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Service dog helps girl with rare disease thrive


WOBURN, Mass. ( -- After Rare Disease Day, one local family wants the world to know about a very rare disease affecting their 10-year-old daughter, and a huge new helper by her side.

Bella Burton is just 10 years old, but already, she's faced more challenges than most. She suffers from a condition called Morquio A.

"I can't walk as good or anything," she said.

"Morquio Type A is a rare disease that is due to the fact the body is missing an essential enzyme," said Children's Hospital Dr. Catherine Nowak.

The disease is so rare that only 3,000 people are living with the condition worldwide

"At school it's so hard that she feels so different," said Bella's mom Rachel Burton. "She would love to play on the playground like the kids do, jump off the slide like the kids do, run and play tag like the kids do but those are things she can't do."

In her short life, Bella has had nine major surgeries.

"For a mom to know your child has to go through something that hurts or is painful, it pulls at your heart strings because you don't want your kid to be in pain," Rachel said.

But lately life has been much better for Bella, thanks to her huge helper George.

"I lean on him like a crutch," she said. "He helps me walk,"

George was donated to Bella just a month ago by the Service Dog Project in Ipswich.

"If I fall, I tell him 'Brace,' which means he will stand and won't even budge and I can pull myself up," Bella said. "We walk together, we play together, he sleeps in my bed with me."

In a few short weeks, he's made a world of difference.

"I just learned how to carry my own bag like a week ago with George," Bella said.

She knows life will always have challenges.

"I can't do a lot of things now, but I still like to still try, no matter what," she said.

It's much better with her big buddy by her side.

"He's like my best friend," Bella said. 

Bella had her 10th surgery Tuesday, and is doing well her parents say. George is still by her side, even at the hospital as she recovers.