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Faithful family dog helps comfort young boy battling deadly disease

P8010053_thumb By Tamara | June 28, 2012 | Comments (0)

Dominic with Kipper

A 3-year-old Shih Tzu named Kipper may be small, but he's a big part of the familly and care team for Dominic Cumo.

Dominic is 8 years old and has Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). The disease is extremely rare in children, and tends to be diagnosed in adults 55 years old or older. A degenerative and incurable disease, it causes the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord to die. 

Dominic was adopted by Shawnee Cumo when he was an infant. Matteo Bateman, a Palm Desert real estate broker, joined the family in 2009. Shawnee remembers Dominic showing symptoms when he was just  five moths old. Nowadays Dominic is wheelchair bound, requires a tracheotomy to breath and needs around the clock care.

One of the family's special helpers turns out to be Kipper, although his mother didn't intend for that to happen. 

Kipper was just a small puppy when mom Shawnee Cumo brought him home. She had not picked him to be a service dog, but Kipper naturally took to the role. Kipper sticks close to the side of his best friend Dominic. He will alert the family by barking in tandem with the alarms on Dominic's respiratory machine, which signal when oxygen levels may be too low.

One night, Kipper turned out to be a true lifesaver. He was the only alarm when Dominic's oxygen fell dangerously low and the machine's alarm did not go off. Kipper was later awarded the Hero Dog of the Year by the San Bernardino Humane Society for his heroic actions.

The little helper now wears an official therapy dog vest and accompanies Dominic when he goes to Loma Linda University Children's Hospital. Kipper is the first therapy dog to be allowed into rooms at the hospital.

Kipper also helps keep Dominic calm when he has to have his tracheotomy tube changed each week, which is a stressful experience. "We used to have to give him Ativan before we did this, but now, with Kipper around, we don't have to do that anymore," said his father, Matteo.

Dominic and Kipper
Dominic with Kipper at the ball park. Photo from family.

Kipper is included in the family's fun adventures as well, accompanying them on their trips. Dominic and Kipper have been on the captain's bridge of two cruise ships, and most recently went to a baseball game together. Earlier this month, Dominic cheered on his favorite baseball team Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from behind home plate, with Kipper on his lap.

The family is intent on having as many happy experiences as they can together in the time they have left. Shawnee said, "I firmly believe having all these experiences has helped him live longer."

No doubt, Kipper has also helped Dominic with his steadfast loyalty and friendship. Petting his dog, Dominic said, "He makes me feel really good."

via the Desert Sun



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