Dogs can make lives better

Oct 13, 2022 | Communities

Twelve-year-old Adam and Hanna Burke, Laura Encinas’ daughter, with Jameson. This dog has been trained to alert to certain sounds his owner is unable to hear in the home.

Laura Encinas, a field representative for Dogs for Better Lives, shared information on the nonprofit’s mission.

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

The old adage is that dogs are man’s best friend. That could not be more true when those dogs are trained to assist their people.
On Sept. 25, Laura Encinas, a field representative for Dogs for Better Lives, was at the Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co. with Jameson, one of the dogs the Oregon-based nonprofit has trained.
Jameson is a hearing assistance dog, having learned to alert his deaf or hard-of-hearing owner to sounds that, according to the group’s brochure, “are necessary for everyday safety and independence, such as smoke and fire alarms, doorbells, over timers and the phone.”
Dogs for Better Lives also trains dogs to assist those who are on the autism spectrum. They “act as an anchor to keep the person from bolting.” Encinas explained that by putting its body on the child or adult, the dog provides comforting deep pressure. They can also act as a buffer in social situation and may help the person acquire better social skills.
The third type of training given to dogs is called facility training. These dogs will go to work with professionals who work with people with disabilities, such as special education teachers, psychologists and physical therapists. Having the facility dog present may help the student or patient interact with the professional.
Encinas said they used to get all their dogs from shelters. Now, she noted, they are retraining dogs who did not pass the test to work with the visually impaired. And they are starting a breeding program.
The nonprofit was invited to the Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co. by Lake Arrowhead resident Patty Jensen, who serves on the Dogs for Better Lives board of directors. After a former neighbor moved to Oregon and learned about the nonprofit, she contacted Jensen and suggested she might be interested in working with them. Jensen coordinated a similar event at the brewery last year.
On Sept. 25, Lake Arrowhead Brewing donated a portion of the profits from that day’s sales to Dogs for Better Lives.
Since its formation in 1977, Dogs for Better Lives has placed more than 1,300 dogs. There is no cost to the client for the dog.
Their mission statement is to “professionally train dogs to help people and enhance lives while maintaining a lifelong commitment to the dogs we rescue and breed and the people we serve.”
Encinas has spent her career working with animals. She was a veterinary technician and worked with a guide dog school in Michigan. It was there she got interested in the training aspect.
“I love the reward,” she said.
For more information on Dogs for Better Lives, to learn how to volunteer with the nonprofit or to apply for a dog, visit


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