The Incredible Story Of How This Service Dog Helped This Little Girl Will Warm Your Heart
15. Meet Bella
Bella Burton, 11, has been living the life she had always dreamed of living. This past summer she did the unimaginable and was able to go for a bike ride and walk on her own for the first time. Bella gets a little help from her friends, and especially her best friend, George, a 137-pound Great Dane. But George isn’t just an ordinary dog.
14. George The Great Dane
George was taken in by Bella’s family a few years ago as a service animal. Service dogs can be adopted for a variety of reasons but for Bella, George was adopted to assist her with her daily needs, as she has Morquio Syndrome. What is Morquio Syndrome you ask?
13. Morquio Syndrome
This Massachusetts sixth-grader has Morquio Syndrome which is a rare inherited metabolic disorder that was diagnosed when she was 2. The progressive genetic disease can lead to abnormal bone development and dwarfism, which makes it hard to walk. Bella, just 42 inches tall, is not expected to grow much more, her mother Rachel, tells PEOPLE Magazine. The disease may not be visible at birth; symptoms usually begin between ages 1 and 3. Morquio syndrome is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms get worse as a child grows. However, Bella has felt nothing but better since George came into her life.
12. Getting Stronger
Until Bella got George 20 months ago, she had to rely on crutches and a wheelchair to get around. Then Bella learned to lean on George, a fun activity for her that’s also significantly strengthened her legs. Because George is a Great Dane, one of the largest breeds of dog, he has no problem supporting a girl like Bella.
11. Goodbye Crutches!
Bella’s Mother Rachel cannot believe the progress she has seen in her daughter since they adopted George, “We never thought she would be off crutches. And now she will go in the yard and play, even without George,” Rachel says. “To see how much stronger she’s gotten is awesome.” Afterall, every mom just wants to see their child happy, and for Rachel, she didn’t even know this kind of happy would be a possibility for Bella. However, things were not always this way for Bella.
10. A Happier Bella
Before getting George, Bella was very shy and did not like to draw attention to herself or play with other kids. But since Bella’s gotten George – who even attends classes with her – she’s been the happiest she has ever been. “He’s always there for me,” she says, “and whenever I’m feeling sad or something, he’s always there. He knows, he just kind of comes over and leans over me.” Bella knows how caring and supportive George is and the two have been inseparable ever since his adoption.
9. Adoption Time
George first joined Bella’s family on January 19, 2015, from the Ipswich, an MA-based Service Dog Project, which trained the gigantic four-legged friend. The group has donated over 100 Great Danes to people with severe balance issues, according to its website. This sturdy breed of dog could not be a better match for children and adults who experience the struggles that Bella has. The way the two met was absolutely heartwarming, as well.
8. Love at First Sight
Although the family technically adopted George, it was George who actually picked Bella.“Bella came here and spent a lot of time at the farm and she’d go in with all the dogs on the property and not one would give her the time of day,” said Megan Kokaras, a head trainer at the Service Dog Project, tells PEOPLE Magazine. But then George found Bella.
7. An Unbreakable Bond
“She stumbled upon George and there was an instant connection,” she says. “She climbed into his loft [where he sleeps] and he put his paw on her leg and didn’t want her to leave. The large dog connected with Bella unlike any dog ever had.“It was instant. George said, ‘This is my person’ and we ran with it from there. They were made for each other.” said Megan. The iconic duo has been making memories ever since.
6. Forever By Her Side
Throughout the years George has helped Bella grow stronger and more comfortable with who she is. George has even been there through some of Bella’s major moments in treatment. After Bella began receiving a weekly infusion of an enzyme replacement therapy at Boston Children’s Hospital in June 2014, George was at her side. Like a true best friend, Bella can depend on George to be by her side no matter what happens.
5. Through Thick and Thin
George has even accompanied Bella for two recent short overnight hospital stays, and as dogs are apt to do, the giant dog climbed into bed with her. This October Bella will return to the hospital for reconstructive surgery on her right foot. George will be with her for that, as well. No matter the surgery, no matter the place, George will be there for Bella like he always has been. Bella even says George has helped her in ways no would could imagine.
4. Best Friends Forever
Reflecting on her daughter’s friendship with George, the mother notes “He’s given her more confidence,” Rachel always says “She feels Bella fits in better with her peers than when she was on crutches or a wheelchair. She feels more confident about herself.” Not only confident but Bella is more mobile and free to challenge herself physically. “Now that she has George, she feels more like a regular kid,” says Bella’s mother.
3. A Girls Best Friend
Dogs are always said to be a man’s best friend. That couldn’t be truer for this little girl and her dog. Unlike a pair of crutches or her wheelchair, George is like family to Bella. He is more than just a helping hand, he is a part of her life and a part of growing up for her. George, like other service dogs, have proven time and time again, there really isn’t anything better than man’s best friend.
2. Service Dogs Today
Service dogs today like George are a very important and significant step forward in caring for people with disabilities young and old. There is an almost humanlike aspect to a service animal that is just irreplaceable for a patient who is in need of care. But Support Animals like George are not only used for helping those with physical disabilities. In fact, there is a whole new breed of support animals that have become increasingly popular over time.
1. Emotional Support Animals
The rise of emotional support animals has been seen quite a lot within recent years and cases such as Bella’s although very different in terms of disability are very similar in terms of the support the patient receives. George could be seen as an emotional support animal to Bella as well with the benefits Bella has seen in her overall mental health and happiness. Although service animals have commonly been used for those with a physical handicap, the companionship of an animal like George has proven to do wonders for those suffering disabilities like depression, PTSD, and even in cases of severe anxiety. Whether it be mental or physical, it is clear that these four-legged friends have been doing a world of good for those in need.