Service dog helps child with cerebral palsy keep walking against all odds
ALFRED, Maine (WCSH) —
The daily routine of walking the dog is different for Hunter VanBrocklin.
Step by step, hunter and his service dog Wendy are working on his stamina.
"She helps me with just about everything," said Hunter.
Hunter has cerebral palsy.
"He was born 14 weeks early,” said Kelly VanBrocklin, Hunter's mom. “He's worked for everything he's gotten."
His parents Andy and Kelly remember getting Wendy when hunter was seven years old from the service dog project in Massachusetts.
"Within 10 feet of them walking together the trainer and Carlene knew that they were a match," said Kelly.
After a year of training -- Hunter could take Wendy to school with him, helping him get up and down stairs.
"We are trying to keep him walking as long as possible. They told us he would not walk past seven," said Hunter’s dad, Andy VanBrocklin.
Even with Wendy's help, doctors said hunter would still need hip dysplasia surgery in January of 2016, with a chance that he might never walk again.
"We knew that you would have to take steps back sometimes when you're dealing with CP to take steps forward," said Andy.
Hunter's surgery went well, thanks in part to his all his previous work with Wendy.
Now hunter is learning to swim, helping his dad stack wood, and even hiking Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington. There is one more reason why Wendy means so much to this family. The VanBrocklin's got the call that connected them to Wendy on the birthday of hunter's brother, Gavin.
Gavin never knew Wendy. He died before he was seven weeks old.
"[Hunter’s]more independent, he can run around, he can walk around without her and play dodgeball,” said Kelly. “He's playing soccer. Stuff that he probably would not have been able to do wheelchair-bound. And Wendy did that."
Wendy's help, combined with Hunter's persistence, resulted in Hunter being as capable as he is today.
"Everybody wants the best for their kids, and he's worked for it,” said Kelly. “We only give him the tools. He has the drive and determination. That's hunter."