Community raises money for Alcoa boy's sick service dog

Community raises money for Alcoa boy's sick service dog

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By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

ALCOA (WATE) - A terminally-ill child is unable to be with his service dog because the dog is battling her own severe illness.

Lucas Hembree's Belgian Malinois Juno was rescued from euthanasia by his father at a shelter two years ago. She is now a vital part of the family, credited with saving the little boy's life several times by detecting oncoming seizures.

Lucas, 5, has a rare genetic disorder called Sanfilippo Syndrome. Some people refer to the disorder as childhood dementia.

Most patients are in a vegetative state by their eighth birthday, which is why getting Juno better and back by Lucas's side is so important. 

"Juno has always looked at Lucas like he's her pup," explained Lucas's dad, Chester.

That's why it was devastating to the whole family when the dog became violently ill this weekend and was rushed to the vet.

"As of Saturday they were treating her for stress-induced colitis, which is very common in working dogs," said Lucas's mom, Jennifer.

The Hembrees say Juno must sense that Lucas's condition is worsening.

"He has gone downhill in the last month, so that's been a lot of stress for her," Jennifer said.

This time apart has been difficult for everyone.

"Lucas woke up this morning asking about her. You can't tell him she's sick and in the hospital because he doesn't comprehend that," Jennifer said.

Because the Hembrees are already struggling with Lucas's medical bills, the Blount County SPCA has stepped in to raise money to treat Juno. So far more than 100 people have chipped in for a total of more than $3,000. 

"I feel overwhelmed but very blessed just knowing that there are caring hearts and caring people out there that love animals. Deep down they understand why it's so important to get her better," Jennifer said.

Any money raised above Juno's current medical expenses will be used to pay her vet bills in the future. The family hopes she'll be able to come home later this week.

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