The puppy lopes across the carpet towards her new friend, a golden, furry ball of warmth, wagging and wet kisses.
The girl squeals in delight, hands clapping, a smile flashing underneath her brown curls, broad enough to light an arena.
Diva and Eve-Lynne have just met, but this, like the movies say, looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Ladysmith four-year-old Eve-Lynne Linden has omphalocele; she was born with her abdominal organs in a sac outside her body.
The doctors told her family she was not expected to survive birth. When she did, they said she might live for six months. After 402 days at B.C. Children’s Hospital she came home. Today she is learning to stand with the help of a walker and eat some food orally, while preparing for kindergarten next fall.
Diva is a gift, a present from a friendship born through many shared, fearful nights in that hospital. Coleen Fortner Moat is the mother of premature twins who bonded with Eve-Lynne’s mom, Janice Boley, during their mutual stay there.
A dog breeder from the Kelowna area, Fortner Moat kept in touch with Boley through the internet. On Saturday they met face-to-face for the first time in three years, as Fortner Moat delivered Diva to her new best friend.
Boley said her daughter and the labrador retriever bonded instantly. Fortner Moat was not surprised.
“In raising labs, I’ve seen what type of work they’ve done as guide dogs for people,” she said. “It’s been proven that they reduce stress and promote the social interaction and encourage exercise. I just thought that with a child with disabilities, it helps them calm themselves and maybe will help her be able to deal with the challenges that she has to overcome.”
According to Boley, Diva will eventually be able to sense when Eve-Lynne is about to have a seizure, or has lost a tube. She eats through a nasal tube and breathes with the help of a ventilator.
Just as importantly, she will be there to comfort her new friend through tough times and transitions, like the series of surgeries she faces to correct her omphalocele and her kindergarten debut, planned for this fall.
In addition to Diva, Fortner Moat has also started a GoFundMe site aimed at raising money to get Diva properly trained as a companion dog in order to maximize her effectiveness. So far, the site has raised $3,000 toward its $5,000 goal, with most of the donations coming from the Kelowna area.
Boley and her partner Roy Johnson are grateful and touched by their friend’s love and support, and by the support of complete strangers who have stepped forward to donate to the campaign.
“We felt amazing and honoured to be Evie’s parents, knowing that people other than our immediate family think Evie is as special as we do and an inspiration to others near and far,” she said.
“Coleen deciding that she wanted to give Evie something that would make her life even more fulfilled than it already is makes me believe that there are a lot of good people out there, and we are not alone.”
— with a file from Lindsay Chung