Coming Together For A Good Paws

June Hill, Writer

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When someone is in need, there is a natural human instinct to reach out and help them. That is exactly what happened when Molly Zolman (11) was in need this past summer. The Homestead community as well as Molly’s friends and family came together to raise enough money to provide her with a seizure dog.

Service dogs do everything from being a man’s best friend to keeping their owners healthy and safe. These intelligent animals save lives; they are kind of like furry superheroes on four legs. With the help of 211 kind and giving people, Molly has recently raised enough money for one of her own.

According to her story on the GoFundMe, Molly suffers from an epileptic seizure disorder and she has one to three seizures a week. She has been through a few surgeries to try and put a stop to the seizures and the seizures have gotten better, but they are still a presence in her life.

Molly and her family are coming to terms with the fact that she will have to deal with seizures for her whole life, but they needed something that would help keep her safe during a seizures; that something was a service dog.

Shawn Harkness, a social studies teacher, started a GoFundMe to pay for Molly’s service dog. $16,000 needed to be raised to cover the cost of the dog, it’s training and other necessities like food and shelter for the 18 months it will take to become seizure dog certified.

“A $16,000 fee for one family is a lot of money, but a whole bunch of people giving 10, 15, $20-it’s not that big a deal,” Harkness said.

For Harkness, a GoFundMe was the perfect way to help raise money for the Zolman family.

“All I really do is go online, start it up and then spread the word on social media,” Harkness said.“Once you start the ball rolling, it just keeps on rolling because more people send it to more people. Then they just donate if they want, so it’s no pressure, but at the same time, people who know the Zolman family quickly wanted to help.”

With a GoFundMe, people can donate anywhere from $5, up to thousands.

Harkness was never skeptical about whether the money could be raised.

“I knew it was possible. I just didn’t know how long it was going to take,” Harkness said.

In the end, between friends and family of the Zolman’s and the Homestead community, it took just two months to raise $16,410, exceeding the goal by hundreds of dollars.

“I was really excited,” Molly said, smiling as she recalled the moment she heard that the money had been raised.  

Her family was also excited.

“We are extremely grateful and humbled,” Molly’s dad, Chad Zolman said. “Our family was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Homestead community.”

The Zolmans do not know exactly how having the dog around will change their lifestyle.

“We are hopeful that having the dog around will allow Molly some more independence,” Zolman said.

Molly does not know anyone who has a service dog, but she loves dogs and is excited to have one of her own. She can’t choose a breed but if she could, she knows what kind she’d want.

“I like golden retrievers,” Molly said.

Regardless, she is eager to have any breed of dog, golden or not.

The Zolmans will get Molly’s dog through Medical Mutts, an organization that strives to work in the best interests of the people and the dogs. They do not use shock collars to train their dogs, as they do not believe that punishing their dogs when they make a mistake is the right way to train them.

According to their website, Medical Mutts will teach recipients how to develop a strong and positive relationship with their service dog based on clear communication, mutual trust, and understanding.

Molly won’t have her dog for another 18 months, but because of Shawn Harkness and the generosity of the community surrounding her, she will be safer and more independent than ever before.

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