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October 23, 2002

Dog helps `miracle boy' stand taller

From: King County Journal Newspapers, WA
Oct. 23, 2002

by Patti Payne

WONDER BOY: Bellevue's Cole Hardman, 15, and his dog, Napoleon, seem like any other boy and his dog, but these two are bonded like few others.

Cole, a freshman at Eastside Catholic, underwent a rare and experimental procedure just months ago called ``titanium rib surgery,'' to correct extreme curvature of the spine in children and to open up the chest wall to increase lung function. With the operation, his spine went from a 68-degree curve to 22 degrees. He is standing taller and straighter now.

Hardman, who is also partially blind and deaf, spent most of his first year on Earth at Children's Hospital, including a six-hour surgery the day he was born. He's called a miracle boy, an inspiration, beating the odds at every turn, upbeat, loving, outgoing.

Hardman's dog, Napoleon, a rescue dog who looks like a golden retriever-German shepherd cross, acquired after the surgery this past summer, is from Summit Assistance Dogs in Anacortes. ``Napoleon is so amazing because he carries his books to school. The kids all love Cole's dog and it has been a wonderful lesson of compassion and understanding for the kids to experience how people with different needs can live with a little help from a dog,'' says Hardman's mother, Wendy.

A little help? Aside from carrying his books and being his best companion, this wonder-canine will alert him to fire alarms, phone, his feeding tube beeping and the doorbell when his hearing aids are out.

``Cole's quality of life and independence has improved greatly,'' says Wendy. ``It is a story that warms the hearts of all because the love between this boy and his dog is something special to see.''

When Cole is old enough to reach his goal of becoming a TV broadcaster or actor, this lad will have had more life experience than many long-time actors and anchors do.

© 2002 Horvitz Newspapers, Inc.