As featured in the 4 Paws for Ability 2018 Annual Report
Bella Menard has suffered from seizures since she was just six months old and was diagnosed with Epilepsy and Autism at the age of six. Her seizures became so significant that Bella could no longer sleep on her own as seizures would stop her breathing and require her mother to perform CPR. When fear began to eat away at Bella about her seizures and their unpredictability, Tanya, Bella’s mother, knew it was time to make a change.
While researching service dogs, the family was originally daunted by the process of obtaining one. Luckily, the family had a chance encounter of running into a 4 Paws for Ability dog at a mall a few years later. “All of a sudden out of nowhere came this puppy, it bounded over and immediately laid across her lap and Bella started running her hands in its fur, and within two minutes the meltdown she was having was over” Tanya recalled. After getting this first taste of “4 Paws magic” the family decided it was time to apply for Bella’s service dog.
In 2019, Bella was introduced to her new teammate, Zodiac. “From the first day of class Bella and Zodiac were inseparable, they were even asleep together on her blanket at the end of class,” Tanya recalls. “I don’t know how 4 Paws does it, but they picked the perfect match for Bella.”
Since that very first day, Zodiac has been Bella’s “Prince Charming.” Zodiac can sense a seizure up to six hours before it occurs – life changing notice for her family. During a seizure, he will retrieve family and bark to alert them of the seizing. Afterwards, Zodiac will lay with Bella to comfort her until she feels better. Zodiac is also trained to assist Bella by performing behavior intervention and balance assistance by applying deep pressure and offering counterbalance with his special harness.
Bella and Zodiac have become inseparable in the short time they have been together. The two enjoy Bella reading aloud, dancing, watching the iPad, and playing fetch and tag together. Tanya believes that Zodiac is a great social and verbal bridge to others for Bella and she has, “loved watching her come out of her shell and be more confident.” She explained that 4 Paws magic is “more than just Zodiac, it’s the connection you make with the staff and other families who go through class with you.”
The family feels “blessed” to have Zodiac in their lives and to be able to be a part of the 4 Paws family. “It’s hard to remember a time without him. My family is blessed to have Zodiac and to be part of such an amazing organization. I will never be able to say thank you enough to everyone involved in giving my family the piece we didn’t realize we were missing.”