4 Paws needs items for service dogs

The organization 4 Paws for Ability was founded in 1998 by Karen Shirk, who’d tried unsuccessfully for years to obtain a service dog from traditional service dog agencies. At the time, Shirk often used a ventilator to breathe; agencies said she was too disabled to receive a dog.

Since its founding, the amazing nonprofit has placed more than 1,500 service dogs in training. The organization is featured in the book “The Underdogs: Children, Dogs and the Power of Unconditional Love” written by author Melissa Fay Greene, who grew up in Dayton. It was also featured on the first episode of a Netflix documentary, “Dogs.”

In the early days of the nonprofit, 4 Paws found a gap in the service dog industry. “Many service dog organizations did not work with children, so 4 Paws took up this challenge and became the first known organization to assist children by placing task-trained autism assistance dogs,” explains development director Kelly Camm. “4 Paws has gone on to expand its programs for children to include seizure assistance, facilitated guide, mobility assistance, diabetic alert, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder/drug exposure assistance, hearing assistance and multipurpose assistance service dogs.”

The organization helps ensure that children everywhere have the option of obtaining a service dog to enhance their own and their family’s quality of life while navigating the world with a disability. 4 Paws added a small veterans’ program to its services following 9-11, believing that if every legitimate service dog agency committed a portion of its resources to support veterans, no veteran would go without the support needed to reorient to society following the loss of ability after war.

At the 20-year mark of operation, 4 Paws placed its first facility assistance dog with Milford High School to assist children with autism in the classroom. Since that time, Dayton Children’s has added two facility assistance dogs working in the Child Life Specialist area of the hospital.

Also added at that time was the program for adults with Alzheimer’s. These service dogs are handled by the caregivers and can provide behavior disruption and tracking if the patients should wander off.

“We were desperately hoping the coronavirus pandemic would be behind us, but there is concern that we might be back where we were in 2020 with a shortage of donations so we are ramping up now so that we are not caught short-handed should that time come. Make a Difference readers can help by donating items we use every day. We appreciate any support the community can provide,” says Camm.

Here’s what they need

Cleaning supplies

  • Laundry pods (liquid detergent is not used)
  • Clorox/disinfecting wipes
  • Lysol spray
  • Disinfecting cleaner
  • Pine Sol
  • Nitrile gloves (big need for these)
  • Bleach
  • Potty bags
  • Odoban

Dog supplies

  • Nylabones
  • Baby shampoo (for bathing puppies)
  • Jolly Balls (assorted sizes)
  • Pup-Peroni (no off brands)

Other supplies

  • Bottled water (for employees)

Items can be dropped off in the lobby from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 4 Paws for Ability, 207 Dayton Ave., Xenia, Ohio 45385.

For more information, visit 4pawsforability.org or call ( 937) 374-0385.

Other ways to help

4 Paws is always in need of more families and individuals willing to foster service dogs-in-training ranging in age from 8 weeks to 2 years old. The primary responsibility is to socialize these dogs in the public and at home.

“Because the majority of the service dogs are placed with children, families with children are particularly well-suited to provide basic training and essential socialization,” says Camm. “Children and youth volunteers learn about the responsibility of raising a confident, well-trained dog and the impact their work will have on another child or veteran with disabilities.”

4 Paws provides all volunteer trainers with regular training, as well as free medical care and supplies for the service dog-in-training. Service dogs in training typically return to 4 Paws for Ability at around 1 to 2 years old to begin their task training. Learn more or submit an application to volunteer by visiting 4pawsforability.org and clicking on the Volunteer tab.


Meredith Moss writes about Dayton-area nonprofit organizations and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith: meredith.moss@coxinc.com.

Please include a daytime phone number and a photo that reflects your group’s mission.

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