California Developmentally-disabled Girl Raising Money to Get Service Dog

 |  Apr 17th 2007  |   1 Contribution

Thanks to Elizabeth Takahashi for barking in this story from InsideBay

Disabled girl hopes to raise money for dog
By Chris De Benedetti, STAFF WRITER

FREMONT Kasandria Kennedy has been pounding the pavement for more than a year, knocking on doors to raise money for Sonya, her 11-year-old developmentally disabled daughter.

But now the Fremont single mother and child are asking for more immediate help and, reluctantly but with necessity, they are turning their eyes to the community.

Doctors have advised that Sonya who has a variety of ailments, including symptoms similar to autism needs a certified companion dog to be her constant guide, her mother said.

The good news for the Kennedys is that such a program exists called "4 Paws for Ability." Founded in 1998 by Karen Shirk, a woman afflicted with muscular dystrophy, the nonprofit trains companion dogs and their owners.

The bad news is that the school is in Ohio and its services, and the flight to the Midwest and lodging for 12 days there, are not cheap.

The Kennedys' efforts have yielded some funds, but they are trying to raise at least $7,000.

A companion dog will help Sonya on several levels, including socializing and making friends, Kasandria Kennedy said.

"For a child who understands that they are lacking friendship, having a dog as their friend can build a social bridge for them," Shirk said.

Also, the dog may play a role in helping with the child's coping skills.

"It is supposed to be a calming presence next to her, to be something other than mom saying, 'No, no, no.'" she said.

"For most children with any disability that creates frustration over what is expected of them, sometimes a parent or teacher intervening makes it worse," Shirk said, explaining dogs' effectiveness with developmentally disabled kids.
Shirk added: "These children understand that the dog doesn't have an agenda, it doesn't want anything from them ever besides love and fun."

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