As nearly anyone who has adopted a dog or cat from a shelter can attest, there’s something special about a rescued pet; it’s as if the animal senses he’s been given a second chance at life.
That’s certainly the case with Juno, a Belgian Malinois who was rescued from a shelter just days before she was to be euthanized. But since coming to live with her family, Juno has taken on the role of rescuer to four-year-old Lucas Hembree.
Lucas suffers from Sanfilippo Syndrome, an inherited, metabolic disease caused by the absence or malfunctioning of an enzyme needed to break down long sugar molecules. As the disease progresses, children lose the ability to speak, walk and eat. The disease also causes severe neurological damage that leads to aggressive behavior, hyperactivity and seizures.
Lucas isn’t expected to live past the age of 15 and may be in a vegetative state by the time he is eight. Realizing that every moment of his life is precious, Chester and his wife, Jennifer, want their son to experience as much as he can while he still has the capacity to enjoy it.
So when the disease started to take a toll on Lucas’ joints, his father looked into getting a service dog to keep Lucas steady when he walked. “I was told that a service dog would cost at least $15,000, and that Lucas wasn’t a good candidate because of his deteriorating abilities and his behavior,” said Chester who refused to accept this answer.
A combination of prayer and persistence led Chester to Juno. who was being held at an east Tennessee shelter for rescued animals.
The whole family made the two-hour trip to meet Juno, and Chester claims that the dog and the boy were instant friends.
There was always something instinctive about their relationship, but Chester needed to make sure that Juno would be a good service dog for Lucas.
Chester watched the two grow closer and soon, and soon Juno was the best indicator of Lucas’ health and could pick up on changes in Lucas’ neurological state.
Juno has become a literal shoulder for Lucas to lean on when walking, and a calming influence when he’s agitated. And while Chester makes sure that Juno gets time off, he says that it’s hard to get her to leave Lucas’ side.
You could say Lucas and Juno have become an inseparable duo - two friends who rescued each other, friends linked for life.