The pre-teenage years are usually the most carefree in a person’s life, filled with childhood innocence and fun, and a growing independence.
But for 13-year-old Bella Burton of Woburn, Massachusetts, as she grew up, she was facing some serious challenges: She couldn’t walk due to Morquio syndrome. But something amazing happened when an unlikely friend stepped in to help.
Bella Burton has Morquio syndrome, which effected her ability to walk.
Morquio syndrome is a rare genetic disorder in which the body has trouble processing certain sugar molecules within the body. It causes growth defects, and because of this, Bella had to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around.
According to Rare Disease Report, Bella has been fighting Morquio syndrome since she was 2 years old and it had gotten progressively worse over time.
By the time she was 10 years old, she couldn’t bike or run or play like other kids her age. But she wasn’t going to take it anymore. She was fed up!
Obviously, Bella’s disorder wasn’t going to go away immediately just because she wanted it to.
But fortunately, something else was happening in her life at around the same time that would have a tremendous impact on her health.
She met a big dog named George who helped her to walk without crutches.
By this point, Bella and her mother, Rachel, had been volunteering at the Service Dog Project for over a year. One day, as they were volunteering, Bella decided to say hello to a 130-pound Great Dane named George.
“I could tell he needed me,” Bella said. “And I needed him.”
There was an instant connection. With that in mind, the family decided to bring George home for the weekend to see how it went. It ended up going off without a hitch, and in January 2015 George became her full-time service dog.
With George by her side, Bella now had somebody to lean on … literally! She started walking with a crutch on one side and George on the other to support her.
“I lean on him,” Bella 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.”
After doing this enough times, Bella’s legs grew stronger to the point where Bella could walk around without crutches and, eventually, without any sort of physical support at all!
“We never thought she would be off crutches,” Rachel told PEOPLE. “And now she will go in the yard and play, even without George. To see how much stronger she’s gotten is awesome.”
George has been so reliable, he got an American Kennel Club award and a BarkBox “best day.”
George hasn’t just been there to physically support Bella, he has been there to emotionally support her as well.
As it turns out, Bella isn’t the only one who loves everything about George. She nominated him for a BarkBox “Dog’s Best Day” award—and he won in March 2016. According to Huffington Post, this honor is meant to give special dogs one day of royal treatment.
“This could be a dog has done something heroic, had a rough life and inspiring transformation, or a family who needs some help fulfilling a bucket list for their terminally ill pup, a-la Make-A-Wish,” BarkBox’s Laura Hartle told Huffington Post in 2015 when they launched the award scheme.
“Really, we just want to celebrate deserving dogs and tell their unique story.”
For George’s best day, he started out at a burger joint where he was given a full tray of burgers which he didn’t have to share with anyone. This was a huge luxury for the dog who normally isn’t allowed people food at all.
Later in the day, an entire ski slope was shut down just for Bella and George so he could playfully run around in the snow like a madman!
Finally, he was taken to the dog version of a candy store where he was given an enormous bone to chew on.
It was a big day for a big dog, one that he fully deserved!