CHEYENNE – Four-year-old Cash Davis has loved watching sports since his early months in the newborn intensive care unit.
He especially likes football, baseball and golf. The on-screen action keeps him motivated – he tries to climb the rock wall at physical therapy, even though he just learned to walk.
“He loves riding his bike with help from us and walking everywhere he possibly can,” said Cash’s mom, Amorette Davis. “He just wants to do everything.”
Davis and her husband moved to Cheyenne during her pregnancy after doctors told her Cash would be born with special needs.
“I knew we’d have to be as close to Denver’s children’s hospital as possible,” Davis said.
Cash was born with CHARGE syndrome, a group of rare genetic physical defects that can affect a person’s eyes, ears, heart and physical development. While its impact varies among patients, many of the health problems associated with CHARGE can be life-threatening.
Cash has survived roughly 30 surgeries already; his first was at two days old, followed by open heart surgery at eight weeks old.
“In his case, it was a new mutation just in him,” Davis said. “So there was less than a 1% chance it would ever occur in a pregnancy.”
Now, the Davis family is hoping to raise $17,000 to provide Cash with a lifelong service dog to assist in his development and independence.
The dog will help him with hearing tasks, balance and retrieving dropped items, as well as offer companionship as Cash grows up.
Over time, the service animal will carry Cash’s feeding and oxygen equipment, too.
“He’s on oxygen 24 hours a day and a feeding tube backpack 20 hours a day,” Davis said.
Davis was rejected by several other service dog organizations before she found 4 Paws for Ability, an Ohio-based organization that has no age requirement and works with a wide range of disabilities defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Other groups said he was too small or has too many needs,” Davis said.
4 Paws recently celebrated 20 years of placing service dogs with special-needs children worldwide, prioritizing candidates who don’t fall into traditional categories, including children with seizure disorders and rare illnesses.
“We believe that a child can benefit from a service dog, regardless of the ability to handle the dog on his or her own,” said 4 Paws development director Kelly Camm. “A lot of our dogs are placed on a three-unit team, so, if the child isn’t able to properly handle the dog, then the guardian is the primary handler and the child is the secondary handler.”
Cash and his mom, who stays home full time to keep up with her son’s medical needs, will be part of that three-unit team.
The process for training a service dog at 4 Paws is rigorous. Each dog is bred and trained to fit each person’s particular needs and disabilities.
“We let the dogs tell us what they like doing,” Camm said. “You look and see what they’re good at, what they enjoy, and then you help them hone those skills along the way.”
On average, it costs as much as $60,000 for specialized training at 4 Paws for Ability. The Davis family has raised about $6,000 of the $17,000 needed to move forward with training Cash’s dog.
Thanks to the boy’s love of sports, the Dymonte Thomas Community Foundation, founded by the Denver Broncos safety, recently hosted a charity auction to help raise money for the family.
“He’s looking forward to snuggling with his dog and hoping he will like watching sports with him,” Davis said.
Anyone interested in donating to the Davis family for Cash’s service dog can do so at www.mightycause.com/story/Cashscompanion.