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When Shawnee Cumo adopted Shih Tzu Kipper, she did not foresee the little dog becoming an important part of her son’s battle with a terminal disease.

When her son, 8-year-old Dominic, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, she was devastated. The boy was only 5 months old when he began showing symptoms of the rare, debilitating disease, which usually only affects adults older than 55. Killing off motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, the disease has no cure, and eventually causes death. Dominic requires round-the-clock care, a wheelchair, and a tracheotomy just to breathe.

Shawnee did not intend for Kipper to become a therapy dog, but, proving that dogs have an innate sense of care, Kipper attached himself to Dominic’s side. Without any formal training, Kipper barks when the alarms on Dominic’s respiratory machine go off, alerting Dominic’s family to dangerously low oxygen levels. One time Kipper even saved Dominic’s life when the alarms failed to sound, and it was only Kipper’s barking that brought attention. Kipper was awarded Hero Dog of the Year by the San Bernardino Humane Society, and is now an official therapy dog.



Kipper attends an A’s game with Dominic. Photo provided by family.

A testament to the miracle of dogs, Kipper helps calm Dominic when he has to have his weekly tracheotomy tube changing, a procedure that once required medication in order to keep the boy still. Now all he needs is Kipper to help brave the burdens of his disease.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we seem to have something in our eye ….

Via Dog Heirs


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