Gabby Bustani is just your normal, every-day average little girl. She likes to play soccer and generally be outdoors. However, there’s one thing you wouldn’t know about her if you just met her. She’s blind. Due to a rare genetic eye condition, Gabby went from seeing everything in her world, to suddenly being blind. Her doctors urged her mother, Lisa Bustani, to get a service dog.
“She was outside playing in the yard on the Fourth of July, and next thing we knew she couldn’t see,” Lisa told The Dodo. “It all happened so fast. The disease has caused blindness throughout seven generations of our family, but Gabby has been the youngest one.”
Gabby was an avid soccer player, even receiving an invitation to join a competitive league days before her vision loss. Then she needed to learn to walk with a cane as well as to read Braille. Unfortunately, her vision loss gives her vertigo and migraines from the pain behind her eyes. Because of this she falls frequently. With the drastic life changes the vision loss has brought, Gabby is also struggling with anxiety, and many of her friends have stopped visiting her because they “don’t know how to react,” Lisa said.
Enter With Love for Animals
Lisa wanted her daughter to be able to do things normal girls do. And then Gabby met Hannah, a 1-year-old Saint Bernard up for adoption through With Love for the Animals. She found the most devoted friend of all — and the feeling was mutual.
“Their bond was immediate and unbreakable,” Lisa said. “As soon as Gabby walked over to Hannah, she rolled over showing her belly like she was waiting for a hug. Gabby hugged her and that was it. It’s like both of them knew they needed each other.”
Hannah was previously rescued from an owner who kept her chained up outside. However, she settled into the Bustani family instantly, never leaving Gabby’s side. Even though she hasn’t had training, Hannah seemed to sense when Gabby would get dizzy. Before a fall could happen, Hannah stands in front or behind Gabby, or between her legs.
“She’s naturally guiding Gabby every step of the way, even on the stairs,” Lisa said. “She stays right by her side.”
Training for Hannah Fundraiser
Hannah turned out to be a great candidate to become a service dog. Lisa got in touch with a professional trainer who could teach Hannah various tasks like physical support, retrieving items and guiding. Unfortunately, the Bustani family couldn’t afford the payments of the trainer. Over the six to eight week recovery time Gabby needed from eye surgery, the family decided to start a GoFundMe account.
“The trainer has been very generous and offered the service at less than half the normal cost,” Lisa added. “With just having to pay up front for Gabby’s surgery, we need the help so she can start leading a life as close to normal as possible.”
Hannah has also been trained to detect seizures for Gabby’s older brother, who has a seizure disorder. A week after starting a GoFundMe campaign, the Bustani family has raised just over $1,600 of their $7,000 goal. That’s amazing! It truly shows that people really care.
“Gabby was in the hospital and was scared, and little by little, her friends started dropping off,” Lisa said. “When we were home and she’d get upset about it and start crying, Hannah would be right there and I’d hear Gabby say, ‘Hannah, you’re my best friend and you love me no matter what.’ The tears stopped flowing and Gabby’s smile came back because Hannah was there. Hannah has changed everything for our girl.”
A little girl with a passion for animals.
With a newfound friend, Gabby spoke out to her mother that she wants to volunteer at animal shelters. All after recovering of course! Despite the difficulties she’s experience, Gabby keeps her spirits high just by knowing her family – and Hannah – are there for her.
“The night before her surgery, we were staying at the Ronald McDonald House and she was drawing pictures for the other kids there,” Lisa said. “She told us ‘I’m healthy, and it’s OK if I can’t see because God has other plans for me.’ Despite everything, she’s still the same happy, joyful child. Hannah coming into our lives has been nothing short of a blessing. She’s been a healer for all of us.”