What began as a chance encounter has turned into a blessing for Macee Session as she, along with her “miracle dog,” Anna, are now an inseparable pair – all thanks to a family friend's mission: help Anna through classes to become a therapy dog for Macee.

Anna, a Great Pyrenees dog, was discovered by Traci Lumm, a dental assistant at Dr. Cynthia Sherwood's office in Independence.

“I felt like I was an instrument through this whole thing,” Lumm said, recalling the day she discovered the puppy and how she was contacted later by Macee's mother and a college friend, Ashley Session. “It was April 26, around the time we had those bad storms. I came home and heard these yipping noises. Since we live out in the country, we hear those noises all the time, so I tried to dismiss the noise as coyote pups, and I'd never mess with wild animals. It can harm the environment. But something really pushed me to find out what was making those high-pitched yips.”

Lumm said she felt driven by something to drive her car up the road where she “just stopped” at a spot. From there, she crawled over a barbed wire fence, walked through thick foliage, and stumbled upon the little pup that was quite literally “right in front” of Lumm.

“She wasn't a little to the left, or right-- she was right in front of me. We knew that our neighbor's dog had a litter of puppies and before I picked her up, I looked around to see if the mother was around. I didn't see her, and Anna had crawled a long distance away from the litter. I knew what I had to do almost without realizing it,” Lumm said. “I picked her up and the poor thing was covered in ticks and thorns. She had fallen in a small creek that was about three or four feet deep. I could tell that she was exhausted, probably trying to crawl her way out of it-- but it rained a lot that night. I think if I hadn't found her, she would have drowned.”

Lumm cleaned up the puppy, but noted she was fearful for her life.

“She was just so tired, I really thought I was going to lose her during the night. After her bath, we gave her some food and just let her rest. From then on, she was so sweet,” Lumm described. “She was at our heels and just so lovable. The sad part is that we already have dogs of our own, and even though I really wanted to keep her, I knew we couldn't.”

Her mission evolved from rescuing the puppy to finding it a loving home. She turned to Facebook where she posted photos of the adorable, but very young Great Pyrenees.

“I had a lot of people message me, telling me they wanted to adopt her,” Lumm said. “And I already had a few friends lined up, but one really spoke to me.”

Ashley Session, formerly of Independence, but now of Colwich, Kan., reached out to Lumm.

“We knew each other from attending Independence Community College. We weren't incredibly close, but we got along well. Her story about why she wanted to adopt the puppy sealed my decision,” Lumm said. “The rest is history now.”

Ashley, along with her husband, Andrew, sought to better the lives of their two children, both girls born with such a rare genetic case that it doesn't have a name yet among medical experts. While both of their children have special needs, eldest daughter Macee, 7, seemed to have it the worst. Their younger daughter, Lillie, 2, is currently experiencing speech delays, but has not lost mobility as of yet like her sister.

"Macee has always been delayed. We have gone through a lot of therapists, doctors and specialists that have agreed that she is delayed,” Session said. “No one knew why she had this condition. Aside from her delays, she was very healthy and we kept going on and treating the symptoms. She has low muscle tone and that causes even the simplest of tasks, like walking, to become difficult. Because of the condition, her feet tend to drag the ground and it causes her difficulty to maneuver on uneven terrain. Even getting up from the ground is difficult for her. We continue to work with therapists to get able to lead an independent life.”

The cause for this, after the couple went through genetic testing, stems from both having a “different mutation in the AP4M1 gene.”

“This is the first recorded case of this particular variance, so they have nothing and no one to compare it to,” Session explained on a GoFundMe campaign dedicated to Macee and Anna. “In the meantime, we will treat the symptoms, being her lack of balance and stability.”

Lumm understood her friend's predicament, and wanted to help Macee feel protected and safe.

“Ashley told me that they wanted the puppy as a therapy and service dog for Macee for her loss of mobility,” Lumm said. “They want Macee to feel safe, but also maintain her independence while playing with her peers.”

Ashley described how the doctors informed she and her husband that the rarity of this genetic mutation was something never seen before within the medical community.

“We are still not sure what the future holds,” Session said. “The doctors encouraged us of course to love our girls and spoil them the best we can, as well as continue to treat their symptoms. We are not sure what Macee's physical abilities will be when she gets older, so we want to be proactive now.”

Before they reached out to Lumm and her rescued puppy, they looked at non-profit organizations that offered service dogs, free of charge, but there were unforeseen concerns.

“The issue we had going that direction was that they wanted the child to be 10 years of age. Their thinking is that 10 is a good age for a child to know how to take care of the dog. We didn't have the three years to wait and even then, it could take two to five years to receive the dog,” Session said.

Refusing to give up their search, they turned to other facilities that could help the family obtain a dog that could be trained.

"What we experienced was that there are a lot of people that say that they are qualified to train dogs for that purpose that really are not qualified to train service dogs rather than a therapy dog," Session added. “I was also set on a particular breed of dog that was affordable for us.”

But time was of the essence, and she began looking for an alternative dog, such as the Great Pyrenees breed.

“The Great Pyrenees are a large breed dog and are very gentle and protective,” she described.

Lumm and Sessions were interwoven together by fate, as she saw her friend's post.

“When I first asked Traci, she said that the dog was already spoken for. I just couldn't shake the feeling that this was the dog for us. There was an uneasy feeling in my stomach that the dog was going somewhere else. I remember praying, 'Lord, I need you to calm my spirit because I know whatever you have for us is going to be the perfect dog and I don't want this dog if it is not meant for us,'” Session said. “It wasn't two minutes later that I received a message from Traci, saying that they had decided that this dog was made for us. That is when I jumped into the car and told her that I was on my way to Independence to get the dog. I remember calling Andrew and telling him. He was so excited.”

When she picked up the puppy from Lumm, she became known as “Anna” from the Disney movie, “Frozen.”

“When we arrived to pick up Macee as she was getting out of school, we surprised her with Anna. She was thrilled and there was an immediate connection between the two,” Session said.

To Lumm and her, it was obvious from the beginning that “the match was meant to be,” as Anna, during the car ride back to Colwich, moved from the front seat to crawl up in Macee's seat.

“It was as if she knew that was where she was meant to be, and who she was meant to be with,” she said.

Now, they are looking for a facility to do the training for obedience and temperament for Anna. When she turns six months, Session said, Anna will be tested on her assessments and will begin her full training to being a service dog.

“It was really meant to be. She fits so well. I realize that each time that I have to clean a spot on the floor that God has brought her into our lives and we are thankful for that, and Traci,” she said.

Lumm felt that deep in her heart, her mission for Macee and Anna isn't quite over yet.

“I know there's the GoFundMe page to help Ashley and Andrew raise money to help train Anna, but I wanted to keep helping. I wanted to see this through,” Lumm said. “I plan on taking photos of people with their pets and for a fee, they'll get an actual print, or the photo on a disc. I'm still working out the details for it, but I'm hoping to do it soon.”

Lumm's photo session plans will be announced at a later date once she has a definitive time.

“Photography is a hobby of mine that I've been doing since high school. I've taken photos of friends for their senior pictures, and sometimes big events. I really enjoy it, and I thought that keeping up with the pet theme would help people understand how important Anna is to Macee, and that the money raised all goes toward helping Anna's training,” she said.

A link to the GoFundMe campaign called “Macee's Miracle Puppy, Anna” is on the Independence Daily Reporter's Facebook page for anyone looking to donate. 

A date and time of Lumm's photo session will follow in a future edition.

“I felt that I was an instrument in a way, God can work through us to do amazing things. That's what I hope to do, for Macee and Anna,” she said.