Founded in 1998, 4 Paws for Abilities is an organization that provides service dogs for children with disabilities.
According to 4 Paws for Abilities CEO Karen Shirk, the organization trains over 100 dogs each year to help with different types of disabilities.
Shirk tells Independent Journal Review that the dogs are trained as puppies in several basic areas. One of these areas is to keep children on the autism spectrum safe by alerting them of danger and keeping them out of harm’s way. Shirk explains:
“These children can be inconsolable and when their parents can’t touch them or console them or try to make it better, they can call the dog in to intervene. So if the child is self-hitting, the dog can go in and give them something that is more social[ly] appropriate to do by interacting with the dog. The dog will give them kisses or snuggle with them to help calm [the child].”
This is exactly what Tornado, a service dog from 4 Paws for Abilities, is doing for his human, a five-year-old little boy with autism.
His mom details the moment after he met Tornado for the first time on the 4 Paw for Ability Facebook page. She admits that it was “truly magic;” something that words could not explain. She writes:
“This boy is the strongest child I have ever met; he has faced countless rude and ignorant adults and children who do not understand him, who have hurt him, and who have not valued him because he is different.
This picture captures the face of a mother who saw her child, who she can’t hug, wash, dress, snuggle and touch freely lay on his new Service dog of his own free will, with a purposeful unspoken attachment.”
This is a picture of a mom who has cried so many times for her son, but has never cried for a reason like this:
I'm not sure why, but people still ask us why we place service dogs with children sometimes. Let me help you…
She continues, in part:
“This is the face of a mom who has seen her son experience countless failed social interactions on the playground in an attempt to have a friend. Any friend. Any kind of connection.
And now she is sitting behind her son silently watching this moment, with the air sucked from her lungs, and no words to say.
It’s new, it’s painful, it’s wonderful, and it’s grateful. I will always stand behind this boy (probably still crying), but I am grateful that he will have Tornado to stand beside him. The 4 Paws magic is real. The wait is long, but this moment right here makes it worth every moment of waiting. It’s worth every fight for services for my son, every diagnosis, every new provider, every dollar spent, every paper filled out, every school meeting, every shed tear, every step forward, every step back, and every wonder of the unknown future.”
This moment was worth it because this mom now knows that because of Tornado, “everything will be OK.”