When you watch Brianna and PAWS Assistance Dog CHLOE together, you’d never know Brianna used to hide behind her mother at church to avoid talking to anyone. Or that January of 2015 marked the first time the college student EVER went to school without her mother in the classroom because she had CHLOE’s assistance. Her mom is seeing her bloom and explains, “I can’t believe the difference in Brianna…She is finally able to be herself.”
When she was just eleven, Brianna was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that leaves her prone to sudden episodes — similar to seizures — which cause her to collapse and essentially lose consciousness for up to 90 minutes. When she comes to, she is disoriented and lethargic. It can take her all day to recover. Knowing that she can simply pass out at any time had a tremendous effect on Brianna’s confidence and independence. She didn’t feel safe being alone. She was hesitant and shy around others.
The length of Brianna’s episodes made finding the right dog for her particularly critical. She needed a dog that had the ability to focus on and stay by her side for more than an hour at a time without getting distracted.
CHLOE does all that, and more, for Brianna. CHLOE can retrieve Brianna’s phone, brace for her to stand up after she falls down and get help and return to her side during an episode. The changes in Brianna since she’s had CHLOE are unmistakable and remarkable. When a stranger asked her about CHLOE recently, Brianna spoke with them at length — something she’d never done before.
These two are a perfect match!
Bennet and AGGIE- Story 21 of 40
At 14 YEARS OLD, Bennett Black’s life changed forever.
It was a searing 96° on August 8, 1997, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, where Bennett grew up. He was riding his motorized scooter to a nearby store – relishing the breeze on his face. He remembers stopping at the crosswalk. The store was right across the corner.
No one knows for sure what happened next.
“I tested my luck,” says Bennett, “and I failed.” As he crossed the road, Bennett was hit by a car traveling 45 mph, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury.
As a result of the accident, over the course of the following year, Bennett developed epilepsy. He had his first grand mal seizure when he was 16. He went from an active boy, interested in airplanes and motorcycles, an aspiring marksman with dreams of enlisting in the Navy, to a young man nearly incapacitated by a half dozen or more seizures a day.
In 2004, Bennett had brain surgery in an attempt to bring his seizures under control. The surgery decreased the frequency of Bennett’s seizures; it also changed the types of seizures he did have, and left him with other physical challenges.
“I woke up and my left arm started shaking uncontrollably. To this day, it hasn’t stopped. Plus, I was still having hour-long grand mal seizures almost every day,” Bennett recalls. “It still took a while before I decided I needed further help from somewhere. I started looking, and my search led me to Assistance Dogs and finally to Paws With A Cause®.”
At 28 years old, Bennett’s life changed again. It was a breezy 73° on October 28, 2011, near Mesa, Arizona, the day Bennett’s Seizure Response Dog, a beautiful Golden Retriever named AGGIE, came home to stay.
Bennett says, “I’m pretty careful now not to test my limits, but AGGIE is a huge asset to me. I have such a sense of relief and feel safer knowing she’s near me.”
Today, Bennett volunteers at his church and focuses on the things he can do. He lives at home with his parents, but he’s much more self-sufficient, thanks to AGGIE. She knows to get help whenever Bennett has a seizure. Once she returns, AGGIE doesn’t leave Bennett’s side until he’s okay.
“People don’t always understand how important Assistance Dogs like AGGIE are, especially for people like me whose disabilities are more unseen,” notes Bennett. “I don’t know how I managed so long without AGGIE; she’s one of the very best!”
Zachary and TITUS- Story 22 of 40
“Zachary actually came to Team Training afraid of dogs on some level. He wouldn’t talk with anyone he didn’t know either.
In one year, TITUS has made such a positive impact in Zachary’s life! Zachary doesn’t have true conversations yet, but his language skills have grown tremendously! He takes great pride in handling TITUS’ leash and giving him commands.
TITUS is an outgoing, loving dog who just captures people’s attention. Many stop and ask us questions whenever we’re out and about. So Zachary is getting lots of practice interacting socially with others. He can tell people his dog’s name and is starting to answer some of their basic questions.
It’s encouraging to see TITUS helping Zachary in other ways, too. He’s taking more responsibility for basic life skills, like brushing his own teeth and hair. We’re excited to think about how much more they’ll grow together. We’re confident Zachary’s relationships and abilities will only continue to get stronger!”
Wilder and THOR- Story 23 of 40
“Wilder has matured so — having THOR has changed our life! Wilder is super responsible for his best buddy. He plays with, cares for and loves on THOR daily. We’ve noticed lots of little successes along the way in just one year.
We’ve also experienced one big miracle. Wilder was always powerfully obsessed with balloons, even as an infant. Before Team Training, one of PAWS’ trainers, Mike, asked me what my goal, my dream for this union was, I replied, ‘That Wilder’s balloon obsession would disappear.’ Honestly, that possibility seemed as miraculous to me as winning the lottery.
Well, shortly after THOR came home with us, we went to the grocery store (which is filled with balloons). On the way back to our house, Wilder boldly declared he didn’t like balloons anymore!
You know what? My son did win the lottery with THOR. We will forever be grateful to PAWS! Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Samuel and FLASH-Story 24 of 40
Like so many children with disabilities, it took time for Samuel to get the right diagnosis.
“Sometimes the signs are hard to read,” explains Samuel’s mom, Suzanna. “I’m sad to say that for a long time I thought Samuel was just being defiant when he struggled to control himself or wouldn’t meet my eyes when I talked to him. I didn’t know better then.”
Initially, doctors said Samuel had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But that diagnosis didn’t explain his sensitivity to loud noises or lack of awareness of others around him. Samuel was six before Suzanna and her husband Mike learned their son also had an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
At that time, Mike was on active military duty, so Suzanna took responsibility for getting Samuel the therapeutic interventions he needed head-on. They moved to be closer to family and to an area abundant with services for children with autism.
Even though Samuel was enrolled in school and several therapy programs, something was still missing. He remained prone to meltdowns. While Samuel had good verbal ability, his social skills lagged. He got stuck in his own head, not paying attention or fully engaging with those around him. His parents believed they could do more to help Samuel flourish.
And that’s where PAWS came in.
Suzanna applied for a PAWS Dog while our Service Dogs for Children with Autism (SDA) program was still in its infancy. Samuel was accepted into our pilot group and he received PAWS Dog NUGGET in 2011.
The whole family loved NUGGET and for several months, all was well. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, NUGGET developed significant allergies that required ongoing treatment. Suzanna and Mike talked with Samuel and together they made the gut-wrenching decision to return NUGGET to PAWS and wait to be matched with another SDA Dog.
“I will always be grateful to NUGGET,” Suzanna notes. “Before her, Samuel didn’t show emotions the same way other children did. I think learning to take care of her, having to think about her needs — they bonded so quickly — shifted something in him. When we decided to send her back, I noticed Samuel making a funny face and asked him what was wrong. He said that he knew he was supposed to be sad and was trying to cry. It was the first time I’d seen him show empathy. It may sound odd, but I consider that a real gift.”
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were able to place PAWS Dog FLASH with Samuel. His parents have watched the bond between Samuel and FLASH grow.
“As Samuel has gotten older, his autism expresses differently. Samuel is more anxious than he used to be, and FLASH helps with that tremendously. Often Samuel will just want FLASH nearby while he plays a videogame or reads in his room — that companionship and being able to reach over and pet FLASH are comforting. Now that Samuel is in middle school, FLASH is becoming his confidante. I sometimes overhear snippets of conversation,” Suzanna admits. “I think Samuel knows he can tell FLASH anything without being judged.”
To everyone who helps make PAWS Teams like Samuel and FLASH possible, thank you! Suzanna shares, “We can’t thank you enough for giving FLASH to Samuel to love, learn from and grow with. You’ve changed our lives.”
It’s because of you that people with disabilities are increasing their independence and families are growing stronger.
Noah and MONTY- Story 25 of 40
Going out in public was difficult for Noah and his family because he was overstimulated by loud noises, busy environments and changes in schedule. The overstimulation led to feelings of anxiety, fatigue, an inability to focus, and eventually meltdowns.
During trips to the grocery store, Noah’s mother Jane could only shop with one hand because she had to hold him with the other to prevent Noah from wandering. “We are used to being hyperaware because Noah’s form of autism decreases his inhibitions. He is fearless and doesn’t have the boundaries that children typically do,” Jane shared.
Noah’s wandering was one reason Jane and her husband decided to apply for a Service Dog for Children with Autism (SDA) for their son. Even though they were optimistic that an Assistance Dog would have a positive impact on Noah, they didn’t anticipate all of the changes that a yellow Labrador Retriever named MONTY would make in their son’s life.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is best stated by Noah. He said, “I’m finally not afraid to go into stores. When MONTY is with me, I can control the buzzing in my brain because I can focus on MONTY.”
Jane shared that since MONTY joined their family, Noah “is a happier person and feels more secure in himself.” Noah is calmed by MONTY’s presence. “Noah’s meltdowns have become fewer and when he does have them, they are much shorter than they used to be. He is able to express his emotions and remove himself from situations that make him feel overwhelmed.”
“Now when we go to the grocery store I can shop with both hands because I don’t have to hold onto Noah with my other,” said Jane. MONTY wears a special harness that attaches to Noah and is trained to stop whenever Noah tries to wander away. And it’s simple tasks like this that make such a profound impact for Noah’s family. Jane is now confident MONTY will keep her vivacious six-year-old close.
This has given their family the opportunity to go places without the concern of Noah becoming overwhelmed. Because with MONTY by his side, the world doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
Jane gushed, “We are so grateful to the people who helped make it possible for us to have MONTY. He has been a huge blessing.”
Logan and TYCO-Story 26 of 40
“Logan and TYCO have really bonded, and are amazing together. They both love bubbles, the park and just playing outside.
Before TYCO, Logan often had meltdowns, which could last for a long time. Now, TYCO helps redirect and calm Logan. In fact, Logan’s doctor asked about this issue at our recent well-child visit, and it was incredible to realize I could not think of a major meltdown since TYCO’s been with us!
We’re looking forward to having TYCO come with us on our first family vacation since Team Training. He makes it easier in many ways for us to go out in public as a family. I value that TYCO brings a silent understanding to community members. I don’t have to be constantly ready to explain autism anymore.
TYCO’s presence has been life-changing for our family, and especially for Logan. We’re so very grateful to PAWS and everyone who was involved in bringing him into our lives!”
Liam and GABE- Story 27 of 40
Liam doesn’t say much — autism limits his verbal communication — but his smile speaks volumes. While he’s always been happy at home, something was missing. Liam spent most of his time alone, and often couldn’t express when he was feeling anxious or sick.
Now his Service Dog for Children with Autism, GABE, gives Liam the ability to soothe himself. When he’s feeling upset, Liam stops and puts his ear by GABE’s muzzle. GABE’s breathing calms him.
GABE is also helping Liam make social connections. His mom said, “The first person Liam ever let pet GABE was another boy with autism. It was like Liam knew and wanted to share GABE with him.”
Brady and ROCKY- Story 28 of 40
“ROCKY’s sweet, soothing disposition fits in with our family beautifully.
On the autism spectrum, Brady is considered high-functioning. He has great verbal and cognitive skills. But he’s prone to outbursts when his senses get overloaded. Brady also has a visual impairment. So certain situations – like being outside or in a crowd of people – are doubly stressful for him.
With ROCKY, Brady’s episodes are fewer and less intense. ROCKY seems to know when Brady starts getting anxious and needs comforting. Brady rubs a favorite spot behind ROCKY’s ears which calms him right down. I say ROCKY keeps Brady grounded. Brady says, ‘ROCKY just makes me feel good.’
I’ve noticed that going out as a family is actually easy now. ROCKY has helped people in our community understand Brady and his disabilities better. It’s gentle awareness-raising. Brady explains it best, ‘When ROCKY’s cape is off, he’s a regular dog. But when his cape is on, he’s a superhero!’ And he is. Absolutely.”
Malachi and NEWMAN- Story 29 of 40
Malachi wants what every 13-year-old boy wants: to be included, to feel accepted, and to experience all that life has to offer. And with NEWMAN – his Service Dog for Children With Autism – by his side, this is all possible.
But life before NEWMAN was less certain. Before his second birthday, Malachi received an autism diagnosis which rocked his family’s world. As Malachi grew older, he experienced night terrors and struggled to sleep through the night. He developed a tendency to run away in public. He had a fascination with water that made backyard gatherings hazardous. Even traveling to the grocery store became a scary experience for his family.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been in mud, sand, dirt, grass, covered from head to toe, because Malachi just doesn’t understand the dangers of the road,” explained Malachi’s mother, Margie. She and her husband knew a PAWS Dog was what they needed to help keep Malachi safe. And from the moment they brought NEWMAN home, keeping Malachi safe is exactly what he has done.
“It is really nice to be able to relax and not have to be anxious about what’s going to happen next,” said Margie, recounting some of their first trips together as a team. “The bond they share is amazing because Malachi wants to be with NEWMAN; where if he was walking hand-in-hand with me, he would want to wiggle his hand away and get away from me.”
NEWMAN acts as a security blanket for Malachi at night and helps him overcome his night terrors. He provides a point of focus for Malachi in public, so Malachi is less likely to run. He offers Malachi constant companionship and acceptance. But one of the biggest things NEWMAN has done for Malachi is make his world bigger.
With the encouragement of PAWS, Margie, Malachi, and NEWMAN began participating in their local 4-H nearly two years ago. They started in the Special Kids & Special Dogs exhibition and then entered the Cloverbud Class for agility. “It was phenomenal how everyone embraced us – even though we look different and we do things a little bit differently,” said Margie.
Today the trio is active in the Doggie Diggers 4-H Club and currently shows for the United Kennel Club (UKC). They are making it more acceptable for other individuals who need accommodations to show their dogs.
Marguerite and SCARLETT-Story 30 of 40
Marguerite stops before walking inside of a building. “SCARLETT, touch,” she states. SCARLETT jumps up and touches the push plate with her nose, opening the door to the building. Marguerite reaches down to pat SCARLETT’s golden head, and they walk inside the building together.
SCARLETT is more than Marguerite’s Hearing and Service Dog, SCARLETT is her partner. Marguerite says, “SCARLETT allows me to be more independent and she is a great companion.” She opens doors for Marguerite, picks up items she drops, helps her balance, braces if she needs help getting up. She also alerts Marguerite to different sounds such as her ringing phone, alarm clock, smoke alarm, and her name being called.
Logan and MOCHA- Story 31 of 40
Paws With A Cause met seven-year-old Logan and his family in 2009. Logan, who lives with autism, was a beautiful boy. But he struggled to communicate with the outside world and seemed immersed in his own reality; his own thoughts. Even more terrifying for his family, Logan would often run away without any fear of the unknown.
His parents searched for a solution, never giving up hope. They knew there had to be a way to bridge the gap between their world and Logan’s. They knew there had to be a way to keep Logan safe.
PAWS responded to their call for help with DENVER – PAWS’ first Service Dog for Children With Autism (SDA) – and the impact he had on Logan was instant.
Tina, Logan’s mother, had purchased two sleeves of tennis balls for DENVER to play with upon his arrival. She placed these on the kitchen counter and left the room. Logan, with the ingenuity of a seven-year-old, climbed onto the counter to get a tennis ball for DENVER.
Tina found herself overcome with emotion upon walking into this scene. Because, for the first time in his life, Logan had recognized and responded to the needs of someone else. She knew in this moment their lives were forever changed.
But life took an unexpected turn for Logan and his family when DENVER passed from cancer in 2016. “The loss to our family was more impactful than we could have imagined,” shared Tina. “We had always known how important he [DENVER] was for Logan, but we had not realized just how much he had done for the rest of the family.”
Their family struggled through the next year without DENVER. While it was true Logan was doing well in many aspects of life, and no longer needed a fully certified assistance dog, he still had a critical need for a PAWS Dog.
This sparked a new conversation at PAWS: how could PAWS meet the needs of SDA Clients later in life? PAWS and Logan found the answer in a golden retriever named MOCHA, the first SDA successor dog.
“His contributions to our lives are exactly what we all needed at this point in our life, yet so different than what we had experienced in the past with DENVER,” explained Tina. “Although MOCHA will never replace the love we all have for DENVER, he brings something brand new and desperately needed to our family.”
MOCHA is an amazing dog, but service dog work was not his calling. He had a different purpose in life. Unlike DENVER, whose job it was to respond to Logan, MOCHA continually engages him. MOCHA keeps Logan connected with the outside world.
“I truly believe MOCHA was always meant to be with us,” shared Tina.
Much More than a Companion- Story 32 of 40
To people with a disability, an Assistance Dog is much more than a companion, more than someone to greet them at the door each night and cheer them up when they have had a bad day. Having an Assistance Dog creates a partnership, a unique bond that allows for independence and security which enhances the client’s quality of life to a level they didn’t realize was possible. As PAWS client Julie shares, “It wasn’t that I gave ABBY a good life. It was ABBY who taught me how to live.”
Julie was born with moderate hearing loss that continued to decline as she got older, but she did not let it slow her down. She was an active and determined athlete with a sense of humor and keen observational skills that compensated for her hearing loss. She learned to read lips in order to hold conversations. But she had to rely on her family for everyday tasks such as waking up, letting her know when someone was at the door, or alerting her when the smoke alarm was going off.
As college graduation approached, Julie decided she wanted to live on her own. This presented challenges and safety concerns that she wasn’t sure how to overcome. Julie explained, “Despite great technology and the impact [hearing aids] have on my speech and understanding, they do not replace natural hearing or ‘cure’ deafness like many people believe.”
One day she was talking to a family friend about her decision to live on her own. He introduced her to PAWS and encouraged her to look into the possibility of applying for a Hearing Dog. “I liked dogs, but never thought about having one to help me. I didn’t even realize that it was a possibility,” Julie shared.
Julie met ABBY, a spirited and intelligent Border Collie mix in 1994. ABBY was the first dog that Julie owned and they fell in love instantly. With ABBY, Julie felt safe and secure living on her own. ABBY got her up each morning for work, alerted her to the ringing phone or knocking at the door. ABBY was trained to alert her to the smoke alarm, a severe storm warning and intruders. With ABBY, Julie could relax in her home.
Julie says it is hard to explain the impact that an Assistance Dog has on its partner. When you are born with a disability like hearing loss, you don’t realize what you are missing because you have never had it. Having an Assistance Dog brings you closer to having the same life experience as people who have their hearing.
ABBY was Julie’s teammate for 11 years. When ABBY passed, Julie experienced what it was like to live without an Assistance Dog. Julie described it in two words: nerve-wracking. A PAWS Field Rep compares it to this: “Think about what it’s like when you lose power at your house. You walk into a room and turn on the light switch out of habit. Of course, nothing happens, but you know the power will come back on again, usually in a short time. A person who loses their Assistance Dog doesn’t know when they will get another one. Their dog was a major part of their life, and they have lost the ability to live and work more easily and to feel more secure. For them, every day is one day too long waiting for a dog.”
Six months later Julie was paired with JADE, her Successor Dog, a goofy and playful black Labrador Retriever. When asked about the difference in her two partners, Julie said, “ABBY was the Queen and JADE was the joker, but both were a perfect match for me.”
PAWS custom-trains each dog for their client and matches are made based on the client’s personality, activity level, and the dog’s strengths. Each time Julie applied for an Assistance Dog, she said “It was a long and intense process. PAWS asked a lot of questions about my personality and lifestyle and, at the time, I wondered if it was all really necessary. Once I got each dog and realized what a wonderful match they both were, I realized it was all necessary.”
Jessica and PIPPIN- Story 33 of 40
Before she received Hearing Dog PIPPIN, Jessica was an anxious mom of two young kids. A severe hearing loss kept her on constant high alert, unable to relax in her own home. She missed doorbells and phone calls. Dinners burned when timer alarms went unheard. Fears of a house fire brought sleepless nights.
With PIPPIN came confidence. His out-sized ears give Jessica the ability to wake up and get to work on time, cook tasty meals for her family and sleep peacefully knowing PIPPIN will alert her if ever there is an emergency. You can understand why Jessica calls him “8 ½ pounds of pure gold”!
Jeff and HALO- Story 34 of 40
Jeff was born with a profound hearing loss, which, as often happens, wasn’t discovered until he was about four years old. His mother took him to the doctor because he wasn’t talking yet. After examining Jeff, the doctor declared him cognitively impaired. Jeff’s mom refused that diagnosis.
Eventually, she found a doctor who noticed Jeff didn’t react to noises made from behind his back, out of sight. It turned out Jeff can just barely discern exceptionally loud or nearby sounds. He would describe it by asking you to imagine rocking on your shoulder a baby screaming at the top of her lungs …
… Painful, right? Without his hearing aids, Jeff would hear only a faint cry.
He’d go on to share that he received his first PAWS Dog, LACEY, back in 1986! Jeff applied for a Hearing Dog when he and his first wife had a son. He wanted to be sure he’d know when his baby cried while they were home alone together, especially during the night.
Jeff would recount for you the time he realized he could absolutely trust LACEY to do her job. In the wee hours one morning, LACEY pawed at Jeff to wake him. He got up and rushed out of his bedroom after her, heart-pounding, sure something terrible had happened to his son (who was about five years old by then). In the hallway, Jeff turned towards Aric’s room.
It took Jeff a moment to realize LACEY was behind him. He turned and looked; she wanted Jeff to follow her into the kitchen. He shook his head at her – Aric’s room was the opposite direction. Why wasn’t LACEY going the right way?
Turns out, she was. Jeff trailed LACEY into the kitchen and found Aric. He was proudly standing at the family’s new refrigerator, helping himself to a cup of water from the in-door dispenser!
After LACEY passed away, Jeff applied for and received Successor Dog HALO. Eleven years later, Jeff would grant that no two Teams are alike. He’d also say that just as his disability is a part of him, HALO is a part of him, too. He couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her help. HALO gave Jeff confidence. She allowed him to be more social, to go and meet people.
Today, Jeff now has TAHOE, his third PAWS Dog. Together, they are living life to the fullest.
HASKEL Comes Home-Story 35 of 40
“We received the call that we had been waiting for, that my new Paws With A Cause Service Dog, HASKEL, was ready to come home! We were up early as it was our big day to go and bring our baby home from the National Headquarters of Paws With A Cause in Wayland.
The first thing we had to do was go over and sign so much paperwork about our responsibilities of owning a service dog. We already knew about everything from having our Abby Jo so that went well and then we were able to go in and see our little boy! He is 2 years old and he and I share the same birth month as he was born on May 1st! He weighs 67#’s and is so black and shiny that our field trainer Diane and I agree that he should be on a Pantene commercial! He is a “southern boy” as he was donated to PAWS from a breeder all the way from OK! We still have yet to find out about the foster family who raised him but I look forward to contacting them in the future and maybe even being able to get some baby pictures of him too!
We spent some time together at the training center with Mike who worked with him showing us some of the things he has been trained to do like pulling a personal alarm to ring when I need help. Then Becky who works with the clients and the trainers picked up the phone and announced over the loudspeakers that Marshall and I would be leaving to take HASKEL home and for anyone who wanted to say goodbye, to come to the lobby area. When we went through the hallways and out into the lobby, all of the staff including Candye and Mike who started the organization so many years ago were all there. Each person took turns introducing themselves and told what their job is at PAWS. One lady’s name was Barb and she said that she is the one who trained our Abby Jo for us. Needless to say, I had tears in my eyes as I tried to find the words to thank everyone for their part in what they do to bring so many service dogs teams together and help so many people. By the time I was finished they were passing a kleenex box around and everyone was crying! They all came up and shook my hand before they left the room and Candye hugged me so it was a very emotional day for us in many ways.
Before we left, we went into the little storeroom and bought some gifts for family and shirts for us. HASKEL was a very patient little shopper staying right there by my side and looking at everything on all of the shelves. Then we went outside and he went potty when I told him to and got right on his little bed in the van that we had brought for him where he rode all the way home.
We finally arrived home for HASKEL to see where he will be living with his new mom and dad~ We had unpacking to do and things to put away while HASKEL was busy checking everything out and then I spent the rest of the evening reading all of the papers that were sent home with us including a list of 25 words that HASKEL has been taught of things that he knows how to do.
The next day our field trainer Diane came up to work with us and begin our in-home training until we were able to become a certified team and HASKEL is able to go into all public places with me. Since everyone’s home is different than the training center, HASKEL had to learn about his “three doggie doors” that he goes out to go potty in his fenced-in yard area and where his alarm is to go and pull and ring when I need help. Also where the phone is to bring to me ect. We did very well on learning the phone and where the alarm is to pull and ring. We also worked on getting help in the morning and pulling slippers off at night. I worked with him for 15 minutes at a time 4 times a day until he had everything down pat here in his new surroundings. The fun part is going for walks all around the edge of our yard, gazebo, garden boxes, and pond. We also sat out on the deck and HASKEL saw his first Hummingbird! He is “very observant and does not miss anything”! He looks at me right in my eyes when I talk to him, tries to understand everything that I say and does understand most and wags his tail~ I have had to force myself to get my other things done as I just want to spend time working with HASKEL. His grandma stopped on her way to play cards and HASKEL really loves her too~ He was very proud to show her all of the things that we had been working on that he can do and she was just as proud too! He also loves cuddling with his dad on the floor and fell asleep with his head on his chest snoring! Needless to say, I think he is very content here and we love him very much.”
Three Blessings- Story 36 0f 40
“I have been very blessed for the past 26 years as a recipient of two assistance dogs from Paws With A Cause. In 1992 I received my first precious gift named CALA and what a gift she was.
I was a special needs teacher at the time and living independently in my own apartment. Sometimes life could be a struggle dealing with my birth defect called arthrogryposis. All four of my limbs and my spine were affected. I was in an electric wheelchair and my mobility/range of motion was quite limited. As I got older things got more difficult.
I learned about your organization and your mission to help people with disabilities live a more independent and rewarding life. However, I had serious concerns about taking care of an animal that would end up helping me. My worries were unnecessary.
CALA came into my life on Valentine’s Day and my life was never the same again. The skills and training that she received went beyond my greatest expectations. She picked up my crutches and other objects, opened the refrigerator door, put the light switches on/off, brought me the telephone and so much more. One of the major tasks that she learned was such a lifesaver for me. My back was giving out and I was losing a lot of strength. She learned to pull me to a sitting position in my bed by placing a rope toy/tool to me, within my reach. She then slowly backed up and pulled me to a sitting position. I could then reach my crutches, stand and pivot into my wheelchair. The independence that she provided to me was immeasurable.
She opened many doors through the years. CALA also came to school each day and what a difference she made, not just to my special students, but, to the whole population of students, teachers, and administration. They learned what a service dog is all about and the do’s and don’ts that go along with them. She touched so many lives and made a difference. The best gift of all was her love and care she gave me every day. CALA was with me until her age of 14 1/2 years when she passed away. It was so devastating and the loss of her was heart-wrenching. I thought I could never have another dog.
But, PAWS doesn’t replace dogs they provide successor dogs. I thought it would be a difficult transition but my next beautiful gift was named BREEZE and she came into my life in 2005. She was such a treasure and she knew her tasks so well. The training that she received was compelling and undeniably ingrained in her. She loved helping and doing her daily tasks that continued to allow me to live so independently. I was now retired but not ready to stop enjoying life so we went on our daily adventures going to the movies, to church, giving talks about service dogs, eating out at restaurants, strolling the boardwalk, going shopping (not always her favorite unless it was Pet Smart) and so much more that life offered us. That tail would go nonstop and her sweet face would melt your heart. But, with her backpack on, she was all business and focused on her responsibilities to me.
One of life’s hardest journeys is getting older and recognizing that things are not as easy as they used to be. So, it was with BREEZE. Despite the aging process taking its toll on her, she continued her jobs, to the best of her ability, right to the end. Her love and sweetness never wavered. BREEZE passed away in April of 2018 and the heartache of losing her in my life was overwhelming.
What Paws With A Cause gives to those of us with disabilities is so incredibly rewarding, fulfilling and life-changing. The mission and dynamics Paws With A Cause makes such a difference in people’s lives and I am so grateful.”
Carol has been placed with her third service dog from PAWS and is awaiting certification! What a beautiful story.
The Best Gift Ever- Story 37 of 40
“You have given me the best gift ever-NIKE-he keeping giving every day. He is truly a joy to have and is so happy to help me with whatever I may need.
He is a perfect fit for our family. NIKE has such a great personality and is a fun, loving partner. He has made so many friends-people and pooches- here in our community!
Paws With A Cause is over and above anything I ever expected. Every aspect I have dealt with is top-notch and very supportive. From the day we picked him up at PAWS and all your staff greeted and wished us well. That really warmed my heart. Anna did an awesome job training NIKE and working with Linda was wonderful.
It has been an incredible experience and it’s just the beginning! I’m truly grateful to all of you!”
A Women, A Dog & People with Disabilities 1997- Story 38 of 40
By: Gail Montgomery
Marva Ways was an educational teacher until an automobile accident in 1976 left her a quadriplegic. Now Ways is… well, she’s an educational teacher! The Inkster woman originally taught preschool at Westwood Child Development Center. Since the accident, her teaching has taken on a new twist.
Ways’ educational format now is to work with adults: to teach people with disabilities ways to excel in life, and to teach people without disabilities how to treat disabled people fairly. One of her best teaching tools (and her silent assistant) is her Paws With A Cause Service Dog, BUSTER.
Together, Ways and BUSTER hit the streets in and around Detroit, where Ways works for Wayne State University as a community outreach coordinator for the Developmental Disabilities Insititute. Prior to WSU, she was a facility coordinator at the Center for Independent Living (CIL) at the Great Lakes Center in Detroit. It was at the CIL that she began teaching people with disabilities independent living skills. She also began motivational speaking and teaching sensitivity classes.
Having BUSTER at her side while teaching workshops was a real asset for Ways. People could see what BUSTER could do for his owner and to help make her life more independent. As a PAWS Service Dog, BUSTER assists Ways in her wheelchair, retrieves fallen items, opens and closes doors and does many other tasks to help her out during her busy days.
Ways says BUSTER is all part of it — her workshop classes, motivational speaking, and her sensitivity classes. She even takes time from her busy schedule to give PAWS presentations to demonstrate how BUSTER helps her lead a more independent life. She says his presence “helps get the word out about PAWS.” In the past, Ways says, people always thought assistance dogs worked only for people with vision problems. But that’s not the case anymore. PAWS also trains Combo Dogs to assist people with more than one disability and Hearing Dogs to assist hearing-impaired people.
What inspired Ways to become an active voice for people with disabilities was how she was treated by the public after her accident. “People with disabilities were not being treated as people first,” she says. “I wanted people with disabilities to be treated as equals, the same as other folks.”
When Ways began teaching people with disabilities all sorts of topics, from living skills to communication, she says her mission was simple. “I wanted to help people with disabilities make choices, to be able to gain employment, to go to a movie or stay home – but to do what they wanted to do and to have a choice.”
Her classes went beyond teaching people with disabilities. In her sensitivity classes, she began teaching people without disabilities how to work with the disabled.
Ways has come a long way since her 1976 accident. She’s become a knowledgeable educator and spokesperson for people with disabilities and she’s found one of her most valuable tools to help her in her everyday life – BUSTER.
“I’m pretty active and I get out a lot,” says Ways. “I was active before BUSTER, but I must admit that I have a lot more confidence with him. Not just what he can do for me, but also as a companion.”
Through a Client’s Eyes- Story 39 of 40
Susan Stewart has experienced firsthand the kind of difference a PAWS Dog can make – even though she admits she was skeptical at first about how much an Assistance Dog could really help her.
In 1998, Susan volunteered to be a nurse for her church’s youth camp, during which the group went whitewater rafting. About five hours into the eight-hour trip, Susan fell out of the raft and became caught in the rapids. During the 15 minutes that she was trapped in the water, she suffered a spinal cord injury.
After the accident, Susan started physical therapy, trying to make the best of things. But just six months later, she was in a car accident and suffered a serious head injury that left her unable to communicate. Through speech therapy, Susan regained her ability to speak, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to return to her physically demanding job as a nurse. “I wondered what I could do now,” she says.
Around that time, Susan’s local library hosted a PAWS demonstration. She took her son to see the dogs and learned about the PAWS Foster Puppy program. “I thought that taking in a Foster Puppy would be a good way for my kids to learn about helping others.”
PAWS staff members came to the Stewarts’ house to explain what the family would need to do to be Foster Puppy raisers. Then one of them asked Susan, “Why don’t you apply for an Assistance Dog?”
“I looked him straight in the face and said, ‘I thought you had to have a disability,’” remembers Susan. “I had just never considered it.”
Susan still wasn’t sure how much a dog would help her, but she decided to apply. In 2001, Susan got her Assistance Dog, SABLE, a golden retriever. “Now that I have SABLE, I don’t know what I would do without her.”
One big change in Susan’s life since getting SABLE is that she was able to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner.
“In the nursing profession, there’s often discrimination that goes with somebody who has back injuries,” she says. “So, I just have to show that, even though I’m sitting down, there are still a lot of good things I can do.”
Susan says SABLE has changed not only her life, but the lives of her family, which includes her husband, Ted, daughters, Jennifer, 18, and Hannah, 15, and son Taylor, 9.
They’ve benefited from me being able to do more things. I’m able to use SABLE’s energy instead of mine, and that allows me to do so much more,” says Susan. “She opens doors, she pushes elevator buttons, she helps me pick things up. Before, if I dropped something small, it was almost impossible for me to pick it up, but SABLE can pick up something as small as a dime. I’ve been able to reclaim a part of my life that was taken away in the accident.”
In addition to the ways SABLE helps with everyday tasks, one of the things Susan appreciates most about her Assistance Dog is the way in which she opens up avenues of communication with others.
“When you’re in a wheelchair, people sometimes look at you strangely or don’t say anything to you. As a nurse, I was used to being the person who answered the questions and took care of people – I definitely wasn’t used to people not communicating with me at all,” she says. “Now that I have SABLE, people will say, ‘Oh, that’s a beautiful dog,’ and she just allows people to feel more at ease with someone who’s different than they are.”
Susan says it’s impossible to fully express her gratitude to the donors and volunteers whose contributions helped bring SABLE into her life. “How do you thank someone for giving you back part of your life? There are things I thought I’d never be able to do again, but now with a PAWS Dog, there are all these new possibilities.”
MAPLE: The Facility Dog- Story 40 of 40
By: Cassandra Bondie
There’s a new staff member at Emerson Elementary School. With golden hair, a bushy tail, and floppy ears, she’s not what you’d expect.
Her name is MAPLE, and she’s a two-year-old golden retriever.
“Ever since I became a teacher, I wanted to be able to bring some sort of service animal in,” said Emerson Elementary School Principal Jon Duley, who cares for MAPLE on nights and weekends. “They have a very calming effect. When I became a principal, I started thinking about it more, but as a new principal, it wasn’t something I could take on at the time.
“Last year was my first year being an elementary school principal without being split between two schools. I asked the staff what they thought of getting a service animal and they loved it. In August, I talked to a buddy of mine at Paws With A Cause and asked him about the process.”
After hearing about the price and the procedure, Duley decided it was finally time to move forward with his idea.
“I was able to raise the money through an anonymous donor,” he said. “I don’t even know who it was, but they said, ‘I love this idea and I love animals. I just don’t want to be on anybody’s radar.’”
From there, it was only a matter of training.
“It was really just getting MAPLE used to being here,” Duley said. “She has a kennel in my office with a nice bed in it. She’d come here every day and I’d put her in there. If it was just us, I’d let her come out and lay down by my feet while I worked. Gradually, a couple of kids per day were able to come in. It was a process over the last eight weeks.”
In August, a letter was sent to parents that detailed the intricacies of having a service dog in the building. MAPLE’s day-to-day duties will include working with students in a multitude of situations, including having children read to her and teaching students about kindness to animals.
She will also focus on working with students in high-stress scenarios who may have recently lost a family member or experienced another traumatic event.
Students who are allergic to dogs are asked not to touch MAPLE, who is groomed often and uses an aloe-based shampoo that decreases the release of dander — which causes allergic reactions to animals. The school is also cleaned every evening, helping to minimize allergens that may be released into the air or carpet.
Now that her training period is over, MAPLE is truly a part of the team.
“All she wants to do is love everybody,” said Duley. “MAPLE is the one thing we never knew we needed.”