A gift of independence

A gift of independence

Echo Press | March 23, 2011 | By Tara Bitzan

DeAnn Runge of Alexandria was a senior in high school when she set her sights on getting a dog. She was looking for more than just companionship – she was seeking greater independence.

Runge suffers from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.

There are varying degrees of SMA, and Runge says she’s “in the middle” of the spectrum. She has never been able to walk and has limited upper body strength.

She was watching a Dateline television program about a girl with SMA who was aided in her daily tasks by a service dog.

“Instantly I knew having a service dog would change my life,” said Runge, a 1998 Jefferson High School graduate.

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