Retired racer wins over little Eliana with calmness

2 May 2023

When it was time for the Franco family to own a pet, it needed to be a special animal to fit into their family of four which lives with the daily challenge of a child with a rare neurological condition.

Ben Franco said his application to the Queensland Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP) was detailed.

“I wanted them to understand Eliana, so they could match Bruno to her,” he said.

Four-and-a-half-year-old Eliana’s condition is one of 16 known cases in the world. She was born without the junction that allows the two hemispheres of her brain to communicate, clinically described as the deletion in chromosome 8 Q.

Mr Franco said he and his wife Monica were told Eliana would not survive her birth, and when she did, they were told she would not walk or talk.

“But look at her now, she’s smiling and jumping around, and she is even saying a few words,” he said.

“Eliana, in Hebrew stands for, my God answered, she is our answered prayers, she is a remarkable little girl.

Greyhound Bruno (racing name Brute) came into the Franco family just before Christmas last year.

Mr Franco said it was meant to be when Bruno was introduced to them in the GAP Churchable sensory garden.

“He was just so calm with the kids, and when he walked up to me, he nestled his head into my chest and the GAP team said they hadn’t seen him do that before.

“So, it felt like he had chosen us, and it was just right, Eliana gave him a big hug and he seemed very comfortable with it,” he said.

Eliana’s condition makes her susceptible to seizures; she is quite often in pain due to benign tumours in her legs and she doesn’t sleep well. However, according to Mr Franco, she hasn’t had a seizure since Bruno arrived and the dog brings a calmness that helps her drop off to sleep.

“It’s a calmness that Bruno has, that rubs off on her, I describe it as a calm vibe that he has,” he said.

“If Eliana is around hyperactive dogs jumping up and licking her, she gets anxious and panicky and she can fall over, because of her undeveloped vestibular system, (the link between your inner ear and your brain that keeps your balance).

“She is 11 kilos, and she can stand eye to eye with Bruno, and he doesn’t knock her over, he is actually stabilising for her and it’s amazing that she has had no seizures since we’ve had him in December, prior to that she would have one two to three times a month,” he said.

Mr Franco said Bruno has also made his mark on Eliana’s big brother Lorenzo, six, who used to fear dogs.

“He is still not sure he loves dogs, but he loves greyhounds and loves Bruno, he is proud of Bruno.”

The family became interested in a GAP dog when they met a local family walking a greyhound with a green collar a couple of years ago.

When they learned that greyhounds are assessed and graduate with a green collar so they can be walked without a muzzle, he applied on the GAP website when they moved to a house more suited to a dog.

The rest is history, and Bruno is now a firm member of the Franco family in Brisbane’s north where they are regulars on their daily walks with calm Bruno.

Media Contact: Vincene Overs

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