"Lean on Me:" The Wonderful Story of Bella and George
Bella is ten years old and suffers from Morquio Syndrome. If she manages to walk today it is thanks to the support lent by her Great Dane. He is a wonderful animal who has been trained from the time he was a puppy to be the legs, heart and sincere confidant of children with degenerative diseases.
Her parents say that the connection between Bella and her dog George was almost immediate. Their two souls instantly fell into place to form the best team in the world. Their partnership allows the child to go to class normally and find the strength to continue undergoing operations and medical tests.
In recent years, dogs have become the best therapists for children and adults with medical problems. They are great assistants with admirable loyalty and wonderful intelligence, and can help people overcome personal obstacles.
George, this Great Dane who is just over a year and a half old, is part of “Service Dog Project” program to provide assistance to people with disabilities. Today, we want to share with you another example of the benefits of such therapies with animals.
Bella and George: discovering the world without crutches
Bella suffers from a rare disease. Morquio Syndrome causes an abnormal development of bones, especially in the spine. At just 10 years of age, this girl from Massachusetts was already using crutches and wheelchairs.
To try to stop the relentless advance of the disease, Bella has already undergone nine operations. In addition, each week, she must be admitted to the hospital to undergo replacement therapy that allows her body to break down long chains of sugar molecules, and improve her quality of life.
Now, the fact that she was in a wheelchair and spending more time in the hospital than in class made Bella stop fighting. Her strength was turned off and that was when “Service Dog Project” came on the scene. It is a humanitarian project where Great Danes are trained to offer help to people with serious mobility problems.
What this animal with his noble gaze did was simply magical. George smiled back at Bella and pulled her away from her crutches and wheelchairs. Since then, the girl attends class by leaning on her dog, and every week when she goes to the hospital, George lies down with her friend in bed. They are inseparable.
The benefits of dog therapies
Humanitarian initiatives such as those conducted in Massachusetts should definitely be seen more often worldwide. While dogs are widely employed as therapeutic agents in children with physical or mental disabilities, there are more areas of care we have to take into account.
Therapy dogs for Alzheimer patients
Patients with degenerative neurological diseases also greatly benefit from living with dogs. They help to mitigate the feeling of loneliness and isolation. Contact with the dog awakens the emotions of the Alzheimer’s patient and makes them receptive to reality.
According to a study conducted at the University of Nebraska, the introduction of therapy dogs provides “an anchor” for the memory of patients with Alzheimer’s. Dogs improve their attention and lead them to be more communicative.
Assistance dogs for children with autism
Efforts to develop therapies with assistance dogs for children with autism are giving rise to a very interesting success. Pet therapy is a twist to more traditional strategies in working with autistic children. With dogs they can facilitate the acquisition of new behaviors. The animals are raised not only as positive reinforcement, but as guides or agents to “model” certain activities.
Dogs are great triggers of positive emotions that make the child with autism more receptive and motivated.
To conclude, we are confident that in the coming years therapies with dogs (and other animals) will help us improve the quality of life of many people. The nobility of these animals, and that “sixth sense” when providing assistance and knowing how to emotionally connect with the person, is certainly something that we should all learn.
The story of Bella and George is just a small example of how an animal is able to become the best therapeutic agent for a child who now sees the future with new eyes and has support that gives her strength and hope.