Training and placing service & skilled companion animals with children with disabilities in your community.
Working Animals Giving Service for Kids was established in 2004 and is dedicated to the service of children with disabilities in Northeast Ohio, by providing them with trained mobility and skilled companion animals. Therapeutically, emotionally and physically, these special dogs have a life changing and positive effect on the children they serve. And WAGS is the only organization in Ohio that exclusively places service dogs with children up to the age of 18.
The idea of service animals trained specifically to meet the special needs of children was nearly unheard of in 2004. It was Wendy Nelson, an animal trainer and Ed Crann, a former special education teacher who developed the reality back in 2004, of what today is Working Animals Giving Service for Kids. It is an organization founded and built in Northeast Ohio for the children here, in our own back yard. The need of local children is what spoke so loudly and special children and their families continue to drive the growth of this organization.
Nine years later, WAGS 4 KIDS stands as a testament to what individuals with vision can accomplish. In 2006, Wendy published the WAGS 4 KIDS training protocol titled “Dogs Don’t Speak English”. It was her hope that families that were not being served by most national service dog organizations could use this specific and progressive training program to select and train an appropriate service partner for whatever need existed in their own family. In 2007, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections invited WAGS 4 KIDS to bring their training protocol to the North Central Correctional Facility in Marion, Ohio. A select group of inmates were then taught how to train dogs, following this precise and duplicable method developed by WAGS 4 KIDS. Over the years, more than twenty five men have been instructed as trainers by WAGS and 45 dogs have been placed. Six dogs at a time are housed in the facility, each living with an inmate. To maintain the success of this “Cell Dog” program, the WAGS staff trainers enter prison every Tuesday to educate and monitor the progress of each animal.
But it is always the children and helping them with their individual challenges that is the most important to WAGS 4 KIDS. These are children we often see spending their lives having things done to them and for them. WAGS 4 Kids presents an opportunity for the child to reach out physically, emotionally, and even more…
WAGS dog AJ was partnered with Myles, a four year old with Cerebral Palsy. Myles lives with paralysis of his left side. He communicates with simple sign language to let his parents know what he wants and needs. Myles does not speak. In the final phase of AJ’s training, the WAGS trainers stopped talking to AJ and worked exclusively with hand signs. When AJ went to live with Myles, that little boy had a dog he could command and tell what to do, on his own, with his right hand. A real dog of his own. Something his parents hadn’t thought possible. But there is a more interesting thing that happened through this placement of AJ to Myles. As the days passed, Myles began to speak. His first words were not “Mommy” or “Daddy”, words his parents had waited so long to hear him say …Myles said “come” and “sit”, clear as a bell, because he wanted to talk to AJ.
Wendy has told us that on a visit to see Myles, when he had just turned six, he climbed up on the sofa to sit next to her with a picture book and asked if she would like to hear him read. As Myles pointed to pictures and read the words below each, Wendy said, “Myles, I love that you are reading to me.” Myles answered, “Me too!”
We invite each of you to join us in doing something purely good … something you can be proud of … something that makes an impact. Join us in helping local children with disabilities and change a life.