How Service Dogs Have Helped These Scleroderma Patients

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Seventeen-year-old Fallin Turner has scleroderma and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis and never leaves the house without her best friend: her Great Dane, Justice.

MORE: Ten benefits of having a service or therapy dog if you have scleroderma.

According to a report on, Justice helps Fallin with pain relief by gently rubbing his nose on her sore joints, helps keep her balanced if she feels dizzy and helps out in an emergency. Fallin has been so impressed with how much Justice has improved her life, she now volunteers for a non-profit organization that trains service dogs for other people with disabilities.

Don Alfera is another person living with scleroderma who understands how much a service dog can benefit someone with a chronic illness. Diagnosed with scleroderma in 1995 while serving in the military, Alfera was sad to have to leave his working partner — a  a drug-detecting black Labrador.

Alfera saw firsthand how competent dogs could be and knew that they could also be trained to help those who had chronic illnesses. Alfera now has a service dog named Brandy and also trains service dogs for others.

MORE: Five sources of pain in scleroderma.

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