I posted a version of this dairy over at BigOrange a week or so ago.
and though it got enough notice to make the rescue list that night, this story about a boy named James, deserves another look.
James looks like a pretty average boy, his smile and demeaner hide his gutsy determination to overcome the problems he has faced since birth. In James own words, from his fundraising page that he and his mother put together:
“Hello, my name is James and I just turned 17 years old. I came to live with my parent when I was 3 and they adopted me. Boy they got more than they bargained for! I am diagnosed with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Mental retardation (overall development of a 6-7 yr old), an unknown slow Bowel Disorder, and ADHD. Oh ya and what my parents lovingly call ETH (explosive teenage hormone). “
What James needs at this point in his life is a friend and companion that can keep him safe, and to help him build confidence in himself as he makes his way in this world that even us non-neuro challenged people sometimes find scary and confusing.
The mission off our Autism Assistance Dog Program is to provide friendship, companionship, unconventional, and unconditional love for the child. A source of comfort and consistency when environments change and anxiety might be high, to help the children with Autism and the other family members find a higher quality of life and bring a more independent life to the child and the support to encounter problems and obstacles set in front of them by Autism and overcome any challenges that they are confronted by.
There are very few places that train animals specifically for children with autism. One of these places is 4Paws. Here is a poem from 4Paws founder:
The Heavens looked down upon my life and saw my suffering.
The spirits in all their wisdom could not end them, for it was not within their power.
As I prayed for death, the Heavens opened up, and into my life came love, courage, protection, a friend, a confidante, a partner in life.
He is the most beautiful spirit I have ever seen, and I call him Ben.
©Copyright 1996 by Karen Shirk
4Paws for Ability, is the non-profit organization founded by Karen Shirk. They are different from other similair organizations in that they don’t turn anyone down. If you have a need, you are welcome there. Period. Karens story is one of deep inspiration. A story of how she was trapped in a body that had failed her, had entirely lost her will to live, and at her lowest point, after 18 months on a waiting list was denied acceptance into a service dog program because “our agency guidelines prohibit the placement of service dogs with people who use ventilators.” With the dogged insistence of a friend, who kept dragging her about to look at puppies, she eventually met Ben, who is the inspiration for the poem above. From there, with the help of a few experts, she learned to train Ben on her own. As her love for living returned, embraced by the love and protective presence of Ben to help her, so did her passion for helping others. Thus 4Paws for Ability was born.
Our Mission is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities by training and placing service animals to provide them with companionship and promote independent living.
We specialize in placements with people who are turned away by many other agencies. Often times people with disabilities contact agencies that place service dogs only to be told they are ‘too disabled’ or ‘not disabled enough’ and are turned down. Also, parents trying to find service dogs for their children quickly discover that many agencies will not place service dogs with children.
Another key thing that sets 4Paws apart is they were the first agency to start placing animals with autistic children. Autism Assistance Dogs.
in addition to other skills, are trained to keep an eye on the children, especially important for those children who are “runners”. Another behavior common to Autism is a tendency to wander away.
Parents often refer to their children as “Houdini,” stating they are able to escape from even the most secured environment and the family usually has multiple locks on every door and window in the home. When this happens, the child may be in a life-threatening situation, especially if they are already out of the physical sight of their caregiver. Children with Autism often don’t respond to their names consistently, if they respond at all. They rarely understand the many dangers in their environment; an approaching car; a stranger with ill intentions; an aggressive dog separated from the child by nothing more than a gate, which is quite easily opened. Many parents report that their greatest fears center around their child being missing or when out with their child that they might look away only for a minute and turn to find their child gone or darting out into the path of an oncoming car.
Besides this critical safety issue, the dogs provide a bridge into the world of feeling and connection.
I am a father of three children, we are a very touchy feely family, there is nothing on earth I love more than my children. They are grown now and we still hug and kiss every time we see each other. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be seperated from my child by an invisible barrier to to their heart.
This following quote is from a parent who’s child has bonded with his Autism Assistance Dog Scooby:
“This might sound strange, but Scooby brought Tyler over the “kissing” hurdle. Tyler could not stand to kiss before Scooby. He would allow me to kiss his cheek or forehead, but would never kiss back or let you kiss his lips. He kisses me know and even kissed me on the lips once. He said , “I’m kinda gettin’ used to that. Scooby kisses me too.” What a gift!!!! Thank you for Scooby and all he has brought to our family. We wouldn’t be complete without him.”
In the interest of keeping this diary short enough to be readable I direct you now to this page
Make a Dream Come True
Here you will find some special children, James being one of them, who are in need of a special animal friend, and are patiently waiting for their opportunity to spread their wings under the careful protective watch that only a highly trained, loving dog can provide.
It is difficult to be an oval soul in a round world. It is unsettling to not quite grasp the rules of social engagement, be teased, shunned and judged. Wyatt needs a friend to help him traverse the crazy world we live in and maneuver through the unique challenges that he is faced with. He needs a friend to keep him safe. He needs a friend who loves him just the way he is. He needs a friend who will foster his independence.
As you can imagine, training a dog for this type of work is very expensive
I know for myself, like many of you fellow Kossacks, I have given plenty of money to politicians in the past few years. Mostly I have been disappointed in what I have “purchased”. I won’t elaborate further on that today.
I can tell you that after making a small contribution to both James and 4Paws, I feel happy to pass on this opportunity to make a difference in a special childs life. Please take a moment to contribute, and if you visit the page for James, make sure you leave a comment for him, he loves to read them and looks forward to your participation in making his dream come true.
Look at this little guy, he is waiting patiently for a special friend too. All he needs is a little training.
I write this diary not personally knowing anyone I have mentioned here. What I do know is that people like Karen are rare, and need the support of people who are conscious and aware, while they do the heavy lifting required to build a better world. It’s the best money I ever “spent”.
Finally, here is a short (six minutes) video of some newsclips, highlighting another young boys journey finding his special animal friend that was trained at 4Paws.
Thank you for reading, lets make this happen.