Reporting Sharrie Williams
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LEWISVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) - The new year brought a big surprise for a 9-year-old Lewisville boy. Zach Thibodeaux got a new buddy on Sunday, but he may not see his new friend for very much longer. Still, this helpful companion has already changed Thibodeaux’s world.
“This is your dog now,” said Sandi Alsworth with Guide Dogs for the Blind, the group that delivered a personal canine friend to Thibodeaux’s door. The boy suffers from a condition called cone-rod dystrophy. The cells in his eyes are dying. Thibodeaux is going blind, and needs special help.
That is where Natura comes in – the yellow labrador retriever trained specifically to guide Thibodeaux as he makes a difficult transition. The boy can see right now, but will soon be unable to see trees, his mom, his friends. “There are so many things that are frightening for anyone going visually impaired, let alone a child,” said Alsworth. “She will be a border and a bridge between him and the community.”
The buddy program is designed for visually impaired children like Thibodeaux. His family applied for it months ago, but did not hear back until Christmas Eve. “He’s speechless. If you know Zach, he’s never speechless,” said Johanna Uek, the boy’s mother. “It’s been a godsend, so many people helping. We wanted the perfect dog and we found the perfect dog.”
That perfect dog traveled from California to Texas on a four-day journey, arriving Sunday, just in time for the new year – and a new start for Thibodeaux, to help him maintain some confidence as he enters unfamiliar territory.
Thibodeaux cherishes his new friend. The two pals are already bonding. “I’m very happy to have Natura for my seeing eye buddy,” the 9-year-old said.
“This is just not a dog,” said Alsworth, fighting back tears. “It’s a dog and one little boy.”