Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thunder is our Pup of the Week

Life can be cruel.  But even in the cruelest lives, there are moments of joy.        

When Shanna Niehaus gave birth to her son Kainoa five years ago, she had the expectations that all young mothers have:  Years of love and affection; of watching her little man grow up surrounded by friends and family.

But Kainoa never showed love nor affection.  He could not hug, snuggle or touch freely, nor could he wash or dress himself.  Her son was diagnosed with autism.  They were desperate to see a sign of the loving boy they knew was trapped inside their son.  They raised $15,000 in hopes of getting an Autism Assistance Dog for Kai.

Meanwhile, at the 4 Paws for Ability facility a golden retriever named Thunder was born.   Thunder was bred to be a service dog.  From the moment of his birth he and the other dogs born at 4 Paws are trained to enrich the lives of children with disabilities or veterans who have lost their limbs or hearing during contact.  It takes 12 to 16 months for a dog like Thunder to be fully trained.

Here at Rainbow Bridge, there is a similar service.  Unrescued dogs are trained to find the perfect match between a service dog and the individual the service dogs can help the most.  They immediately knew that Thunder and Kai belong together.

It was not going to be easy.  The Niehaus family was in Japan, and Thunder was in Ohio.  The family had to get referral letters, provide medical forms, and videos of Kai in different social situations.  Once the family was accepted for a service dog they held, auctions sold their personal artwork, and several fundraising events to pay for Thunder’s training.

Tornado was trained for companionship since children with autism have problems maintaining social relationships. He was also trained in behavior disruption.  If Thunder senses that Kai is overwhelmed or anxious he can calm Kai so he does not exhibit behavior that could cause Kai injury.  Tornado was also trained to be tethered to a person since he would be tethered to Kai so the child could not wander away from his parents.  Since Kai cannot communicate this would be a disastrous situation.

       Finally, Tornado was ready.  The Niehaus hoped that Kai was able to form his first connection with another living soul.  He attempts with his family and at school had all failed.   What happened was more than they could have ever hoped.

Here is the video:

Afterwards his mother said:  "It's worth every fight for services for my son, every diagnosis, every new provider, every dollar spent, every paper filled out, every school meeting, every shed tear, every step forward, every step back, and every wonder of the unknown future.  Somehow because of this – because of Tornado – I know everything will be OK."

So here is a tip of the tail to Tornado who proves a theory we have all believed for a long time.

With a dog’s love, anything is possible.


  1. Lump in throat. We have read so many miraculous stories about dogs and kids with autism.

  2. We used to follow a blog about Clive, the assistance dog, and his boy Murray, also autistic. It was amazing the bond those two had. We are so happy for Kai and Tornado.

    Woos - Lightning and Misty

  3. Lady works with people with autism. This video warmed her heart. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Such a lovely tale - thank you for sharing. Nose licks and love from Moth xx

  5. Wonderful story!! thank you!
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  6. There is good in the world, and it's stories like this that make a day better!


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