Power Of The Paw

Autistic children live in a very isolated world. This heartwarming story, once again, goes to show what a powerful influence a dog can be in...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Jul 19th 2008


Autistic children live in a very isolated world. This heartwarming story, once again, goes to show what a powerful influence a dog can be in your life. Karen Shriek, founder of 4 Paws for Ability, says “Dogs work ‘magic’ on kids with autism”.

Since 1998, through her nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability, Shirk has helped partner service dogs with people with a wide range of disabilities.

Although the organization was originally started to help people with all disabilities she wanted to focus on children, especially those with autism.

Since many agencies have age restrictions, she now specializes in providing dogs to children. The dogs help kids with a variety of issues, from mobility problems to seizures, but from the start Shirk wanted to find ways to assist children with autism.

“I knew [autistic children] connected to animals,” she remembers. “I knew that service dogs would be able to help.”

The dogs help provide the children with emotional support as well as assistance in keeping them safe.

Shirk’s 4 Paws for Ability requires that families raise $12,000, on average, to pay for their service dog. Each dog is trained for the child’s specific needs, and the entire process takes between nine and 18 months.
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In the end, families come to Ohio to meet their dogs and receive training. For Shirk, seeing the kids bond with their dogs makes her efforts worthwhile.

4 Paws for Ability is always in need of donations, sponsors, and volunteers. I give this organization two big paws up for their dedication and hard work to help make a child’s life a little easier.