Woman and Her Dog Share Same Rare Neuromuscular Disease

Gabrielle Ford's dog Izzy walks on unsteady legs. But the 27-year-old Fenton resident isn't worried.

"Izzy seems to be doing just fine the way she is," Ford said.

She and Izzy share a rare neuromuscular disease that can't be treated medically.

In the six years since "Gabe & Izzy" were profiled in "Pet Story" on the cable station Animal Planet, Ford has become a national speaker on bullying.

Ford now is about to start work on her memoir, "Still Dancing," which is scheduled for release next Christmas. Her Christian publisher — Zoe Life in Wayne County's Canton Township - is planning a series of children's books with Gabe and Izzy as the main characters.

"I believe it's going to be a very victorious year," Ford's mother, Rhonda Hillman, told The Flint Journal in Michigan.

Hillman said she was deeply moved by her daughter's strength. After all, this was the same young woman who used to hole up in her bedroom, afraid to face the world.

In high school, students bullied Ford — whose Friedreich's ataxia was beginning to cause her to limp — hurling spit wads and verbal abuse, even shoving and kicking her.

Ford's autobiography will detail those painful years and how she slowly regained self-confidence, eventually giving anti-bullying talks at local schools, conferences and conventions.

"I talk about how hurtful bullying is," Ford said. "It might not leave physical scars, but it can leave you with emotional scars for the rest of your life."

The speaking engagements sometimes tire Ford, but that doesn't stop her.

"Izzy is what helped me. She was always there," Ford said. "I think she's an angel in a dog's body."