Boy with degenerative disease gets furry friend

HOUSTON There is nothing like the connection between boy and dog. And for Joel, the dog could not have come at a more needful time.

Joel suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Every day, the boy grows weaker, less able to take care even simple duties.

"As he's losing strength, the dog is compensating for him and picking up things, and going to get things and helping him when he's tired, and just being an emotional companion," said Joel's mother, Rachel.

The dog can open doors, turn off lights, retrieve things and even pick things up.

"It's so exciting," said Rachel. "Joel loves dogs. His whole life he's loved dogs."

The dog is the blessing of Kroger and Milk-Bone, and Canine Assistants, the charitable organization that gives service dogs to people with disabilities.

There will be a training period for Joel.

"That person spends the rest of the two weeks with that dog training, learning how to utilize that dog," said Sue Harrison with Canine Assistants.

Already the dog is breathing new life into Joel -- a life sure to be cut short from his deadly disease.

The Canine Assistants group was founded in 1991. The dogs used in the program are rescued from shelters and trained for a year and a half before being placed with families in need. They are free. So far, nearly 1,000 families have been helped by the program.

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