Saint Francis Service Dogs celebrating 10 new dogs and their partners at graduation ceremony

By Patricia Martellotti - Reporter
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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Sunday was a heartfelt celebration as the Saint Francis Service Dogs presented the graduating class of 10 new dogs and their partners.

Five-year old Lucy has catastrophic epilepsy and depends on her service dog, Hazel to alert her parents when she needs help. Her mother, Melissa Rhoden says the family would be lost without Hazel.

"When I go out without her, I don't know what to do with my hands," say Rhoden.

The service dogs are trained to the highest standards in the nation. It takes two years to train them.

"It takes so much not just donations but all of the people who take care of the puppies, the people who raise the dogs, it's one of those situations where one plus one equals more than two," says executive director, Cabell Youell, of Saint Francis Service Dogs.

Lucy's dog, Hazel has learned to bark, alerting adults in the home when something is wrong with her.

"She stays with Lucy which is what we want. She lies beside her she licks her," says Rhoden.

As Youell explains, these service dogs do far more than just alerting others who their partner is in need of immediate help.

"These service dogs are really holistic in their healing they heal on so many levels

they heal people's hearts," says Youell.

This graduation marks the 20th year of the Saint Francis Service Dogs celebration.

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