It’s the stories of regained independence and healing that keep volunteer trainer Caroline O’Brien returning to service dog provider Four Paws and a Wake Up – NC year after year.
There’s Zebulun, who retrieved her owner’s phone and towel when she fell in the shower, enabling her to call for help. Or Issachar, who learned to bring his partner water every morning so she could take her pain medication. When she was slow to rise, he would gently place her slippers on her chest, to offer a further nudge.
Sarai helped her veteran become more at ease in public settings, enabling him to manage anxiety and providing him added stability to prevent falls. Marcus assists his veteran with physical mobility issues and even learned to detect seizures before they happen, while Luke helps his wheelchair-bound owner manage doors, trash and much more – giving her the ability to live confidently on her own.
Pat Hairston, founder of Four Paws, has hundreds of similar stories, after all, she says: “This work is all about making a difference in someone else’s life.” At the same time, Four Paws gives its canine partners a second chance, too, as most of the non-profit’s service dogs come from shelters. These once discarded dogs get a new purpose in life, helping their partners live more independently and enjoy life.
Four Paws may be a relatively small program, but it has a meaningful effect on every life it touches. “Whether it’s a volunteer, a shelter worker, a rescued dog, the service dog recipient, or their caregiver, each small impact creates a bigger change,” Pat says.