Some people question whether miracles really happen.  I can say with certainty that I know that they do.  My son, Sam, was born four months before his due date.  He weighed one pound, seven ounces at birth.  He is a miracle that I have the privilege of witnessing every day.  Sam is now a healthy, very happy nine year old in the third grade. 

Sam spent 116 days in the neonatal intensive care unit before we were able to bring him home.  As his mom, there was not much I could do for Sam to help him through those first critical months, except be there, read stories to him, tell him stories about his family and hold him when I could.  The medical care was left up to experts who worried about doses of medicine, the right type of ventilator, how much oxygen to give, what temperature his incubator should be at, when his fused eyes would open for the first time.  As him mom, I had to have faith, because I did not know the answers to these questions.

 Because of his premature birth, Sam has cerebral palsy and has been in therapy his entire life.  He started physical and occupational therapy before he ever left the hospital.  Sam started working with Dustin’s Paw in 2006 at St. Alphonsus through their Jumpstart outpatient therapy program.  Sam has been a patient there ever since.  Diane has selflessly devoted an incredible amount of time and energy to Dustin’s Paw, and has never taken any pay for the work she does.  Diane is a canine modality specialist and works with kids by incorporating her skilled dogs into kids speech, physical and occupational therapy.  There are not words to describe the pure joy that the children (and their parents) get from having Ovelle and Prairie participate in the therapy.  It transforms their work from  “therapy” to play and fun. 

Being the parent of a child that is non-verbal, struggled to walk, open doors, turn on a light switch, drink from a regular cup and many other things we take for granted, having Ovelle or Prairie at Sam’s side made it seem like a less arduous task.  Diane and Dustin’s Paw are there to make the dogs not only a friend for the patients, but a teammate, an encouragement and a big reward for a job well done.  It is amazing what Diane and the dogs can get the kids to do. 

My husband and I immediately saw the value in what Diane, Ovelle and Prairie did for Sam.  We talked about getting a CCI skilled companion dog for Sam.  It was a big decision because it is an enormous commitment, and we took a lot of time to make it.  At every step, Diane was there answering questions, encouraging, supporting and still working with Sam at Jumpstart. 

In May of 2011, Sam received his CCI own skilled companion dog, Galba.  There is not a chance that we could have done what we did to bring Galba into our family without the six years of support, encouragement and help of Diane and Dustin’s Paw.  Diane works untold hours.  She is the heart and soul of Dustin’s Paw.  She volunteers more hours in a week than a full-time job.  She prepares the lessons, gives presentations, shops for equipment, answers questions, updates donor information, sends thank you cards, listens and offers advice and thinks of ways to grow Dustin’s Paw.  She does all these things in addition to taking care of two skilled facility dogs, who are a fair amount of work in themselves.  Diane does not take one dime for the work she does.  She is a tireless advocate for children and for CCI dogs.  There are not words to describe the admiration, gratitude and love my family and I have for Diane, Ovelle, Prairie and Dustin’s Paw. 

Like I said, there are people that never experience miracles.  I have experienced many miracles firsthand, the birth of my son and the miracles that Diane and Dustin’s Paw create with kids every day by their work, their outreach and their commitment to helping others. – Tessa O’Donnell, Parent

Comments are closed.