updated 02/28/2014 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/28/2014 AT 4:50 PM ET
Before he was even 2 years old, toddler Dylan Lipton-Lesser had undergone 15 brain surgeries due to a condition known as hydrocephalus, an excessive buildup of fluid inside the brain. But there’s an upside – he’s been able to find comfort in a friend who’s experienced something similar: puppy Frank, a Chihuahua-dachshund mix with the same condition.
“As a very young puppy Frank clearly had a really big head,” Amy McCracken, executive director of the no-kill shelter Richmond Animal League told TODAY.com. “We transfer animals from municipal shelters that are in danger of being euthanized, and that’s how we got Frank.”
Frank was placed with a foster family, and aside from suffering a seizure at 8 weeks old, thrived under their care and with regular doses of a seizure-controlling drug. When it became clear that concerns over his medical care were preventing potential adopters from signing on the dotted line, Frank’s foster parents were prepared to make him their forever pet – until Stacy Metz stepped in.
Metz, who works as an administrative assistant in the neurosurgery department of Virginia Commonwealth University, often sees patients with hydrocephalus, and believed Frank could provide a furry shoulder to lean on for such children and adults.
“They think they’re the only ones. It didn’t happen to any of their friends,” Metz told the Richmond Times-Dispatch of hydrocephalus patients. “It’s always nice to know they can relate.”
Since joining the Metz family in August 2013, Frank is well on his way to becoming a certified therapy dog, with about a year of training left. In the meantime, he’s been meeting with patients like Lipton-Lesser at home or at the Richmond Animal League.
“These two boys – a toddler and a puppy – come on, it s just too much,” gushed Dylan’s mother, India Lipton. “Dylan is on his way to walking now … I can just see him and Frank running when Dylan is strong enough. In the meantime, they’ll have lots of fun crawling around together!”