A working dog can transform the life of a person in need, serving as the arms, legs, ears or eyes for someone. But as Lori Breece witnesses regularly, they don’t just open physical doors for the clients they serve.
“Our dogs can change a person’s life, empowering clients once afraid to leave their home with the confidence to go to the grocery store, get the mail or head out into the community on their own,” she explains. They also help combat loneliness and deliver other social benefits.
Lori serves as the manager for United Disabilities Services’ (UDS) Service Dog Program, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For 20 years, the program has been training service dogs, and more recently, facility dogs that work in school classrooms, counseling offices and similar environments.
UDS volunteer Colleen Pavlovec can attest to the impact these four-legged companions have. She serves as facility dog Duncan’s main handler. She’s also the principal at Leola Elementary School, where Duncan works with students that have special needs. “He picks out the students experiencing stress and calms them down, and helps those with stability issues find their balance,” she explains. “Our school has become a much better educational facility, just because Duncan is here.”
Lori says the key to the program’s success is making sure the right dog is placed with the right client. “When that happens, it just works and miracles can happen,” she maintains. “These dogs are helping people gain independence and live fuller lives.”