Frank, a tiny chihuahua-dachshund mix, had a tough time finding a home early in his life. The little dog suffers from hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain," which produces an excess of fluid in the skull and can be fatal if left untreated. Because of his condition, Frank has an excessively large head, which put him at risk for euthanasia. It also caught the attention of Amy McCracken, director of the Richmond Animal League in Virginia, who rescued Frank and found a foster family to care for him. Now, the little dog not only has a new home, but a new occupation as well -- helping people who are just like him.
Stacy Metz, an administrative assistant at Virginia Commonwealth University's neurosurgery unit, found out about Frank while he was still in foster care and decided to look into adoption, with the hope of training the puppy to be a service dog. Metz frequently encounters people with hydrocephalus who are undergoing treatment at the university, and she felt that Frank could be a source of hope for the patients she meets at work. "They think they're the only ones [with this condition]," she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It's always nice to know they can relate."
Although Frank still has about a year of therapy dog training ahead of him, he's already helping hydrocephalus patients in the Richmond area upon special request. This month, Frank met a toddler named Dylan Lipton-Lesser, who developed hydrocephalus after being born 11 weeks premature and underwent more than a dozen surgeries by his second birthday. But, according to Dylan's mother, the little boy has improved dramatically -- in part because of his new friendship with Frank.