For Paws For Ability was the star of the first episode in a new Netflix series, DOGS.
Photo: 4 Paws For Ability
Photo: 4 Paws For Ability

Xenia nonprofit shines bright in popular new Netflix series, ‘DOGS’ 

One of the most popular shows on Netflix kicked off right here in the Dayton area.

“DOGS” is a tear-jerking, earnest and adorable new series that made its debut on Netflix, a streaming service with approximately 51 million subscribers, in November and has remained on the “Trending” list ever since. The show features “six stories of unconditional love between humans and their best friends.” 

Netflix directors searched around the world for extraordinary human-canine connections, and chose 4 Paws For Ability, a nonprofit organization in Xenia founded in 1998, to be the first installment of the series. 

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A Netflix crew films at the West Chester home of the Gogolewskis, the family featured in the pilot episode of 'DOGS'.
Photo: 4 Paws For Ability

The approximately 50-minute “docuseries” episode followed a 12-year-old from West Chester, Corrine Gogolewski, and her family through their journey with 4 Paws for Ability. Gogolewski struggles through the everyday obstacles of living with epilepsy. That’s when Rory the service dog comes in and changes the family’s life. 

“It was amazing,” said Jeremy Dulebohn, director of training at 4 Paws. “A lot of the stuff that so many people don’t get to see, the behind the scenes of what the family’s day-to-day life is all about and the benefits a service dog can really supply. It’s one of the things, fortunately, we get to see — the change on a regular basis. Very few people actually get to witness that, but I think they captured it perfectly.”

Director of the pilot 'DOGS' episode, Heidi Ewing, wit h Corrine Gogolewski. Netflix was with the West Chester family for about three weeks filming.
Photo: 4 Paws For Ability

The nonprofit is booked up to two years out with clients. It sees almost 100 percent of its service dogs it raises from birth, to placement and then retirement. 

Rory, an energetic 18-month-old Goldendoodle, prepared to be united with Gogolewski since birth. She is trained to recognize the scent of a seizure, should the teenager have one, and alert adults immediately. The Netflix crew followed the family for about three weeks to film, said Dulebohn. Even those who are not dog lovers will feel their heart strings pulled when Gogolewski is finally paired with Rory and the young girl’s life is changed for the better. 

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4 Paws For Ability, a non-profit in Xenia, shined bright on the new Netflix series, 'DOGS'.
Photo: Picasa

As director of training, Dulebohn had his own starring role in the episode. 

“We have to work really hard to recognize Jeremy at our graduations and events, because Jeremy is often doing the recognizing of others,” said Jaki Waggamon, social media specialist at 4 Paws for Ability. 

Netflix's new series, 'DOGS' highlighted the Xenia non-profit, 4 Paws For Ability. Director of Training, Jeremy Dulebohn, sees the organization's service dogs from birth to retirement.
Photo: 4 Paws for Ability

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Netflix's new series, 'DOGS' highlighted the Xenia non-profit, 4 Paws For Ability. Director of Training, Jeremy Dulebohn, sees the organization's service dogs from birth to retirement.
Photo: Picasa

For 25 years, Dulebohn has professionally trained service dogs. In fact, the unofficial first service pup of 4 Paws was trained by Dulebohn himself when founder and executive director, Karen Shirk, needed a service dog of her own. 

“She applied at several different agencies looking for a service dog for herself, but she continually was turned down because she was too disabled. So she decided to buy her own and I actually trained her first service dog for her in the mid-90s,” Dulebohn said. ... “What she thought was, well if I had this much trouble, how many people out there really need and could benefit from a service dog that are being turned down?

You can get an in-depth look into the hard work Dulebohn, Shirk and the rest of the 4 Paws For Ability team are doing to help hundreds of families like the Gogolewskis now on Netflix — just make sure tissues are within arms reach.

Visit their website to learn more about the nonprofit and how you can contribute. 

Jesse Burns' family raised $15,000 to get Squirt, a service dog that alerts Jesse to seizures and helps open doors, turn on lights and pick up dropped objects. The family is concerned about others who pass off dogs as fake service animals. The image of Jesse was one taken by Dayton Daily News reporter Chris Stewart, who was named a Best Photographer finalist in the Associated Press Media Editor's 2016 newspaper contest. Stewart is also a finalist in the Best Explanatory Reporting and Best Enterprise Reporting categories of the contest. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Photo: Chris Stewart/Chris Stewart