*Please click on the photos below to see them enlarged*
Shawn Sondervan is a sweet 9 year old boy from Georgia. He suffers from Aspergers, P.T.S.D and extreme ADHD. Along with these conditions Shawn has had a string of medical crisis' as well.
Shawn battles everyday from the effects of these conditions. Every aspect of his life is dramatically difficult. The Sondervan family reached out to Knallhart Academy to help their son Shawn live a more fulfilled normal life by offering him a trained service dog.
They found a local breeder in Georgia who paired him with one of their young dogs for sale named "Kovu". It was a match made in heaven and a week later Kovu was in Iowa for training. Kovu was a wonderful student. He was always very calm and although he did have a little bit of a stubborn side at times he was always willing to learn. He was a very kind hearted soul and enjoyed his time at the academy training, playing, and being apart of our Knallhart family. He loved chasing his fur friends around and getting muddy, but he also loved going out in public and working with those with special needs.
We worked tirelessly to prepare Kovu for his new life of working for this young boy. He was trained on everything from advance public manners, to sleeping in the bed with Shawn to helping him with his night terrors, and was even trained to be able to go to school with Shawn. Shawn and his family even travelled to Iowa to spend time with Kovu to help continue to build their bond. The family had finally felt like they had found the answers to their sons needs. Although Kovu was still early on in his training, they were so impressed with his skills. Shawn was able to go into a high stimuli environment with minimal issues, Kovu was able to help alleviate a panic attack using deep pressure therapy, and overall Kovu was extremely attached and well behaved for Shawn.
Finally after months and months of training it was time for Kovu to go home his new life in Georgia. Everything was going so fantastic! Here at the academy though the last couple months leading up to Kovu's return home we did see a small change in Kovu. Although he was eating his meals, he was looking smaller than he normally did. His energy was also a little lower than usual. He was at puberty age so we thought that it was the normal "gangly" adolescent stage and didn't worry too much because he was still eating and playing normally. He had also just been to the vet a couple months prior for a check up and neuter and they said they had no major concerns about his health.
When we arrived in Georgia we really saw Kovu's training was paying off, Shawn was improving at home and in school!
However, during his first couple weeks in Georgia Kovu fell very sick. So sick to the point that he would not eat his meals. Kovu's immune system did not handle the transition into his new home and veterinarians were perplexed with what was going on. After numerous blood work samples and even exploratory surgery Kovu was then diagnosed with both a chicken allergy (and was being fed Purina Pro Plan Chicken food prior) and a terminal genetic disorder call Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Because of these illnesses Kovu could no longer work as a service animal for Shawn.
Shawn and his family were heartbroken. They had spent thousands of dollars purchasing this dog and even more on training. They had no contract in place for a replacement animal. The breeder and previous owner of Kovu were not willing to help the Sondervan's with getting a new animal or refunding their purchase for Kovu. They contacted us and pleaded for help, they saw what Kovu was able to do within those first couple weeks that he was with them and they saw the huge improvement in their son that they needed. They didn't want to give up but felt as though they had no where else to turn.
This is where Knallhart Academy stepped back in to do what was right.
Knallhart Academy found a replacement dog, a young chocolate lab named Pheonix. She passed her initial temperament and health testing. She had the spunk, eagerness to please, and intelligence that was needed for the type of service dog work Shawn needed. The family was able to purchase Pheonix due to a donation from a very generous donor and Pheonix is currently now in our program for the next twelve months training to replace Kovu.
The family came to visit Pheonix at our 4.5 acre Knallhart Academy farm in October. They stayed for an entire weekend at our home and we were happy to see that it was a great fit!
Then, one weekend in December we travelled to Georgia so that Pheonix could spend some time with the family, without any Knallhart trainers around. The Sondervan family was ecstatic with the progress she had made in such a short time.
The family feels as though she will be able to out preform Kovu's skills by the time she is completed with her training.
We are happy to be apart of this journey with the Sondervan family. They have been through so much with their son and the loss of their previous service dog Kovu was heart wrenching for not just them but us here at Knallhart Academy as well.
We award them with our 2017 Client of the Year award. The award will be presented to them in February for their resilience, belief in Knallhart Academy and their honesty and character while utilizing our services.
If you are interested in donating to Shawn Sondervans cause please visit his GoFundMe page at