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Open for Bees-ness: Eric Shumate spreads paws-itivity with non-profit

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Written by Colleen Miller, Photos by Rachele Terranova and courtesy of Paws and Effect

Eric Shumate finds that community is at the heart of his entrepreneurial pursuits. As a founding member of the non-profit business, Paws and Effect, this Graphic Design and Visual Experience master’s student has a strong passion for helping others. The non-profit he founded alongside Nicole Shumate trains service dogs for emotional support. Founded in 2006, this business is based in Des Moines, Iowa, but its impact reaches much further.

The story of Paws and Effect begins with Coffee Beans, Nicole Shumate’s retired police dog and her puppy, Roggen. Working as therapy animals became the perfect outlet for the dogs’ energy. After moving to Iowa, they found their community had a specific need for emotional support animals. “It was a time when Iowa had deployed more soldiers than any other state, more consistently and consecutively. So, we had people coming back with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and any of the other causalities of war. So, we started to direct our attention to that aspect and built a base of 140 volunteers,” said Eric Shumate.

Since Paws and Effect was founded, it has grown exponentially. Now, Nicole Shumate works as executive director and assists Asheley Anderson in training the dogs while Eric Shumate remains active in the marketing strategy. As demand for personal therapy dogs has grown, Paws and Effect has turned to the inmates of two low-security prisons to act as puppy raisers. Now, the dogs are part of the healing process for inmates even before becoming official emotional support dogs.

Not only does Paws and Effect train dogs and their handlers, but they’re also outspoken in public affairs. As of March 29, the support of Paws and Effect has helped a bill pass both the House and Senate of Iowa’s state legislature. If signed, this bill will make it illegal in the State of Iowa to misrepresent a service animal. Paws and Effect’s name invites people to take a single moment to “pause” and “effect change.”

“It’s been so fulfilling in so many ways,” said Eric Shumate. The dogs [raised by this non-profit business] have brought much joy to the people’s lives they touch. One story, in particular, stands out. “I was at Swedish Medical in Denver, and I would go in there every Thursday afternoon. I went down to the end of the hall and this girl had not been out of bed in three or four weeks, with apparatuses on every aspect of her body. As soon as Roggen came in, she came running out of bed and Roggen laid down. The little girl laid down next to her and fell asleep. Roggen knew. The girl was in a dynamically chaotic world being poked and prodded, not knowing if she would live tomorrow or not. This animal came in and put her at ease,” said Eric Shumate. “That’s my passion. If we can have just one of those instances, I don’t care about the other failures.”

Inmates at North Central Correctional Facility act as puppy raisers for Paws and Effect. [Photo courtsey of Paws and Effect]

Other successes include emotional support for veterans. After returning home from deployment, some find it difficult to adjust to civilian life. Once connecting with a Paws and Effect therapy dog, some have reported requiring less medication and feeling more connected with their family. “It put a smile on their face for that day,” said Eric Shumate. 

[Photo courtesy of Paws and Effect]

In addition to entrepreneurial pursuits with Paws and Effect, Shumate is also an active member of Project Resound and a creator of street art. “The art I do is in the entrepreneurial spirit. It really has become a side business for me. I’ve been commissioned several times,” said Eric Shumate. “That’s the entrepreneurial spirit that I’ve got. I’m driving to do something and if you just give me a square box, I’m going to make it much bigger, I’m going to round the corners and I’m going to do some crazy shit with it. You can’t hold me back.”

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