Dog brings happiness and healing to local boy

From left to right: Rebecca Shumway, John (7), Bethany (10), Alex (11), Snuggles, and Sophia (17).

PHILLIPI, W.Va. (WDTV) - When Rebecca Shumway adopted a Yorkie named Snuggles, she had no idea how much the dog would help her family; especially her son, Alex.

Alex has Ehler's Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder caused by a lack of collagen in the body.

"The glue that holds him together doesn't work," said Shumway, "So [his body] dislocates his joints and he has frail organs."

The 11-year-old experiences chronic pain that affects his mobility to varying degrees.

"Some days it just hurts really bad," said Alex.

"Some days are better than others," said Shumway, "But I would say there's never a pain-free day."

But when the mother of four brought Snuggles home last year, she saw instant changes in her son.

"Alex would spend a lot of time just sitting on the couch pouting, which is understandable," said Shumway.

She continued, "But on the first day we brought Snuggles home he was playing with her and started laughing; that was really nice to see because it had been a long time since he'd laughed."

Alex's older sister, Sophia, says the tiny dog makes her brother's days brighter.

"[Alex] plays with her, interacts with her, he smiles more and I feel like he's in less pain," said Sophia.

According to Shumway, Snuggles can sense when the kids need some love.

"When Alex doesn't feel good, Snuggles will lay with him," Shumway said, "She just seems to know how the kids are feeling and knows which kid needs her the most at the moment."

"When I'm sad she lets me pet her and play with her," said Alex.

Snuggles even helped Sophia heal recently after a rough surgery.

"When I had jaw surgery, I had a severe allergic reaction and was in a lot of pain after," said Sophia.

Sophia continued, "All I remember when I got home is that Snuggles would lay next to me and when I would wake up, she'd still be right there."

Snuggles has brought more happiness to not just Alex, but to the whole family.

"This dog has been really great," Shumway said, "I had my reservations about getting a dog, but she has been really good for us."