Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another Assitance dog in the news: Hunter & Kicker

Here's a news report out of Colorado, about a boy named Hunter and his service dog Kicker. Actually, it appears to be a couple of related reports spliced together:


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Breaking News!

Our local YMCA has been great to Amelia. They let her take swimming lessons with her brother. They even gave her her own dedicated swim instructor, someone who had taught her own autistic son to swim.

Then this past summer, they bent their minimum age requirement for Camp Can-Do to let Amelia participate. She had a blast.
And now this:

The YMCA is taking on Amelia's cause and making her a part of their Make a Difference Day activities.

How cool is that?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kids meeting dogs

This week in Xenia, Ohio, a bunch of wonderful, deserving kids are meeting their service dogs for the first time. The kids and the dogs are getting used to each other, learning each other's personality quirks and ways of doing things. I'm sure it will be a real life-changing experience for everyone involved.

So what happens when the kids meet their dogs for the first time? Well, some are scared, some are excited, some are uncertain, and some are oblivious. That's why you hear about the autism spectrum. And not all the kids who get dogs through 4 Paws are autistic - some have cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, deafness, or even a combination of challenges. 4 Paws tries to carefully pair each child to the right dog, taking into account the personailities and temperaments involved.

A lot of kids with autism and similar disorders are notoriously uncomfortable in new and unfamiliar situations, and sometimes it's all the parents can do to keep them from running away. If you know any kids like this, you know that something like this can be a bit stressful at first, and many would be especially leery of "the licking end" of the dog. And if you know dogs, you know they'll win these kids over in the end.

My prediction is that Amelia would pretend to be unimpressed, but her curiosity would show through. And she'd surely giggle if the dog licked her.

Here's a video that was shot at the beginning of the March 2008 training class:

- Edson


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our first fundraising project!

First, we want to say THANK YOU for the incredible generosity. Donations are pouring in already, and we're looking forward to our end of the month report to get an official total. It's humbling to have people give so generously.

We've been trying to think of a variety of fun ways to raise money, and also to let people participate who maybe can't donate cash. So we've decided to compile and sell a cookbook!

(If you know Amelia, you may appreciate the irony of a cookbook, given her texture aversions and very limited dietary preferences. But we like irony.)

If you'd like to participate, all you have to do is rummage around in your kitchen and find your all-time favorite recipes, and email them to us: They can be anything at all - dessert, breakfast, beverage, ethnic, vegetarian, simple, complex, conventional, or outlandish. In fact, if you have any dog food, or dog treat recipes, we might even have a section for those. If we got a lot of them, we could even do a separate book.

If you're sending a recipe, it would be great if you could give us a little background with it. Describe what it tastes like, or tell us why you love it. Where did it come from? What made you think of it for this project? Does it have an unparalleled complexity of flavor? Is it one you made entirely from your own garden? Maybe it's your grandmother's family secret. Maybe it came to you in a dream. Maybe you invented it one night when all you had left in the cupboard was ketchup, Busch Light, refried beans, and dried apricots. Maybe it reminds you of breakfast in bed after a wild night in Billings, Montana....

Hmm. You'd better let us know if you want us to use your real name, a nickname, or no name.

Okay, so it doesn't have to have a story. It just seems like it could make for a fun cookbook if it's more than just a list of ingredients and cooking instructions.

Feel free to send along illustrations or photos too if you want - but make sure they're fairly high resolution.

We can't promise we'll use everything. We'll have to see what and how much material we get, and try to find the right balance between content and production costs. We'll work out the exact details as we go, though we do have a pretty good idea how to make this work already.

Ultimately, we want something that people might buy to support our fundraising efforts, but that they can enjoy in multiple ways for a long time to come.



Friday, September 19, 2008


[ This is something I wrote back in early July, when the seeds of this whole journey were firmly planted. I thought I'd share it here so you can get a sense of why we're so motivated to do this. - Edson]


I'm not an adrenalin junkie. Don't get me wrong, I like thrills up to a point - roller coasters, sporting events, the occasional suspenseful movie or life-changing decision... Heck, I even went white-water rafting once, and loved it. They put a photographer on top of some big nasty rock, and take a picture of your raft just before you smack into it. In the photo of our raft, everyone was either paddling like mad or hanging on for dear life, concentrating on that rock. Everyone except for me. I had one hand off my paddle and a big grin on my face.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. (I just used the word "thing" twice in one sentence. Somewhere a shudder runs up an English teacher's back.)

First, our daughter was playing on the front porch, which she loves to do. Between the porch swing, the sky chairs, the water that collects on top of the rain barrel and the shady fresh air, I can see why. But in order to let her play out there somewhat unsupervised, I had to build a gate to close it off.

I was going about my business inside, when I realized I didn't hear Amelia's singsong chatter. Probably a nap, I thought. No - they said she napped at school. I went out to check on her, but she wasn't there. I checked in all her favorite napping spots, and still no Amelia.

Then I went back out on the porch, and saw that the gate latch was popped. She'd pushed it hard enough to get it open despite the locking pin. The hinges swung it shut again, so I didn't notice right away.

How long had it been? Was she out in the barn? By the water bucket? In the shed? Near the dirt?


Every parent's worst nightmare. And for context, Amelia is five years old, she's autistic or something like it, she has almost no language skills and no sense of danger.

I got in the truck and drove the length of the driveway. I looked up and down the two (50 mph) roads that border our property. I called Lori to find out how soon she'd be home (any minute) and keep an eye out for Amelia because I couldn't find her.

Lori went one way up the road and I went the other. How long had it been? How far could she have gone? Did I check everywhere inside the house? A flood of worst case scenarios were racing through my head as I tried not to crap my pants.

Then after what was probably a short while, but that seemed like an eternity... I saw her.

She had wandered across the road to a house that was under construction. It's a good quarter mile away at least. Thankfully, the workers had let her play and kept her out of danger.

And I felt like the worst parent on the face of the earth. And not like the "Bad Father" jokes we kick around from time to time. I felt like throwing up.

That experience motivated us to start filling out the paperwork for something we'd heard about not too long ago: Service dogs for special needs kids.

While we were filling out the forms, not two hours after Amelia's Bogus Journey, she started choking on a mouthful of pretzels. Her mouth was open, but no sound was coming out. Her arms were flapping and she looked panicked. Lori did the Heimlich Maneuver, or something approximating it, several times until Amelia threw up her pretzels and started crying.

Everybody is ok, and Amelia is no worse for wear. I'm not sure about her parents.

Amelia prudently chose a different snack, and went back to her happy routines.

Meanwhile, as I implied above, I think I've had more than enough adrenalin for one day. I've probably had enough everything for one day. But sleep seems far off right now. I wasn't sure if I should write about this, or if I wanted to. I'm still not sure, and I don't know what purpose it serves except to get it out of my system. But here it is.

Not very fun emotions to revisit. I'm scared all over again, long after the fact. But it's over. Life can resume it's normal course.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on some clean underwear. Again.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Service Dog Calls 9-1-1 When Owner Has Seizure

A few select quotes from this story out of Phoenix, Arizona:

"Man's best friend" doesn't go far enough for Buddy, a German shepherd who remembered his Michigan training and saved his owner's life by calling 911 when the man had a seizure.


"It's pretty incredible," Clark said. "Even the veteran dispatchers — they haven't heard of anything like this."

Clark said police are dispatched whenever 911 is called, but Stalnaker's address was flagged in Scottsdale's system with a notification that a trained assistance dog could call 911 when the owner was incapacitated.

Clark said Buddy has made two other 911 calls when Stalnaker was having seizures.

Autism Assistance Dog in the News: Matthew & Ajax

A local news report from Atlanta:


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Autism Assistance Dog video from 4 Paws

Here's a family talking about their experience with 4 Paws for Ability and an autism assitance dog:


Tracking, Search & Rescue dogs from 4 Paws

A video about the dogs being trained for tracking by 4 Paws for Ability:


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Service Dog for Amelia

My name is Lori Freeman. Five-year-old Amelia Freeman, a Circleville resident and my only daughter, has a very special opportunity. We are seeking the support of our family, our friends, and our community, in order to achieve this potentially life-saving goal. You can help.

Amelia has developmental delays in all areas. She cannot speak, and seems to understand only a very few words. While she has not been diagnosed as autistic, she displays many of the characteristics of an autistic child — most significantly, she has no awareness of the danger of traffic, deep water, or the ill intentions of a stranger. She also has a fascination with water and a tendency to be an “escape artist,” and generally does not respond to her father’s or my calls. Combine these traits and you have a recipe for disaster!

4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit organization located in Xenia, Ohio, has the answer. They have agreed to train and place a service dog, known as an autism assistance dog, in her home. This dog — which may well be a rescued dog that would otherwise be destroyed — will be trained specifically for Amelia. Besides being a loving and loyal companion to her, it will be a working dog. Unfortunately, it cannot be trained to clean up after our little agent of chaos. But its tasks will include, among others, tracking. On those occasions when Amelia defeats our latest safety measures and escapes the house, the dog will find her for us so that we can bring her home safely!

I mentioned before that you can help; allow me to explain. Training one of these dogs is a costly process. Amelia’s dog will cost $13,000 to train. Most service dog organizations would place Amelia on a waiting list, from 2 to 5 years, until they could raise the necessary funds. However, 4 Paws for Ability is special in that they allow parents to volunteer and raise the money in their own community. This will allow Amelia to have her dog much sooner, and in addition, it will help bring this wonderful opportunity for all persons with disabilities to the public awareness. As you may know, autism affects many thousands of people, not to mention other disabilities (for example, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, epilepsy, or spina bifida) that afflict thousands more.

Please consider making a donation to support our efforts! Donations are tax-deductible. If you are unable to donate online, please contact me and I will provide you with a donation form. Please do not send money to us! Moneys are to go directly to 4 Paws, so please make checks payable to 4 Paws for Ability, and be sure to write “In Honor of Amelia Freeman” on the memo line so that we are given credit for our volunteer work. If you are unable to donate funds, you may wish to consider donating goods or services (to be used in a fundraising auction or raffle to benefit 4 Paws).

Thank you so much for your time, consideration, and support!

How to Donate Online

Click on either of the Network for Good or PayPal "Donate" buttons below to make your donation today.

If you are using PayPal, we ask that you earmark your donation for AMELIA FREEMAN by including her name in the "Special Instructions" box during your donation process through PayPal's web site. The link to the Special Instructions appears on the last page of the process. This will insure that we get credit toward our fundraising requirement.

If you are using Network for Good, we ask that you earmark your donation for AMELIA FREEMAN by including her name in the "Dedication or Gift" box during your donation process through the Network for Good web site. This will insure that we get credit toward our fundraising requirement.

Thank you!


How to Donate by Check

Please make checks payable to "4 Paws For Ability, Inc." We ask that you earmark your donation for AMELIA FREEMAN by putting in honor of Amelia Freeman on the memo line of your check. This will insure that we get credit toward our fundraising requirement.

Mail your donation to:
4 Paws For Ability, Inc.
253 Dayton Ave
Xenia OH 45385

Thank you!