Our measure of a true hero is someone that is willing to extend themselves for someone else; someone who will never directly benefit from their sacrifice; someone who is destined to become a significant part of the foundation and journey of another; someone who can never really be repaid for their generosity, grace and kindness; someone who knew right from the start there was nothing in it for them but gave of themselves anyway.
Righteous Pups Australia would simply not be here today if it wasn’t for some special people and organisations who gave of themselves, when they had little time to give, they gave to us anyway. We are deeply and forever in their debt, a debt we can never truly repay but would like to humbly acknowledge.
Our friendship began with Karen Shirk in 2005. Karen is the Managing Director of 4 Paws for Ability and is truly a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to helping those less fortunate than herself. In 2005, we contacted Karen and basically begged her and the 4 Paws board to allow us to fly to the US and do a cadetship with their organisation. 4 Paws for Ability are the international leaders in training Autism Assistance Dogs for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We had nothing to give them or exchange. We were basically asking them to teach us everything they knew at no cost to us, but at great cost to themselves in time, energy and effort so that together we could bless autistic children in Australia. We had nothing we could offer them. We hadn’t even raised the money to send a trainer to 4 Paws. Miraculously, 4 Paws agreed and Karen even offered to open her home, heart and family and allowed our trainer to live with her throughout the course of the cadetship.
So we raised the money to put Kelly Stevens, our training manger, on a plane. Kelly is a country girl and rarely left Bendigo, let alone Australia. Kelly arrived in Dayton at some ungodly hour, and there was 4 Paws waiting to pick her up. Kelly was incredibly homesick at the start but the 4 Paws team embraced her and made her feel right at home. Although, let it be said, they got an enormous amount of pleasure requesting Kel to say crikey in true Steve Irwin style and found the concept of vegemite rather elusive. Jeremy, 4 Paws head trainer, really extended himself and not only equipped Kel with great skill, he was also a great friend.
Throughout the course of the internship and even now, Karen receives lots of emails from our administration team with a wide array of questions and requests.
In our eyes we are forever indebted to the team at 4 Paws for Ability. They are phenomenal mentors and distinguished friends and every dog we place with an Australian child with Autism is a potent and ongoing expression of the purity of giving with no strings attached. We are honoured to call 4 Paws for Ability our friends and simply would not be here without their support.
Crikey! we are grateful. Thank you 4 Paws for Ability, Karen and Jeremy.
Righteous Pups Australia Inc is much more than a dog training centre…it is a community, a family. Though training dogs is the primary activity taking place, it is the way in which Righteous Pups does this, that defines our shape as an organisation. Righteous Pups has a mission to train and place Autism Assistance Dogs for Children on the Autism Spectrum Continuum, but we also work with at risk youth and disadvantaged members of our society to develop confidence, esteem and purpose through their involvement in training dogs for others in need. This mission sees about 100+ volunteers each week from all walks of life engaged in the training of Assistance, Therapy and Tricks/Demonstration Dogs.
On any given day of the week, the Righteous Pups Team consists of groups of secondary students involved in community service, classes of At-Risk-Teens (from both main and special school settings), individual volunteers through various disability services providers, and individual students from any of the several secondary colleges in the region, who exchange a day a week of regular school to be part of the Righteous Pups team. Typically, these students are the victims of bullying, and/or struggling with the challenges of high school. Additionally, Righteous Pups has a strong volunteer base of retirees, who share their extensive skill base in a mentoring context with the students volunteering at the centre. It is this maximisation of the human canine bond that makes our school a family and a community worth being a part of.
It is a beautiful privilege to be a part of this wonderful and fiercely community focused organisation, who at their very core just want to be a positive influence and blessing in the lives of our children, young people and families throughout our country. However, our journey has been a financial struggle especially after the Black Saturday bushfires and the financial downturn. At times such as these, the future of some of our programs looked really bleak, until we received some Random Acts of Kindness. The Cassandra Gantner Foundation has been the organization behind these great acts of unexpected generosity and have enabled us to keep our promises to our at risk young people.
Thank you so much for your great kindness.