PRINCE GEORGE, Va. – Just by looking at Gabby Boiteau, you would never know that she suffered from multiple, life-changing, health problems.
The 17-year-old Prince George High School student suffers from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, which causes blood to pool in her feet and make her pass out, and she wears a pacemaker to regulate her heartbeat.
Gabby also suffers from anxiety because of her conditions.
Seven months, CBS 6 reported on a fundraiser to help Gabby get a service animal to improve her quality of life.
Murphy Rae is a yellow Labrador retriever from Windmere Retrievers who now lives with Gabby and is training to be her service dog.
“We had a connection from day one,” Gabby said.
She had the opportunity to look at a litter of nine puppies at Windmere Retrievers and choose the one she wanted, given that the dog passed all the preliminary requirements.
Murphy Rae will be more than a furry friend, he will help Gabby in many ways.
“I haven’t had an anxiety attack since I’ve gotten (Murphy),” Gabby said. “(He) makes me feel confident, makes me feel safe when I am in public and I don’t feel well; I’m able to lay down, sit down without feeling judged, because I have Murphy there.”
Murphy is still a year and a half away from being a fully-trained service dog, but he is ahead of the curve on learning day-to-day tasks.
Even as a five month old puppy, Gabby said it takes him just 30 minutes to learn a new task.
So far, Murphy has learned how to open the refrigerator, pick up a bottle of water, close doors, and pick up keys from the ground. Murphy will soon work on turning on and off the lights, but he is still too small to reach the switch.
Murphy is also learning to lift Gabby’s legs up when she passes out in order to help get blood and oxygen back to her brain.
Gabby has suffered from medical conditions since she was in the first grade, and they get worse each year. She requires two bags of IV fluids five times a week to help regulate her blood pressure and prevent dehydration. The process takes four and a half hours start to finish.
She said she is frustrated by people buying service vests for their pets and pretending they are trained animals, so they can bring them anywhere in public.
“It makes me upset because it ruins it for people who actually need service dogs to help them,” she said.
When Gabby goes back to school in the fall, Murphy will not be able to begin with her. He will have to stay home until February 10, when he is one year old. She is worried that when he comes to school with her, other students will try to distract Murphy Rae to mess with her.
Because Gabby’s medical conditions are not easily visible, she said other students at school bully, telling her things like “you look healthy to me, there’s nothing wrong with you,” and “you’re faking it.”
But until she starts junior year in the fall, Murphy Rae will continue to accompany Gabby everywhere else, from Michael’s Crafts to Sweet Frog, practicing and training to be a service dog.