More about Support Dogs Inc.

Saturday, January 10, 2015
Julia McMillen, 17, takes her cell phone from her service dog, Lina, who retrieved the item from across the room. Lina assists the Sikeston teenager, who has cerebral palsy, with everyday tasks, such as opening doors and retrieving dropped objects. Leonna Heuring, Staff

SIKESTON -- Sikeston teenager Julia McMillen is one of many people across the nation who've received service dogs through St. Louis Support Dogs Inc.

In fact each year the nonprofit organization places 20 dogs with individuals, according to Bill Dahlkamp, executive director of Support Dogs Inc.

"We train a variety of different service dogs with the underlying benefit or purpose that they provide independence for people in many, many ways," Dahlkamp said.

Support Dogs was founded to train dogs for people who needed assistance with mobility-related tasks. Today the organization provides service dogs, animal-assisted therapy dogs, hearing dogs and psychiatric service dogs.

"Some dogs allow people to get jobs and they give them a sense of well being," Dahlkamp said. "In addition to the skills they give people, they're opening doors to independence."

Service dogs, which is the type of dog McMillen has, are trained to complete mobility-related tasks for someone with a physical disability. The dogs are trained to open doors, retrieve dropped and distant objects, help with undressing, carry bags, as well as a variety of other mobility-related tasks. Service dogs are placed with adults and children (over 6 years of age).

"Just give us a call if you're interested to see if an assistance dog would be good for you. We serve adults, children, deaf, military veterans -- all can benefit with assistance dogs," Dahlkamp said.

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