— -- Christmas came early for 10-year-old twin girls, both with special needs, when their mother brought home a new member of the family –- a disabled pit bull.
The dog, named Carmella, “gravitated” toward the twins, their mother, Dana Polito-Corry told ABC News today, and was exactly what one of the girls wanted for Christmas.
Tianna Johnson is legally blind and walks with a cane, Polito-Corry said. She was born with cataracts and was diagnosed with glaucoma when she was about 5 years old.
Her fraternal twin, Gianna, is also legally blind and has high-functioning autism. Both girls had their first eye surgery when they were 3 months old. Tianna has had seven more since then, their mother said.
Polito-Corry said she first met Carmella when she went a pet grooming shop near her home. Not yet aware of the pooch's disabilities, she told the owner of the shop that she “loved” the dog, and Carmella instinctively walked toward her.
“She got up and started walking on cue,” Polito-Corry said.
Sandy Roberto, who owns Must Love Dogs in Wayne, New Jersey, had tears in her eyes when she asked Politco-Corry if she would like to adopt Carmella, Polito-Corry said. Roberto had been fostering her for about a year after she saved her from a kill shelter in Newark.
Carmella’s disabilities include front legs that bow out and spinal problems. A veterinarian told Roberto that Carmella’s previous caretakers kept her in a cage so small that she developed the deformations as she grew, she said.
Despite them, Roberto described Carmella as “perfect.”
"She's just the nicest dog," she said.
Polito-Corry arranged a meet-and-greet with Carmella and her other four dogs before making the final decision to surprise her twins. When she asked Tianna what she wanted for Christmas, she responded with “a disabled dog,” before she even knew about Carmella.
“It was a match made in heaven,” Roberto said.
When Polito-Corry finally brought Carmella home on Friday, the first thing she did was “jump on the bed,” she said, adding that Gianna was “ecstatic” and Tianna was “overwhelmed.”
“It was like [she] lived there forever,” she said. “She’s already feeling at home.”
Polito-Corry said Carmella is already working wonders for helping to ease Tianna’s social anxiety, serving as an ice breaker for anyone who asks why the dog walks differently.
“She’s able to chat about the dog and explain what happened to her,” Politco-Corry said of Tianna. “It definitely opens up the doors.”
Combined with Gianna’s obsession with animals, Politco-Corry said the decision to bring Carmella home “winded up being perfect.”
She said Tianna, who loves meaningful quotes, summed up the family’s situation best.
“[Tianna] wants everyone to know that she’s not disabled," Politco-Corry said. "She’s differently abled, just like her dog.”