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Service dog motivates Parkinson's disease patients during quarantine

"Harley" greets his friends with a cane at the door and does exercises beside them.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — One dog in St. Augustine is the reason many local Parkinson’s disease patients are continuing to seek help in this time when some people are afraid to leave their homes.

Harley is a service dog for Stars Rehabilitation in St. Augustine.

“He’s a special guy,” said Lenny Lyons, who has Parkinson’s. “He’s loving and gentle and caring.”

Harley makes therapy fun for his patients.

He greets them with a cane at the door and does many exercises alongside them.

Melanie Lomaglio, Harley’s owner and owner of the facility, says when the quarantine began, many of her clients canceled appointments to stay home, but she gradually saw many of them come back because they missed Harley, his exercises and friendship.

“Harley helps motivate people,” Lamaglio said. “I have so many people come in that say, ‘I’m just here to see Harley.’”

It’s important to quarantine at home, but for many Parkinson’s patients, Lamaglio says lack of exercise and social interaction can intensify the effects of the disease.

“Exercise is like medicine and movement is like medicine to them. So when they’re not moving they can decline,” Lomaglio said.

Lomaglio says for her and her clients, Harley is more than just helper, but a friend during this pandemic and beyond.

“Our lifestyle is one that we wish we can get back to whatever the normal is," Lyons said.

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