Bentley the Service Dog

Roberto Manzotti

A family in Illinois decided to adopt a baby from China. As the Fiorelli family went through the adoption process they found themselves adopting a 15-month-old baby girl, Natalie. Natalie had been through a lot in life, even though she was only 15-months-old.

When she was only a few days old she was left on the steps of a hospital. She was quite ill and only about 2-pounds in weight. She spent her first 9 months of life in the hospital. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong with her but thought it might be pneumonia.

After Natalie was adopted and became a part of the Fiorelli family she received an MRI. What the MRI revealed was quite strange. She had massive damage to the inner area of her brain. Most brain injuries affect the outside of the brain before the inside. In the hope of finding an answer for their baby girl, the Fiorelli’s sent the MRI to doctors around the world.

Finally, an answer came. One of the doctors that looked at the MRI realized that Natalie had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as an infant. Her injury has left her needing to use a wheelchair and walker to get around. She also requires a device to help her speak. Fortunately, she is able to carry on full conversations and is a good student at school.

When Natalie turned 9-years-old she started to realize she had disabilities. She started to become worried about what might happen to her if there was a fire or if something happened while she was asleep. She was anxious and suffering from sleepless nights.

The Fiorelli family decided to look into finding her a service dog. That’s when they found CHAMP or Canines Help Allow More Possibilities. CHAMP trains and provides families in need with service dogs. This St Louis organization trains the dogs and gives them to families in need for free. The average training cost is around $15,000. CHAMP wants the families that they place service dogs with to “enjoy the training and fall in love with the dog.”

The CHAMP service dogs go through Pups With Purpose before they get their, more formal education to be a service dog. The pups are socialized by students at the University of Missouri. After that, the pups are trained to be service dogs but women inmates of a local prison. The women are extensively trained on how to train the dogs for their new golden retriever

The CHAMP program checks in on the families that they place the dogs with and help with any further training that might be needed. It can be challenging for some families to treat the dogs, not as pets, but as working dogs. This is another reason why it is important for the CHAMP program to check in with the families. 

One of the dogs that came from the CHAMP program was named Bentley. Bentley is the Golden Retriever that has been placed with Natalie. Bentley does many things to help Natalie, including picking up or retrieving items, helping her stand, and helping her feel secure.

Bentley provides Natalie with the mental, physical, and emotional support that she needs. Natalie is already experiencing less anxiety and sleeping much better than she did without Bentley. Bentley has been a wonderful addition to the Fiorelli family, providing Natalie with a friend that will love her unconditionally.

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