Bella Burton was born with Morquio syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects her bones and greatly limits her mobility. She’s undergone multiple surgeries and myriad therapies, but the 11-year-old still struggled to walk on her own, always requiring crutches or a wheelchair to get around.
But all that changed after Bella met George -- her Great Dane and best friend.
"I lean on him like a crutch," Bella told ABC News of her canine companion.
And that’s not just figurative.
George, a service dog who was trained at Service Dog Project in Ipswich, Massachusetts, accompanies Bella wherever she goes. Bella uses the dog’s large body as a support, and walks confidently alongside him.
"I had wheelchairs, walkers, Canadian crutches, regular crutches and then we got George and I dropped my crutches and started to use him," Bella told WCVB.
George, who was first introduced to the girl last year, has helped improve the child’s mobility and morale more than any other therapy she’s undergone. Bella now runs and plays on the playground, and even goes shopping at the mall, activities she didn't feel comfortable doing before her family adopted George in January.
"With George, she's become so much stronger and active," the girl’s mom, Rachel Burton, told local news outlet Home News Here.
Burton added that George is "the most loyal dog we could have hoped for. He's 131 pounds, and she's 43 pounds, but he's just so chill around her. And he does anything she says."
George’s contributions to Bella’s life have been so profound that he’s being honored by the American Kennel Club (AKC) with the Award for Canine Excellence at a ceremony in December.
"George and Bella have an inseparable bond and he will do anything for her. He has helped her gain confidence, independence and happiness," the AKC wrote on its website.
The Great Dane is one of five dogs receiving the award who have "significantly impacted the lives of their owners and people in their communities."
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