Leah & Dancer

As featured in the 4 Paws for Ability 2018 Annual Report

Leah Manth and Dasher met each other at 4 Paws for Ability in May 2018. Leah has Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) and is deaf in her one ear, but still hears out of the other, along with a few other symptoms that have an impact on her daily life. Leah’s mom, Linda, struggled to find someone who could help them at first. “Finding organizations that provide hearing service dogs (and deal with those who are younger than 18, as Leah was at the time), was not an easy task. We found 4 Paws for Ability, applied, raised the money, and then came for training.” Leah and Dasher spent two weeks together at 4 Paws learning each other and more importantly, learning all the things Dasher would be able to do to help Leah.

Leah’s family was honestly expecting Leah to be at a different spot in life right now. “We were expecting her progressive tumor growth to render her deaf in both ears. Thankfully, that has not occurred yet, and while we would like it to never occur, realistically it is on the horizon. Dasher is a good fit for our family but is trained to do more than Leah needs at this point,” Linda noted. That’s a small joy, often unheard. While Leah does maintain some hearing still, Dasher helps with what she doesn’t hear and with other aspects of her life. Leah has numerous brain and spinal tumors and receives IV chemotherapy every three weeks, plus takes oral meds and has a slew of doctor appointments/MRIs that Dasher now accompanies her to. He’s adapting to Leah’s needs, like what to do at a crosswalk when Leah’s deaf ear is closer to traffic-a gradual transition to a time when Leah will approach traffic and not hear at all. Dasher also provides Leah with some mobility assistance, a steady paw when her balance is off.

Dasher has become part of the Manth family, is truly loved by all. “Leah is our quiet introvert, and in the past year I have heard her speak more in public than I ever have before because he is a natural draw. When people ask what Dasher does for Leah it also opens up conversations about NF2 and service dogs that allows us to educate and inform people that otherwise may not occur. He has taught her more about responsibility and respect than my husband and I could ever hope for. Dasher provides comfort, companionship and an often-welcome distraction with her multiple medical appointments. With future surgeries inevitable because of her medical diagnosis, he is and will be a positive influence in an otherwise difficult situation,” explained Linda.

While the Manth family expresses some guilt that Dasher knows more than they ultimately need for Leah at this point, their partnership exemplifies that upon which 4 Paws was founded. Those with disabilities are worthy of the assistance of a service dog – Karen Shirk wasn’t too sick, and Leah Manth isn’t too well for assistance. Linda notes, ”Dasher does everything we need him to do and way more than we were ever expecting and has the potential to grow with Leah as her needs evolve.” And grow together, they will.