...Meet Lucas Hembree. He is only 4 years old. He has been diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome or MPS III A, a rare & terminal inherited genetic disorder. They say that his life expectancy is between 10 and 15 years. There is no treatment. There is no cure. His family has been dedicated to battling this disorder and giving Lucas the best life possible ever since the diagnosis.
Meet Juno. Lucas' father, Chester Hembree was tired of having to see Lucas having to be restrained in his wheelchair all the time due to the aggressive tendencies and behavioral issues that accompany his disorder. He wanted Lucas to be mobile while he still had some of his ability. So he checked with a local service dog agency. They told him that Lucas would not be able to use a service dog because of his behavior and deteriorating abilities. Chester refused to accept no for an answer and prayed for a solution. A few months later he came across Juno on a Belgian Malinois Rescue Group's web page.
Juno was about 2 hours away from them and at a kill shelter. She didn't have long left before she was scheduled to be put down. She had been surrendered to the shelter because her previous owners didn't know anything about Malinois. Chester had previously helped with the training of police K-9s back when he was a law enforcement officer and had at that time developed a love and understanding for the breed. Upon reading about Juno, he had a gut feeling that she "was it" and he made up his mind...he had to go see this dog.
When they got to her she was very emaciated and only weighed 45 lbs and was 16 months old. It was time for the leash test. She walked with Chester on a loose leash and never pulled. Next was the Lucas test. Those two took to each other like it was meant to be. So it was decided that Chester would put his training skills to the test and prove the skeptics wrong. Especially the ones who insisted that Malinois were only good for bite work.
Chester has trained Juno to climb up on Lucas when he has a "melt down" fit and starts banging his head or screaming. She will lay across him in his chair to calm him down. She helps Lucas with his mobility, which is what they were told would never happen. Lucas will walk beside her and hold onto her harness for stability. Lucas, like the typical 4 year old, wants to run and play. That is a disaster that always ends in him getting hurt and a trip to the emergency room. If he starts to run he always falls. With Juno's help, if Lucas decides to run Juno promptly goes into down position and acts as an anchor. This stops Lucas from running off and getting injured. Juno really shines when it comes to helping Lucas up and down stairs. Stairs are awkward for dogs as it is. However Juno is able to start, stop, and turnaround with Lucas on stairs and keep him at a safe pace. Juno also pulls Lucas's wheelchair when hooked to it. She loves to pull his wheelchair or adaptive tricycle.
Juno and Lucas are inseparable. You don't see one without the other close by. She has made such a difference in Lucas's life. She gives him that extra confidence and Lucas's parents an extra set of eyes. She keeps him safer, she calms him like nothing else ever could.
And she gives untold amounts of unconditional love. ♥
~A HUGE thanks to Chester Larabee, Lucas's father, for giving me permission to tell the story. The above is his family's story, told in his words. Please share it. You can check out Lucas's page here: