Ella Creates Special Bonds With Her Pets

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by Michael Casten |

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wheelchairs, holiday season, conferences, musical talents, dogs

My 10-year-old daughter with SMA, Ella, loves animals, so much so that she has a computer game simulating the adoption, trading, and buying of animals with others. She and her friends play that game every day.

We have several animals in the house, including two vizsla dogs — Ginny, 3, and Radcliffe, 7 months. While their breed  originally was a Hungarian hunting dog, we don’t hunt with them. They are smart, loyal to their owners, and affectionate.

We also have a bunny named Pixie that lives in the living room in a two-story cage.

Every morning, I get Ella, who has SMA, dressed in her room. When she’s ready, I carry her downstairs. Both Ginny and Radcliffe wait patiently for her to arrive at the bottom of the stairs. I take Ella to the living room and place her in the wheelchair.

The dogs follow us and wait until I strap Ella in. Once she’s strapped in, the dogs approach her with their tails wagging and bodies excitedly moving. Radcliffe, a puppy, jumps on Ella’s lap and gives her morning kisses. Ella squeals in delight.

When Ella moves forward, the dogs already are familiar with her chair’s movements, and they create a path for her. Ginny, tail wagging, usually follows Ella into the kitchen.

Ella turns her chair toward the dogs and lifts her arm commanding them to sit. She commands Radcliffe to give her his paw, and he obliges. Praises and kisses are given. 

Every so often, we take the bunny out for Ella to hold on her lap. The bunny nuzzles in Ella’s lap, and she pets the rabbit carefully so as not to scare her. Meanwhile, the dogs sit patiently in front of Ella, sniffing the bunny every so often. 

Ella has told us she would like a service dog at some point in her life. While we know it takes a few years to train these dogs, we believe Ella would benefit from having one. She loves animals, is good with them, and they seem to understand her disability. Maybe someday we will take the plunge and look into this option for Ella’s care.

Each day that goes by, Ella becomes closer and closer to our animals. She delights in their affection and has a command over them. We’re fortunate to have found a breed that is so endearing to our family, and we look forward to many years of the unconditional love that they offer.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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