A tiny girl has been able to take her first steps in nine years thanks to the support of her Great Dane.
Bella Burton, 11, from Woburn, Massachusetts, was born with Morquio Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects her bone growth and limits her movement. And even after undergoing more than ten operations and countless physical treatment, it was still a difficult for her to walk without crutches or a wheelchair.
But because to the support of her beloved canine George, a 130-pound Great Dane service dog, the youngster is finally able to walk around on her own.
George who is the same height as Bella, but three times her weight, was trained at the Service Dog Project in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
SDP has donated approximately 100 Great Danes as service dogs to those who have significant balance and movement problems. The dogs perform an important service and have boosted the quality of life for their owners.
Service dogs have been put with youngsters, military veterans, Mutiple Sclerosis, Friedreich’s Ataxia and more. While each dog receives extensive training for balance, once a dog is partnered with an applicant, the dog is specially trained to suit their needs.
In Bella’s situation, George was originally introduced to her last year and has helped enhance Bella’s mobility along with her morale more than any other therapy she’s had.
Marquio Syndrome, a degenerative metabolic disorder that affects just 3000 persons globally.
The rare hereditary disorder that leads to organ damage, improper bone formation and dwarfism.
‘I had wheelchairs, walkers, Canadian crutches, standard crutches, and then we acquired George and I ditched my crutches and started to utilize him,’ Bella told WCVB.
The girl is able to lean on the Great Dane when she travels through her school corridors and up and down the stairs.
‘He knows what to do,’ she replied. ‘He knows where all my classes are.’ While she’s at class, he’ll take a nap.
‘I lean on him like a crutch,’ she told Fox News. ‘He helps me walk. If I fall, I tell him ‘Brace!’ which means he will stand and won’t even budge and I can pull myself up,’ Bella explained.
For all intents and purposes, Bella is able to enjoy a completely active life running around on the playground and going on bike rides; things that she wasn’t able to participate in safely before George was adopted and became well and truly part of the family.
George helps Bella play at the gym and play outside with her buddies. At night, he sleeps close next to her making sure she’s always protected.
Their story has captivated hearts around the world, with many tracking the pair’s progress online via their Facebook page.
George will be honored by the American Kennel Club with an Award for Canine Excellence at a ceremony in December.
The Great Dane is one of five dogs receiving the award who have ‘substantially influenced the lives of their owners and people in their communities.’
For Bella, George is not just her crutch, he’s become her best friend too.