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Service Dogs From Walpole's 'Golden Opportunities For Independence' Changing Lives

WALPOLE (CBS) – While many people may have spent Christmas Eve scrambling to finish their shopping or party prepping, a young Norwood girl was volunteering - a gift to her sister who lives with cerebral palsy.

The Eliases added service dog Rocky to their family this summer. He was raised and trained by Golden Opportunities for Independence based in Walpole. The organization has welcomed two new litters of puppies since Thanksgiving Day.

Serena and Trin Elias with Trin's service dog Penny. (WBZ-TV)

"Every single one of these puppies changes lives," said Golden Opportunities' Pauline Hoegler. "We really don't focus on what the person has, we focus on what we can do for them."

Golden Opportunities has trained and matched service dogs to help people with a wide range of needs - veterans who have PTSD, mobility issues, or traumatic brain injuries; People with cystic fibrosis, ALS; and Trin Elias who lives with cerebral palsy.

"She gets put to sleep every six months for Botox and injections and it's always very hard for her. This is the first time we brought him with us and she did not have any anxiety at all. They're like this is the best she's ever been, it's been amazing," said Trin's mom, Rachel.

Service dogs from Golden Opportunities in Walpole. (Image Credit: Juli McDonald/WBZ-TV)

Seeing Trin's new confidence is emotional for the Eliases, especially Trin's twin sister.

"I love being Trin's sister because she's overall funny. She'll always listen to you. She knows when you're sad or upset. She's very silly and she always makes me laugh," said 12-year-old Serena.

Serena told WBZ it makes her proud to see how hard her sister works, and Rocky is Trin's perfect match. It made her feel good to spend the day caring for puppies as a way to say thank you.

"This organization has done so much for us by giving us a dog and Trin a chance to be independent. This is just a little piece of me giving back to them," said Serena.

Thirteen Golden Opportunities service dogs were matched and went home with local families last year. One girl living with cystic fibrosis will get her special gift Christmas Eve.

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