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JJ and His Sparkling New Service Dog, Mimosa

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

It has been a long time coming for Skylight Chief Financial Officer and Skylight Foundation Secretary Treasurer Kathy Barnes and Skylight Financial Planner Bobby Barnes, and they have finally been matched with a service dog to tailor to their son, JJ’s needs. JJ is a bright 15-year old boy, with a rare condition called Bainbridge Ropers Syndrome. Kathy and Bobby wanted to give JJ confidence and freedom during his everyday activities, which is why they started fundraising for a service dog two years ago. We finally have an update, and the Barnes Family is feeling bubbly as they greet their new furry family member, Mimosa.

The Skylight Foundation supported in every way that they could to get JJ the service dog he needs and deserves. So, with that the foundation raised awareness for the cause and $3,500 to help the Barnes Family get their dog. Dan Brennan, the President of the Skylight Foundation, said, “It is within the mission of the foundation to help individuals with special needs, but this time it was even more important because it was one of our own that needed the help.”

4 Paws for Ability is in Xenia, OH, but they help families with children who have disabilities all over the globe receive the best service dog for their needs. Kelly Camm, the Development Director at 4 Paws for Ability, shared the process from their perspective for training the dogs.

The process begins with a litter of puppies born at 4 Paws for Ability, and while they aspire for all their dogs to become service dogs, that sometimes is not the reality. Through the learning, growing, and developing phases, the volunteer trainers can determine whether the puppies are going to be a good fit for the job. Once they go through their basic training, which includes potty training, crate training, obedience, and socialization, they start looking for the perfect family for them to go to.

This is when the Barnes family started sending in videos of JJ doing everyday activities, so the staff at 4 Paws could determine what dog would be best for him. Mimosa was the perfect fit and was chosen to be further trained for JJ’s needs. Mimosa has been specifically trained to open and close doors, aid in handicap accessible areas, retrieve dropped items on command, and preform deep tissue therapy. Mimosa will also be by JJ’s side while he is at school, so they made sure she is acclimated to the many activities that happen, including the bell, fire alarm, and the many scents throughout the school.

4 Paws for Ability was perfect for JJ because they are one of the only service dog training organizations that train dogs to work with people who cannot take care of themselves, let alone the dog. This specific type of training is called a three-unit team. “Everybody should benefit from the use of a service dog, whether they can handle the dog or not,” said Kelly.

We also caught up with Kathy Barnes to hear the process from her family’s perspective and to get an update on what they’re most excited for with their new four- legged family member:

What has been happening with JJ since we last spoke two years ago?

Kathy: JJ just turned 15-years-old and will be going to high school next year. He is making steady progress through his therapies. He and the whole family have been patiently waiting for the newest member of our family. We were supposed to be getting a therapy dog in August, but because of COVID everything got pushed back.

How did you find out this could be a great resource for JJ?

Kathy: We heard about 4 Paws for Ability through a babysitter who fosters service dogs. She would bring her dog over while it was in training and instantly, we could see how much JJ enjoyed being around the dog. The dog would just lay on the floor with him and their bond grew very fast. He was very gentle and not skittish with the dog, so we started thinking this could be an amazing resource for JJ and our family. Later on, that babysitter became a reference for us in the process of applying to 4 Paws for Ability.

What did the whole process look like for getting the dog?

Kathy: It’s such a long process with many phases including application, interview, referral, and fundraising phases. Once you are approved you are put into a class and wait for the dog to be trained which is about a two-year process. So, all of that together is about a three-year process.

What happens once you are approved for getting a service dog?

Kathy: The training for the dog is very extensive. While the dogs were being trained, we sent a lot of videos of JJ going about his daily activities, so they could train the dog to his specific needs. This was difficult because we were trying to do this during COVID and couldn’t really show him out interacting in public. JJ is in a wheelchair so one of our specific requests was having a dog comfortable with a wheelchair. The service dog was also taught to do deep pressure therapy, so she will lay on him and against him to help calm and sooth him.

What is your dog like?

Kathy: Her name is Mimosa and she is a Golden Doodle. We knew we were going to get a bigger dog for the deep pressure therapy and helping JJ in his wheelchair. It is cool because there is a network of people who were involved in Mimosa’s training. So, once we were matched with her, the people who helped train her started sending adorable puppy pictures, showing the process of her training.

How is this going to make JJ’s life easier?

Kathy: It will make everyday activities that much easier for him. From a social aspect it will help JJ because who wouldn’t want to be around a fluffy dog? I think it will also help for calming and overall make him feel more comfortable in every environment. I hope he gains some confidence in his everyday life.

Is there anything else you would want to let people know about if they were interested in the process of adopting a service dog?

Kathy: Anyone can get a service dog that might need it for their child or adult. The only thing I think turns people away from it is how involved the process is. We are so appreciative of everyone who has supported us and helped us through the process.

JJ and Mimosa have a long road ahead of them, as there is a bonding period of six months to a year. This is a critical time for them to become comfortable with each other and for Mimosa to continue to learn how to be of service to JJ. Be sure to check back in a few months to hear how the bond between JJ and Mimosa grows!

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