The world of service dogs has changed the face of tolerance to people with disabilities the world over. This is a story of one service dog who saved a family.
In May of 1999, an Atlanta couple went to Russia to adopt a one-year-old boy and a girl two days younger. Rabbi Harvey Winokur and his wife, Donnie Kanter Winokur renamed the boy Iyal and the girl Morasha.
The boy, Iyal, started showing signs of aggression at three years old. He would throw terrible tantrums and exhibited dangerous behavior. He would have terrible nightmares and awake in a rage. At school, he started using aggressive and inappropriate behavior toward other students. Iyal’s disabilities were consuming the entire family.
A developmental pediatrician concluded Iyal’s brain and nervous system had sustained a significant injury while in his mother’s womb, due to alcohol abuse.
Iyal’s mother then learned of a service dog agency out of Ohio that assisted with autistic patients. The Winokurs were initially concerned a dog would add more stress to their lives. They were also worried their son might verbally and even physically abuse a dog.
In 2007, the Winokur’s finally decided a service dog was the right decision. Iyal’s mother contacted 4 Paws in Xenia, Ohio. The organization, with the help of founder Karen Shirk, helped place the perfect dog for Iyal. A gentle golden retriever named Chancer was matched with the boy. The 90-pound golden’s calm demeanor immediately had a positive effect on Iyal.
Chancer validated Iyal and his disability. The dog helped pave the way of acceptance of disabilities of all kinds, and communicating about them. The golden retriever doesn’t know Iyal has an impairment. Chancer loves the boy unconditionally and is never embarrassed by him. Having a dog has proven to be the best medicine for the family.
Photo credits: Michele Asselin for The New York Times