ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- The last thing it's been is easy.
The truth is -- it's been so hard at times, they didn't know if they'd get to the other side.
But Chip Madren and his family are here.
"We are so excited."
Canine Assistants in Alpharetta is a place where Chip and his family will shed many more tears. Because it's just that good.
Mom Lea remembers, "From the very beginning, when Chip was in the ICU and Casper came and got in bed with Chip, we knew that chip needed a dog."
The beginning was three and a half years ago, when then 13 year old Chip was diagnosed with an aggressive, cancerous brain tumor. We met him six months after surgery, when he was bedridden, unable to speak.
WATCH CHIP'S NATION PART ONE: Feb. 2011
We were with Chip again, 18 months after surgery. He had regained the use of his voice, and during the interview he told us about a night in the hospital when he almost died.
WATCH CHIP'S NATION PART TWO: Feb. 2012
"I saw the gates of heaven and I wasn't allowed to go in because God had been watching over me the whole time."
Once this revelation was broadcast, it changed the Madren's lives. Suddenly everyone knew them, knew Chip.
Ken Madren says, "It happened a lot. (at) Home depot. (people would point) That's you that's you! They'd say I was watching your story with my Dad and when Chip said they he believed and turned his life over to Christ. We heard that more than once."
For Chip, the intensely private experience changed his relationship with God.
"God feels like more my friend. I don't really think of him as different anymore."
Chip is cancer free for two years, back in school, back to hunting, still re-learning to eat and walk.
"I'm not as fragile anymore."
The next big step -- getting a dog from Canine Assistants.
Chip won't pick his dog. The dog will pick him.
Canine Assistants founder Jennifer Arnold says, "I never get tired of seeing it and it's magical every single time and it is so incredible watch the dogs very clearly identify their people."
One by one the dogs are brought in to meet Chip. All of them are sweet, but none of them are a match.
Until Vera comes in.
Lea says, "Watching this dog come in, and she looked up at Chip and really said with her eyes, 'Where you have you been I've been waiting for you?' It was emotional because you could tell there was an automatic bond, just like they said it would be.
Chip takes Vera home, where they begin the hard work of becoming a team. Vera learns to anticipate his needs, how to help him -- how to love him.
They return to Canine Assistants for final exams -- which they ace -- especially one area.
Arnold says, "They won that with the highest score of eye contacts in one minute -- 52. It's the highest score I've ever seen. What that shows you is that they're really in sync with each other."
Graduation is emotional. Chip meets the volunteer who raised Vera and gave her up. As a 17 year old who has had far too much taken away, Chip understands the enormity of the sacrifice. "It really made me start to cry," he says.
This is what better looks like.
This is the other side.
It's not how must of us would imagine it.
But within Chip lives a truth that is more powerful than any illness.
When asked what he's grateful for, Chip answers, "Life, really. That I'm alive."
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