As featured in the 4 Paws for Ability 2017 Annual Report
In many ways Sawyer Shapiro is a typical active seven-year old boy. According to his mom, Alexis, “Sawyer loves watching movies and shows on his iPad or TV. He also loves dinosaurs, robots, going to the beach, seeing live shows, taking vacations, hanging out in bed, ice skating with his grandpa, sleeping at his grandparents, bounce houses, and. anything related to outer space,” she said. Sawyer, however, has Dravet Syndrome, a life-threatening form of epilepsy. He
had his first seizure at the age of six months. Along with frequent seizures, Sawyer has a number of additional conditions: Autism, language difficulties, sensory needs, motor and balance impairments.
Until the Shrapiros met Cherry, a 4 Paws for Ability service dog, Sawyer was restricted in many ways. “Having Cherry has made things so much easier because I can have him hold the special handle on her vest and then we can walk together safely and with confidence. Sawyer loves to walk with his girl. We never used to be able to do this safely! It has made our lives so much easier!” Alexis enthused. Since Cherry is a gorgeous and friendly dog, it gives Sawyer a cool factor too. Other kids admire her, and it gives them something to focus on besides his limitations. In addition to her seizure assistance work, Cherry assists Sawyer with sensory seeking needs and behavior disruption. Alexis reflects that one of Sawyer’s favorite things is deep pressure from Cherry, and Cherry takes it up on herself to nuzzle and bump Sawyer when he needs distraction from something that is impacting him.
The Shapiros initially heard about 4 Paws for Ability through good friends who also had children with Dravet Syndrome. They got to know their dogs and “were truly blown away by how wonderful they were,” Alexis explained. Cherry joined their family in June of 2017. The Shapiros consider Cherry an asset to the whole family, and she has enhanced Sawyer’s life in a multitude of ways. They explain, “She has given him a true friend, a guardian, a playmate who won’t judge him, a living weighted blanket, a seizure monitor, an anxiety soother, a much cooler way to walk safely, and have more independence. We don’t worry as much when he is sleeping or playing in his room as long as Cherry is there. We’ve noticed how much more confidence Sawyer has.” When asked how he feels about his loyal canine companion, Sawyer says that he loves to cuddle her and that “Cherry makes me feel happy!” That brings joy and peace to the entire family.