Service dog helps boy with cerebral palsy learn to walk

Boy with Cerebral Palsy relies on his service dog

ALFRED, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A boy from Alfred will start middle school this year accompanied by his dog.

Hunter VanBrocklin has cerebral palsy, and has re-learned to walk -- twice -- thanks to his service dog, Wendy. The VanBrocklin family got Wendy about four years ago through the Service Dog Project

"Within 10 feet of them walking together the trainer and Carlene knew that they were a match," said Hunter's mother, Kelly.

The organization runs on donations, and was able to donate Wendy to Hunter and his family.

"She helps me with just about everything," said Hunter VanBrocklin. "I knew what it was like before I got her -- didn't know what it would be like after, but it turned out to be a whole lot better."

Due to cerebral palsy, Hunter's muscles do not work as they should.

"He was born 14 weeks early. He's worked for everything he's gotten," said Kelly.

After a year of training, Hunter could take Wendy to school with him, helping him walk up and down stairs.

"She's like bringing your favorite stuffed animal everywhere," said Hunter.

"We are trying to keep him walking as long as possible. They told us he would not walk past seven [years old]," said his father, Andy. 

Doctors told Hunter and his family that he would have to have hip dysplasia surgery in January of 2016, and said Hunter might not walk again.

"We knew that you would have to take steps back sometimes when you're dealing with CP to take steps forward," said Andy.

Thanks to his previous work with Wendy, Hunter's surgery went well.

While Hunter can walk partially on his own, he relies on Wendy for many daily activities. With her help, he hiked Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington, and has been able to become more active.

"Wendy has four-wheel drive and I can take her on almost anything," said Hunter.

"With Wendy he's gotten way stronger. He's got a little muscles which he never had before," said Kelly. "He can run around, he can walk around without her and play dodgeball. He's playing soccer --stuff that he probably would not have been able to do wheelchair-bound, and Wendy did that," said Kelly.

She also credits Hunter's perseverance.

"It's pretty amazing. Everybody wants the best for heir kids and he's worked for it. We only give him the tools. He has the drive and determination. That's Hunter."

Now Hunter is selling tote bags to raise money for others who need service dogs, splitting the proceeds between Boston Children's Hopsital and the Service Dog Project.

You can find them on Facebook here.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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