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'We create extraordinary bonds' | For 40 years, St. Louis County organization offers free service dogs to those in need

"I was actually able to dress myself with the help of my dog. This one definitely changed my life," one recipient says.
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Creating a duo and extending a hand — or paw, should we say? — is what the organization Duo Dogs tries to do.

It connects furry friends to people who may need physical, emotional or social support.

These dogs can provide independence and stability to many lives. 

"We create extraordinary bonds between people and dogs," said Stacy Maly-Rodgers, Duo Dogs' director of engagement.  

The 40-year organization has facility dogs, assistance dogs and touch dogs.

Some can help with mobility, hearing or those battling with PTSD. 

Assistance dogs take two years to train. 

Susanne Wandling, Director of Canine Services, empowers them with expertise that will last. 

These pups are taught to turn off light switches, pick up items, close doors and even wake up those with PTSD when they are having nightmares.

Credit: KSDK

For Alison Chancellor, she's had three dogs from the organization over the years. 

"My disability is cognitive and physical. I have lived independently since 2006 and I'm sure without these dogs I probably could not do it. I was actually able to dress myself with the help of my dog. This one definitely changed my life," she said.

More than 200 dogs have assisted people like Chancellor.

Credit: Alison Chancellor

A familiar face is also a Duo Dog: Barclay! He's a Duo Dog ambassador for the St. Louis Blues.

But COVID-19 stopped the program in its tracks.

"We did shut down for several months. We aren't able to put out the number of dogs that we want to do," Maly-Rodgers said. 

To keep the ball rolling during a difficult time, support is needed.

Maly-Rodgers said donations are incredibly important right now since they place the dogs free of charge. 

"It costs about $39,000 to train a dog from beginning to end," she explains. 

Volunteers are also needed, such as puppy raisers and sitters. 

Help is important because these dogs can truly be a treat for those they serve.

If you're interested in helping or becoming a participant, click here.

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