An 11-year-old with a rare disease that affects bone growth and limits mobility has found her strongest support in an unlikely place — a Great Dane named George, who will receive an award later this year for his devoted service to his owner.
Bella Burton was born with Morquio Syndrome. “It attacks her healthy bone growth,” Bella’s mother, Rachel Burton, told WCVB. “So that’s why she’s short-statured.”
Over the years, Bella, who lives in Woburn, Mass., has used a number of tools to help her walk. “I had wheelchairs, walkers, Canadian crutches, regular crutches,” Bella told WCVB. But earlier this year, Bella got George, a Great Dane service dog who has replaced the wheelchairs and walkers. “I lean on him like a crutch,” Bella told ABC News.
George, a Great Dane service dog, helps Bella Burton, his owner with a rare bone disease, walk. (Photo: Bella and George/Facebook)
George accompanies Bella to school, to the mall, and wherever else the energetic 11-year-old wants to go. “With George, she’s become so much stronger and active,“ Rachel told Home News Here about the duo. She explained 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.”
There’s even a Facebook page dedicate to the unlikely pair, which features pictures of Bella and George at home, at the hospital, in the car, and at the park. The page, which Rachel runs, “is the story of Bella and George’s adventure together as she faces the challenges with Morquio Syndrome, and he faces the challenges of being a big dog with a big job.” The page has more than 9,000 followers.
Bella Burton poses with George, her service dog, who will be honored by the American Kennel Club later this year. (Photo: Bella and George/Facebook)
George, a trained service dog, was adopted by the Burtons in January. In December, he will be given the Award for Canine Excellence from the American Kennel Club. George is one of five top dogs getting the honor, which includes a $1,000 donation to a pet-related charity of the owner’s choice and a one-year Pet Insurance policy. “Before she met George, Bella used a wheelchair or crutches to move around, but George has given Bella the strength and determination to walk and take part in activities she otherwise would not have been able to do,” the American Kennel Club said in a press release. “George and Bella have an inseparable bond and he will do anything for her. He has helped her gain confidence, independence and happiness.”
Rachel is hoping Bella and George’s story — and growing following — will shine a light on both Bella’s disease and the importance of service dogs. “If this can bring awareness to Morquio and cause there to be more funding for rare diseases it would be awesome,” Rachel wrote on the Facebook page on Sunday. “Also bring to light the amazing work that Service Dog Project in Ipswich does and how they change lives for the better. George sure has done that for Bella!”
(Top photo: Bella and George/Facebook)