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'He's a sweet, sweet dog' -- Make-a-Wish gives Trinity student puppy companion

Twelve-year-old Zeke Kreitinger bonds with his new puppy in Trinity's auditorium. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)1 / 5
Sixth grader Zeke Kreitinger's wish for a puppy was granted by Make a Wish. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)2 / 5
Trinity Elementary student Zeke Kreitinger is excited to snuggle with his puppy. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)3 / 5
Bill Palanuk, the puppy's breeder, holds the puppy before he's presented to Zeke. He said parting from his puppies is never easy. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson)4 / 5
Zeke Kreitinger pets his new golden retriever puppy in Trinity's auditorium. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)5 / 5

Sixth-grade Trinity Elementary North student Ezekiel "Zeke" Kreitinger's wish for a puppy came true in the school's auditorium Thursday, after a Dickinson Police Department drug dog demonstration to the fifth- and sixth-grade classes.

Zeke wanted one puppy in particular—an English cream golden retriever he met on breeder Bill Palanuk's ranch. Kelly Braun, one of Zeke's wish granters from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, contacted Palanuk, who said he thought he had a dog with the right personality for Zeke.

"He's a sweet, sweet dog," Palanuk said. "Golden retrievers, they want to learn your language. They want to know everything about you. In fact, his mother and I, we have such a close bond that I'll be reading a book and my blood pressure will start to go up reading an exciting part, and she'll come up and see if I'm OK."

Prior to meeting the puppy, the family had spent some time researching dog breeds.

"We kind of looked into retired racing greyhounds because we thought maybe we would like an adult dog 'cause puppies do take some training—just with me having five little ones," said Zeke's mother, Becky Kreitinger.

They eventually decided against an adult dog.

"I think adult dogs sometimes, especially if they weren't raised in our home, you just don't know quite for sure what they've come through and we didn't want any uncertainty," Becky said.

They had read that golden retrievers have a good temperment but were hesitant to get one because of shedding. That changed when Zeke met the golden retriever.

"They came out to the kennel and spent an afternoon," Palanuk said. "Snowing like crazy, cold. We sat in there with the fire going (and) just like (he was today), that dog sat on his lap and bonded with him right there. ... (Zeke) was telling Kelly, 'He likes me. He really, really likes me."

Zeke said when he met the dog, he knew he was the one he wanted. He looks forward to snuggling with the puppy when he gets home.

The puppy is nicknamed "Gray" for the gray collar he wore, but Zeke doesn't yet know what he wants to name him. His parents are encouraging a one-syllable name.

"(Zeke) talks a little bit slower when he talks, and so I told him it's going to have to be a short name that you can get out before he's on the other side of the house," Zeke's father, Michael, said. "It can't be a long name, 'cause by the time you finally get it out, the dog's going to be gone and not hear you anymore."

Michael had worked with the Dickinson Noon Lions before, who hold an annual benefit for Make-a-Wish. He said the family was approached a few times about participating in Make-a-Wish, but they took some convincing. When they finally did apply, they weren't sure what Zeke wanted at first.

"Then Zeke's been kind of hard to find a wish for 'cause he doesn't really wanna go anywhere, doesn't want to meet anybody, doesn't really want much, but what he wanted was companionship," Michael said. "He wanted a friend to hang out with him."

Zeke is the oldest of five kids and has a pet fish. The family also has a 14-year-old Boston terrier named Wally.

Zeke's little sister has the same condition he does—ataxia-telangiectasia, also known as Louis-Bar syndrome, a rare inherited neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system, immune system and musculature.

"They're usually wheelchair bound by the time they're age 10," Becky said. "Their bones are basically shrinking. Where a normal person, anytime they would get sick or a disease would come up, your body tries to fit that back. Well, in their bodies, that part is dying in them, so they can't fight back the illnesses as much. They have a really high rate of cancer, like a 1,000 percent higher chance than a normal child would. But they've been so darn healthy, so we're so blessed."

Zeke was originally misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 2 years old, but when his sister started exhibiting symptoms, her doctor in Dickinson thought they might have ataxia-telangiectasia.

"So we went to a neurologist when Zeke was 8 and they could tell right away," Becky said. "The doctors we saw in Johns Hopkins in Maryland were really impressed. They said doctors almost never find it."

The disorder is so rare, it occurs in only 1 in 40,000 to 100,000 people worldwide. Coincidentally, Zeke received his new puppy on Rare Disease Day.