A Girl's Best Friend
June 14, 2014
By Carlee Edwards
The bond between a girl and her dog can be something stronger than friendship. For Lauren Gilley an 8 year old with 1p36 deletion syndrome, her new friend Columbus has become a member of the family.
Lauren was diagnosed with 1p36 deletion syndrome, a genetic anomaly that affects 1 in 5,000 children, when she was 3 months old. She is developmentally delayed, non verbal, and needs help with basic daily tasks.
At the age of 3, Lauren, while in the care of a babysitter who watched her as her mother recovered from a broken back, had a negative experience with two fluffy, white dogs that lived next door. No one was hurt in the encounter, the dogs only jumped at the fence and barked at the girl, but for Lauren that was enough to evoke a deep fear of all dogs that couldn’t seem to be undone.
“We spent a long time trying to work with Lauren on that fear,” Lauren’s step-dad Dominic Casperson said.
Lauren’s mother Kristen Casperson and her step-dad have worked for four years trying to get young Lauren over her fear of dogs. They took her to adoption events, pet stores, anywhere there might be dogs or other animals to get her comfortable being around them. Then one day, at a parade, Lauren showed a curious interest in a dog nearby, a pitbull to be exact.
“Of all the dogs to want to pet, she wanted to pet the pitbull,” Mr. Casperson explained.
Lauren approached the dog cautiously of course.
“She inched her way carefully over to pet him. Then she would get startled and back off,” said Mrs. Casperson. “Then she would start inching her way over again.”
It didn’t take long before Lauren summed up the courage to pet the dog on her own and soon her parents couldn’t get her to stop. In fact, after that parade, anytime Lauren would see a pitbull she would go up and try to pet it.
This led the family to look into Missouri Pitbull Rescue, and take Lauren to a few of their events. Team members of Missouri Pitbull Rescue met with Kristen and Dominic and Lauren. They discussed the family’s needs, Lauren’s needs, and ended up filling out an adoption application that started on them on the journey to meeting their newest family member Columbus.
Five dogs were handpicked by the Missouri Pitbull Rescue team members who knew the family would need a mild mannered, obedient, well behaved dog. Columbus, a young pitbull mix named for the park in Kansas City where he was found, was among the ones chosen.
“We do know he is under 2 years old,” Mrs. Casperson explained. “He is sweet, great with Lauren and we absolutely adore him.”
Lauren began to warm up to him the day they brought him home. She was standoffish at first of course, but the two quickly became friends. Not only does he act as a companion to the young girl, but he’s helped to bring her out of her shell as well.
Many sources say that dogs can be very therapeutic for children, especially children with disabilities and Columbus has been just that for Lauren. He watches out for her and even lays in her bedroom doorway when she’s upset, while Lauren feeds him treats, loves on him and kisses him goodnight.
“I know having a dog was the right choice for our family and for her,” Mrs. Casperson said. “Now [Lauren] has a sweet companion to grow up with.”