Abilities Through Agility

Iowa Fraternal Order of Eagles Donates $138,000!

Nolan, a child residing in Polk County, Iowa, was on hand to thank donors. 
He looks forward to receiving his own autism-assistance dog in July 2014.

The Iowa State Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E.) recently donated more than $138,000 to Paws & Effect, so that the Central Iowa non-profit trainer of service animals could maintain and expand its production of dogs specially trained for children with autism.

The donation was the result of fund-raising efforts from 39 FOE chapters, called "aeries," across the state. And donations continue to arrive. "The funds raised will be vitally important in growing and maintaining our efforts to serve children with autism," says Nicole Shumate, executive director of Paws & Effect.

Service animals are trained to perform physical tasks in support of a specific individual. By law, service animals are granted access to public spaces along with their handlers.

The cost of a finished service animal can range from $15,000 to $25,000 each, given training, food, veterinary care, uniforms, equipment, and other costs borne by the Paws & Effect organization. Paws & Effect trains service and mobility animals for military veterans, children, and others. Animals are placed at no cost to recipients, and those recipients train directly with their animals prior to the dogs' "graduation."

Paws & Effect has previously placed three dogs with children with autism, and two more dogs are nearly ready to graduate. A new class of puppies will arrive in the fall.

Serving children with autism is an outgrowth of Paws & Effects' long-standing commitment to children with special healthcare needs. Through its "Abilities Through Agility" program, Paws & Effect has been working since 2007 with another Central Iowa non-profit, ChildServe, to pair children and therapy animals in pursuing physical-, occupational-, and speech-therapy objectives. Unlike service animals, therapy animals are trained and socialized to serve general populations.

"For such a small and scrappy organization like ours, those years of experience put us on the cutting edge of developing service animals for children with specialized healthcare needs," says Shumate. "Nationwide, we seem to be one of the leading organizations working in this way."

The Fraternal Order of Eagles' mission is "an international non-profit organization, [that] unites fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills, and by promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope."

According to the organization, national membership exceeds 850,000, with more than 1,400 local aeries in the United States and Canada. Women's auxiliaries total more than 1,300, with more than 250,000 members.

Hero Dog Awards: Vote for Cadence Before June 6!

Since 2012, the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Awards program has recognized the animals that help humans in ways ranging from the everyday to the extraordinary. One of this year's 24 semi-finalists is Cadence, a 9-year-old black and white Catahoula whose charity partner is Paws & Effect, Des Moines, Iowa.

Cadence is nominated in the Therapy dog category of the Hero Dog Awards contest. Other categories are:

  • Arson dogs
  • Guide and hearing dogs
  • Law-enforcement dogs
  • Military dogs 
  • Search and rescue dogs
  • Service dogs

Cadence began her mission as a therapy dog through the Delta Society's Pet Partners program in 2006. With love, patience, and strength, she has helped kids overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Friends describe Cadence as even-tempered, but exuberant.

"She's attracted to children and activity," says handler Nicole Shumate, who is also executive director of Paws & Effect. "She occasionally screams around the agility course—she has a career tally of exactly zero points in agility competitions—but absolutely loves being with kids."

In 2007, Cadence helped to start the Abilities Through Agility program at ChildServe, a non-profit provider of specialized health care to Central Iowa children. There, she helps special needs children reach their rehabilitation and developmental goals through agility activities. Since then, the program has expanded to a number of therapy dogs who touch the hearts of ChildServe children on a weekly basis. Cadence has also broken barriers in the court system, recently helping a special little girl though an extremely difficult trial.

The girl was housed at Youth Emergency Services & Shelter ("YESS"), and was a witness for the prosecution in an emotional case. Cadence helped the victim through the intense, agonizing court processes. Cadence—sensing the girl's vulnerability and unimaginable pain—dutifully curled near her feet each and every day, despite the stress and long hours. The assistant county attorney said, "I requested assistance from Cadence in facilitating communications with a child victim that was having a hard time ... Cadence provided companionship and distraction for the child, allowing the child to move past her negative feelings and work with me to proceed with the case."

Vote for Cadence at this page. Each day until the June 6, 2014 deadline, voters may vote for one dog in each category. Those receiving the most votes will advance to finalist.

According to the Hero Dog Awards website, "every finalist will be presented with a Hero Dog award for their feats of loyalty, bravery, and love, and win $1,500 for a selected charity partner. In addition, one finalist will walk away with top honors as the winning American Hero Dog for 2014, securing an additional $5,000 for their charity partner."