Two dogs who were abused and rescued are making a a very big difference in the lives of two boys.
10-year-old Marik Tucker was diagnosed with cancer last summer. As the Connecticut Post relates, last July, Marik told his mother, Kelli Tucker, that his right leg hurt after he’d been swimming in the pool. What at first seemed to be pain from a pulled muscle did not go away and Marik went through an x-ray, an MRI, a bone scan and a biopsy. Marik underwent surgery for†an aneurysmal bone cyst last August — during which a surgeon broke the terrible news to the Tuckers that their son had cancer.
Before they knew it, Marik was in intense chemotherapy. Last November, he had to have his right leg amputated to keep the cancer from spreading. As Tucker says, “This is going to affect him his whole life. No one should have to go through this, especially not a child.”
Tucker and her husband decided to get Marik a dog so their son “would focus on his pet and not as much on his illness.” They wanted a dog from a shelter and, thanks to the internet, found Zero, a German shepherd who had been abused by his owner and rescued by staff from the Oxford Animal Shelter.
Marik and Zero bonded from the moment they met each other, Tucker tells the Connecticut Post. Zero is deaf and has indeed turned out to be the perfect companion for Marik, who is severely hearing-impaired. As Marik says of his new best friend: “He can’t hear like me and he has had a hard time with stuff, like me.”
Marik’s mother emphasizes that,†on days when Marik “doesn’t want to get up and do anything,” she has only to say “put on your leg and go outside with Zero” and her son is “up and out.”†The family “couldn’t have asked for a better dog than Zero,” Tucker notes.
Another dog who’s been through more than a lot is also helping another boy, Jonny Hickey in Georgia. Jonny is autistic and has been “brought…to life” thanks to Xena who,†as†Disability Scoop relates,†was “left for dead” on the side of a road in Georgia. After nearly starving to death, the puppy was rescued last September by Dekalb Animal Services and named Xena the Warrior Puppy.
Xena’s recovery has been followed by fans around the world via her Facebook page; her story has helped to raise thousands of dollars to support the care of abused animals. After she was adopted by Jonny and his family, Xena may be making her “biggest impact” on the young boy. As Jonny says in a video to promote April as both Autism Awareness Month and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month:
“Well, my Xena was hurt really bad. By some not-so-nice people. And I have autism. So I think we make a pretty perfect team to spread the word to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me.Ē
Especially for children who are sick or have disabilities, therapy dogs and other animals can be essential companions to help them get through scary experiences and navigate difficult feelings that they struggle to express.
As Marik says of Zero, who is truly a boy’s best friend: “He is always sweet and gives me kisses on my face. He’s just my good friend.”
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Photo from Howard County Library System/Flickr