Fundraiser to help dogs earn their wings

Bragg Creek: Fundraiser for service dogs to be held May 3

By: By Carmen Solana-Martin

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 01, 2013 11:28 am

Jakob Furdal and his service dog Merlot share a bond that will help him gain independence. Jakob's father Ken hopes to raise $40,000 for Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society by running in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon.
Jakob Furdal and his service dog Merlot share a bond that will help him gain independence. Jakob's father Ken hopes to raise $40,000 for Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society by running in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon.
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A Calgary father will run for the love of his son and his first lap will kick off a fundraiser to give other Albertans the same life changing opportunity his family has just received.

On May 4, Bragg Creek residents Kim Coulter and Marina Cooke will host the Bragg Creek's Joey's Only and Loko's Lounge fundraiser in support of Ken Furdal and the Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society.

Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society is a non-profit organization providing highly trained service dogs to people with disabilities, to help give them independence.

On April 12, Ken and Jo-Lynn Furdal and their family received Merlot, a specialized service dog from the Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society.

Ken Furdal is running in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon on behalf of Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society and his son Jakob, 11, who has Down's syndrome.

Merlot's job is to help Jakob, and his addition to the family will help them cope with the challenges they face.

“My son's got multiple severe disabilities and is non-verbal,” said Furdal.

According to Furdal, Jakob connects with animals and he and wife thought a service dog could help their son, who suffers deep depression and has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD.)

After his uncle and two family dogs died, Jakob started to withdraw from his family two and a half years ago, and his pediatrician diagnosed him with depression.

His depression was so severe his parents had to remove him from his elementary school.

“We lost our son for almost a year because he retreated and was detached from us,” said Furdal. “We were devastated.”

Jakob was diagnosed with OCD because he had involuntary movements called stimmings.

“Jakob was highly anxious and wouldn't connect,” said Furdal. “He would sit there and shake and flip the same Kleenex for hours.”

Furdal said he and his wife tried many different therapies to deal with Jakob's depression and OCD.

To help with his depression and stimmings, the Furdals hired Kim Coulter, a former education assistant who had worked with Jakob at his elementary school, to home school their son for a year using various therapies.

Merlot's presence in Jakob's life will also help the boy gain independence and safely negotiate the outside world without the need for constant parental and adult supervision.

“Jakob will cross the street without looking both ways, and now he can walk through a crosswalk safely with Merlot,” said Furdal. “Since getting Merlot Jakob walks with a sense of purpose because he's commanding a dog.”

Besides helping Jakob gain independence, loving Merlot may also reduce the risk of future depressions, because taking care of the dog has given him a sense of purpose, according to Coulter.

“As Jakob gets older he'll be more independent with the dog and may be able to take public transportation by himself,” she said.

According to Coulter some people judge others based on physical appearance, and when they look at Jakob they see his disability and assume he is limited in his abilities.

“There are so many things Jakob can do, he loves to cook, and to grocery shop,” said Coulter. “He is extremely capable and is a smart boy.

“I love that kid to the moon and back again,” she said. “For someone who is truly non verbal his actions speak volumes. He has taught me so much.”

Coulter said Jakob wants to become more independent.

“At this point in his life Jakob wants to do things by himself and Merlot will provide him with the opportunity to take that step away from his parents and make more independent choices,” she said.

On May 26, Furdal will be running 42.2 km in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon to raise funds for Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society.

Furdal's goal is to raise $40,000 for Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society, the cost of training and raising one service dog.

“I want Dogs with Wings to have the funds and resources so they can train more dogs,” said Furdal. “This is my chance to pay it forward and provide someone else with the same opportunity that our family has received.”

Paula Bildfell, Calgary coordinator for Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society, is seeking volunteers for the organization's Calgary puppy raising program.

“I want people will learn how this dog has affected this family in such a positive way and changed their lives,” said Bildfell. “I hope Ken inspires others to also pay it forward by volunteering to raise a puppy for our organization.”

The Bragg Creek fundraiser for Dog's with Wings Assistance Dog Society will be held at Joey's Only and Loko's Lounge on May 4. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets cost $25 per ticket with $10 from each ticket going directly to Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society.

To purchase tickets email Kim at kimberleycoulter@shaw.ca, or pay at the door. To help Ken Furdal reach his fundraising goal for the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon and the Scotiabank Charity Challenge visit: www.my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=1738354 and

www.secure.e2rm.com/registrant/startup.aspx?eid=106624&langpref=en-CA

For more information on Dog with Wings Assistance Dog Society

visit www.dogswithwings.ca


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