Roanoke, Va. (January 27, 2013) – Saint Francis Service Dogs has placed a facility dog at the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center or BRAAC. The dog, a black Labrador retriever named Deuce, was placed in November of 2012 thanks to funding provided by Foundation for Roanoke Valley. Deuce is the first facility dog to be placed locally by Saint Francis.Facility dogs are expertly trained canine helpers, which engage students by acting as both motivator and reward. The dog provides a positive focus for children and helps increase the opportunity for children to develop social and language skills. Facility dogs can also be used in other ways in places such as courthouses and rehabilitation facilities.
“We are thrilled to welcome Deuce, into our daily program, said BRAAC Founder and Executive Director Angela Leonard. “He brings a new dimension to the program and the whole place just seems a lot happier now that he’s with us.”Leonard describes an early success story involving Ian, a four year old at BRAAC who is just learning to speak. He spontaneously asks for Deuce by saying "Deuce" or "Dog." These were the first words Ian had spoken other than repeating something that had been said to him.
“It is not unusual for children with autism to be self-absorbed, living within their own world, and our parents yearn for that special connection and reciprocation of love,” said Leonard. “Children with special needs will often connect with animals. So if Deuce can be this connection, and we can transfer these interactions to loved ones, why in the world would we not use this opportunity?”
Alan Ronk, Executive Director of Foundation for Roanoke Valley, says the placement of Deuce is a perfect example of how this particular fund is supposed to function. “One of the objectives of our Kinder Fund is to support programs that promote the positive relationship between humans and animals. We are thrilled to be able to play a significant role in placing a facility dog at BRAAC, and we look forward to the many wonderful things that will result from this new relationship,” he said.
Saint Francis has already received requests for facility dogs from other groups and expects the demand to increase. “It’s a relatively new concept, but it obviously has a lot of merit, said Saint Francis Executive Director Cabell Youell.
Youell said organizations interested in facility dogs should contact the organization for a review of how Saint Francis might be able to meet their individual needs.
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About Saint Francis Service Dogs: Saint Francis Service Dogs is a local 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises and trains service dogs for children and adults with disabilities to enable them to become more independent and self-sufficient through partnership with a service dog. Saint Francis is the largest service dog organization in the state and the first to be accredited in Virginia. The training program adheres to the highest standards in the industry. Saint Francis is not state funded, does not receive insurance reimbursements and relies entirely on private donations, grants and fundraisers like DogtoberFest to fulfill our mission.
Submitted by: Niki Voudren, Saint Francis Service Dogs