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Service dog headed to United Services for Children in St. Peters

Jessica Cooke [left] owner of The Yuppy Puppy, and Marcy Hammerle, head veterinarian at The Pet Doctor, hold an 8-week-old chocolate Labrador retriever they are donating to United Services for Children in St. Peters.

A chocolate Labrador retriever will soon be scurrying through the halls of United Services for Children, a nonprofit pediatric therapy and early intervention center in St. Peters. The service dog, to be named in a public contest concluding Feb. 21, will assist children with developmental disabilities.

“This is a rare chance to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children for years to come,” said Dr. Marcy Hammerle, head veterinarian at The Pet Doctor animal clinic in O’Fallon.

Hammerle teamed up with Jessica Cooke, owner of The Yuppy Puppy pet spa in O’Fallon, to donate the 8-week-old puppy to United Services for Children. The two businesses, which share a building on Technology Drive, will share the expense of professionally training the dog – a two-year process that would be cost-prohibitive for the children’s agency. The Pet Doctor will provide free veterinary care. Yuppy Puppy will provide free grooming and boarding. Both businesses will donate food.

Denise Liebel, president and CEO of United Services, said she is deeply grateful for the two business leaders’ generosity and commitment to children. She said everyone at the agency is excitedly awaiting the puppy’s first visit. But while the dog is adorable, it is definitely not a pet, she said.

“This service dog will perform a vital role in breaking through to children who, due to their disabilities, have become closed to the outside world,” she said. “It is critical that we reach these children. If we fail, they will pay the price the rest of their lives.”

Yuppy Puppy has a training department with professionally certified trainers. The puppy, specially bred for temperament, has already begun the training that will transform him into a therapy dog. Throughout the process, the puppy will make frequent visits to United Services, becoming acclimated to the children and the building. Once the training is complete, the dog will be assigned to a United Service staff member. It will work full-time at the agency during the day, Monday through Friday, and go home with the staff handler every night. The dog will return to Yuppy Puppy periodically to reinforce and maintain its training.

Founded in 1975, United Services provides therapy and early intervention to approximately 75 children weekly. It also provides support programs for parents and siblings. The center is located at 4140 Old Mill Parkway in St. Peters.

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