NARBERTH, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A Montgomery County nonprofit is helping improve the lives of children with disability by matching them with service dogs.
Paws and Affection in Narberth has helped match dozens of kids ages nine and up with their pets.
"She'll usually just lick my finger," said 10-year-old Jessica Lorusso while showing off her dog, Winni.
Winni helps Jessica deal with anxiety. She took the pup home in 2021.
"Usually, when I'm doing my hair, she will come and lay with me or set her chin on my lap," said Lorusso.
Laura O'Kane, the executive director of the non profit, said, "What we're looking for is this little spark of magic where the child says 'I've been waiting for you,' and the dog says the same thing."
The nonprofit has matched 31 kids ages nine and up with service animals, mainly retrievers.
"To know that dogs could be a part of that was overwhelmingly encouraging and exciting," said O'Kane.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety diagnoses in kids have gone up 25%.
Paws and Affection trains pups to recognize those symptoms and help kids cope.
"What our dogs can do is they can interrupt a panic attack. They can nudge someone to change their way of thinking," said O'Kane. "If they're picking at their hair as their way to say they're anxious, the dog can be taught to identify that and interrupt it."
Scoop, a golden retriever, is able to do for an entire school.
She was adopted during the pandemic to help at AIM Academy, a school for kids with language-based learning differences.
"She knows exactly when someone needs a hug or a snuggle," said Liz Strauss, a counselor there.
Whether it's snuggling an entire class, or one girl whose pup is helping her be brave, the dogs are making differences in lives of kids every day.
"What could be better than that?" asked O'Kane.