‘We shed a lot of tears’: This local group’s inspiring story of supplying service dogs throughout the area

The nonprofit organization’s motto is “Taking the ‘dis’ out of disability.” The way that 4 Paws for Ability does that is through man’s (and woman’s) best friend: dogs.

This group with a catchy name is located at 207 Dayton Ave. in Xenia, but it boasts volunteers from all over the Miami Valley.

KaLynn Clark, a Huber Heights resident, has worked at 4 Paws for almost two years.

“4 Paws for Ability changes the lives of families by giving their child a protector and friend,” said Clark, director of volunteer engagement. “Working (there) has been incredibly rewarding … I have met the best people and best dogs, all coming together for the same mission … to place service dogs with children and veterans with disabilities.”

Two volunteers who help connect families with service dogs are Diane Gallagher and Carol Ackerman of Kettering, who have fostered four puppies: Cherilee, China, Emmett and Design.

Emmett ultimately went to the Burris family home to help 6-year-old Jacob. The little boy is autistic.

Gallagher started volunteering at 4 Paws in January 2015 after retirement. Ackerman began volunteering at the puppy house after retiring in January 2016. They both starting fostering Cherilee, from the ‘My Favorite Pony’ litter in spring 2015.

“Both of us love dogs and wanted to make a difference helping others,” said Gallagher.

They fostered each dog anywhere from 3-10 months, depending upon the dog’s advancement. When they fostered the dogs, both bonded with them and it was very hard to send them back to the organization for advanced training.

“We shed a lot of tears,” said Gallagher.

“We went to many 4 Paws graduations so we could keep in mind the ultimate goal of giving up our dogs to be service dogs,” Gallagher said. “Children with disabilities and veterans with PTSD need the dogs more than we could ever imagine.”

Their last foster dog, Design, was trained for 9 months from the ‘High Five’ litter. She was chosen as a breeder dog.

“After fostering her for 9 months, she was medically tested before she was bred and they discovered a minor heart issue, so they fixed her and offered us first rights of adoption,” said Gallagher. “We adopted her as a 4 Paws ‘fabulous flunkie’ and do pet therapy with her at the Kettering hospital and cancer unit.”

“We did not have to break our bond with her, and we are grateful to 4 Paws, that they gave us the opportunity to adopt her,” said Gallagher.

This nonprofit organization also places service dogs with veterans who have lost hearing, mobility and/or use of their arms, do animal rescues and service dog education. For more information, call 937-374-0385.

Contact contributing writer Pamela Dillon at pamdillon@woh.rr.com.

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