TRUMBULL – The Shapiro’s bond with their new puppy is palpable but the relationship is new…the result of a difficult time.

“Out of the blue, perfectly healthy kid the day before this happened,” says father, Ethan.

Last June, little Vada started having seizures…some days, hundreds of them. After multiple hospital stays and even brain surgery, the 5-year-old was diagnosed with epilepsy and Rasmussen’s encephalitis, an extremely rare condition.

“We would not be where we are if it wasn’t for her. She’s our rock and she’s also the patient, it’s unbelievable,” says Ethan. “She’s amazing, she really is.”

Along the way, a social worker contacted Make-A-Wish Connecticut, and Vada quickly became a “wish kid”.

“She said she wanted a cookie,” laughs Ethan. “We’re like, ‘Alright, think bigger.'”

She settled on a mini-golden retriever named Penny. It was love at first sight.

Vada teaches her tricks and gets warm hugs when she needs them the most.

“I don’t know but I feel like she knows what’s going on with Vada,” says Ethan.

Running around, playing with the pup, is also making Vada stronger. “The puppy likes to go up and downstairs, who follows? Vada, you know?” he says.

At play or at rest, the pup is a positive distraction…a new family member focused on comfort and love.

“Definitely lifted her spirits, lifted all of our spirits,” says Ethan.

The Shapiros are working to get Penny trained as a service dog which will be a big help when Vada begins kindergarten in the fall.