By Alyce Collins
Following years of physical, occupational and speech therapies to try and overcome her cerebral palsy, this girl’s parents decided to gift her an early Christmas present by getting a puppy.
Briella Naif, five, from Michigan was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at just 21 months old, affecting her balance, movement and leg coordination.
Physical therapy continues to help Briella gain strength in her legs, enabling her to take steps independently. Her speech therapy helps her produce words, but she uses American Sign Language to communicate what she struggles to say.
Briella had been asking her mum Caroline for a dog for a few months, and after watching her daughter take steps with a toy dog in therapy, Caroline knew the best motivation to keep going would be to get a real dog.
On November 20, the family picked up their eight-week-old pomsky Mieka, and Briella was overwhelmed when she met her new companion. Throughout the drive home, Briella laughed gleefully with her new pup on her lap.
Caroline said: “The whole way home Briella was smiling, giggling and laughing at every move Mieka made
“She had been asking for a dog everyday this past year and she would sign ‘little dog’. Briella needed a companion and emotional support dog. With all of her hard work in physical therapy programs and watching her take so many independent steps, I knew getting a dog would be so motivating for her.
“I knew in one of the last days of therapy when I watched her walk independently with a little toy dog that we just had to get her a real one.
“Briella loves Mieka’s soft fur and her blue eyes. She also loves when she wags her tail and sticks her tongue out.”
Caroline hopes that Mieka will be an emotional support dog for Briella and motivate her to progress her walking in the hopes of one day being able to walk her dog.
Caroline said: “Briella faces many difficulties daily, primarily being able to move around and with her speech.
“Cerebral Palsy affects muscle movement, coordination and balance. She is working hard in physical therapy to gain strength for walking independently and for a better quality of life as she continues to grow. Briella also uses sign language to help communicate to others.
“Briella is a happy and smiley five-year-old girl who doesn’t let cerebral palsy stop her.”