Paws & Effect: Changing Lives One Service Dog at a Time, Part 2

Physical therapy is tough, and it’s even harder when you’re just a kid. What could make the experience easier you may ask? Well, how about a friendly four-legged friend from Paws & Effect! Through Paws & Effect’s partnership with ChildServe, children are having fun doing their physical therapy in new and entertaining ways! Learn more about this amazing program in Part 2 of our Q&A with Paws & Effect Founder and Executive Director Nicole Shumate!

How did your partnership with ChildServe come about?

Nicole: I watched a short news piece about a young boy with autism who was competing with his service dog in agility trials. His testimony was incredibly powerful. It inspired me to pursue a similar program, and we were able to make that dream a reality by partnering with ChildServe. I couldn't be more proud! Our partnership is six years old and going strong.

How are the service dogs used for physical therapy?

Nicole: The children have to manipulate their own bodies to make sure the dogs understand what obstacle to take next. Maybe it is just balancing on both feet while pointing to a jump, but that effort can be extreme for a child who is recovering from a car accident. Children also have to run or walk their dog to the next obstacle. There is a great deal of physical effort in the dog agility program.

It was mentioned that you wish to make dog agility competitions a part of the Special Olympics. What would be some of the benefits to making it a competition in the Special Olympics?

Nicole: It would give children the opportunity to have a parallel program that is popular within the pet dog community: dog agility trials. We host our own trials three times annually which are sanctioned by NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council), but I think there is a broader appeal and the support we might receive from an organization like Special Olympics would be incredible.

What have you done to achieve this goal so far?

Nicole: We continue to fundraise so that we can bring in one litter of dogs, annually, to be placed with children. We then encourage those families to participate in one of our dog agility trials. It has been a slow process, but incredibly rewarding.

How does someone volunteer with Paws & Effect?

Nicole: Feel free to contact me at We're always looking for puppy raisers or people to help at our agility trials.

Where do you see the organization in 5 years?

Nicole: I think we'll be placing 25 dogs annually by then, without any gaps in service. We will have a full time dog trainer (we'll need one!) and the salary to support it. I am as passionate today as I was when Paws & Effect started and look forward to the time when we will be at our best organizational capacity.

What is the main thing you want everyone to know about Paws & Effect?

Nicole: How embraced this organization has been by the community. We're the only organization doing anything like this in Iowa and it requires a tremendous amount of social and financial support. We're gaining traction in both areas, but it is the community's response to service dog recipients and therapy dog participants that makes this job worthwhile every single day.

Find out more about Paws & Effect and join Right Stuf in supporting this wonderful cause!