When Juliet the golden retriever service dog moved in with her handler — 8-year-old Memphis Rose Hamman — the first thing the canine did was snuggle her young best friend.
"Juliet was happy and sweet, and Memphis Rose was excited to see her pal," her mother Gayrene Meade, 31, tells PEOPLE about the dog, who recently completed training to be Juliet's service animal. "But Juliet has to transition from service dog training into our house, which will be a process."
In June 2020, Memphis Rose was in a car accident near Wellington, Florida. She suffered a punctured lung, fractured and displaced neck, and a severely fractured spine. The impact also caused Memphis Rose to go into cardiac arrest. The girl was without breath for more than 2 minutes and couldn't move. A doctor on the scene started CPR on Memphis Rose until a Trauma Hawk air ambulance took her to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
"The neurosurgeon said her spinal injury is one she may not recover from, and her chances of paralysis are significant," Meade told PEOPLE at the time.
Following the accident and her diagnosis, Memphis Rose, who is working to regain her mobility, connected with Juliet, now nearly 2, through Jupiter, Florida resident Lori Griffith. Griffith is the founder of the Chasin' A Dream Foundation, a local nonprofit that assists children with life-threatening diseases.
Griffith heard about the accident and Memphis Rose's love for dogs and called her contacts at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Jupiter. The rescue told Griffith that they received Juliet from Wyoming Sky Goldens in Gillette, Wyoming, on the day of Memphis Rose's accident. This breeder often trains its puppies to be service dogs for veterans. Working together, Griffith, Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch, and Wyoming Sky Goldens decided that Juliet should be trained to assist Memphis Rose as she learns to adapt to the paralysis caused by the car accident.
After Juliet's training was arranged, Memphis Rose met her future service dog for the first time. The pair bonded immediately, and their friendship has blossomed to a deep connection through repeated visits during Juliet's training. Kourtney Haddix, the owner of Wyoming Sky Goldens (now rebranded as Red Prairie Retrievers), tells PEOPLE it has been a one-of-a-kind experience watching Memphis Rose and Juliet grow into a successful team.
"I look forward to watching them continue to strengthen their bond," she says.
Over the past year and a half, Juliet has trained every day with Summit Earhart of Tidal K9 in Fort Myers, Florida, to learn the skills necessary to care for Memphis Rose. This training was made possible by a $25,000 grant from the Leeds Endowment, a south Florida nonprofit that helps disabled people lead healthy, productive, and independent lives.
"Memphis Rose is a strong little girl, and we are glad to have been able to provide the means for Juliet to learn to be her service dog," Danielle Ford, Leeds cofounder, tells PEOPLE.
"Service dogs are amazing as they give unconditional love," she adds.
Memphis Rose and Juliet have met up for day trips and other adventures over the past 18 months, but the pair didn't start living together full-time until late January when the fully-trained golden retriever moved into Memphis Rose's West Palm Beach home.
"Juliet has learned how to open doors, bring Memphis things, go get her mother if needed in a variety of situations, and apply deep pressure therapy to calm Memphis who has frequent bouts of anxiety over her situation," trainer Earhart tells PEOPLE.
"While Memphis Rose has no feeling, the pressure is good to calm her down. Juliet is a medical tool but also gives her constant companionship and love, which will help motivate Memphis Rose as she gets older," the trainer adds.
While training in Fort Myers, Juliet saw Memphis Rose about three times a month and during several trips to Disney World in Orlando. The duo's bond endured the time apart, and their reunion at the girl's house continues to go well.
"Juliet is a great dog, just awesome," says Earhart, who was there for the reunion. "She and Memphis Rose make a perfect team. Juliet is soft and comforting and takes her work seriously. She loves Memphis Rose and knows that her job is to help her."
Memphis Rose and her mother Meade, who is six months pregnant, can use a little extra sweetness and assistance in their lives after the past 18 months. Since the car accident, Memphis Rose has been in and out of hospitals. She has had pneumonia three times and surgery to have diaphragm pacers implanted in hopes that they'll improve her breathing. Memphis Rose also suffers from pressure sores and may need a skin graft.
"She always has a smile on her face. Memphis Rose impresses me every single day with her strength," the girl's mom says.
Earhart will continue to train Juliet twice a month and vows to keep tabs on the relationship between Juliet and Memphis Rose in the coming years.
"You could not ask for a better team than these two," says the trainer. "People focus on the physical damage that Memphis Rose endures, but she also needs mental stability. Juliet is there for her and knows what to do. She gives Memphis Rose confidence."