Four-year-old Alexis Lamb won’t eat dinner unless her best friend Prince is served first and can eat with the family. She climbs all over the rescue dog that Scott and Carrie Lamb adopted from Heart of Idaho Animal Sanctuary. She constantly dresses him in girly things.

He doesn’t mind. He’s family. Prince, a pit bull, is Lexi’s main protector. If someone he doesn’t know comes to the Lamb house in Challis, he gets between the stranger and Lexi and won’t let them inside. Sometimes he even gets between Carrie and Lexi when mom is angry and scolding her daughter for some misbehavior. He has a fearsome bark and growl, but is a sweetheart around Lexi and people he trusts.

“They’re inseparable,” Scott said of Lexi and Prince. “She climbs on him. She sits on him and brushes him. She eats with him and sits right there in front of him.”

Both Prince and Lexi had rough starts in life, which is perhaps why they’ve bonded so tightly. Prince’s previous owner was neglectful at best and abusive at worst.

Lexi has cerebral palsy and she either crawls or uses a walker. She’s a tough little girl who takes her share of falls and rarely, if ever, cries about it. If she falls, she picks herself up and charges ahead.

Prince was found abandoned in a Salt Lake City yard after his previous owners moved and left him chained up, without food or water. Neighbors called the police and officers used bolt cutters to free Prince. That’s when Heart of Idaho Animal Sanctuary volunteers stepped in and brought Prince to Challis, according to Tirzah Stuart, executive director and founder of the sanctuary.

Sanctuary volunteer Win Happy carried Prince inside the sanctuary because the dog was too starved and weak to walk. Prince could barely hold his head up or wag his tail. Staff and volunteers carried him outside to do his business because he didn’t want to soil his kennel. People slowly fed him very small portions of food. He couldn’t keep normal portions of food down and would vomit.

Despite the abuse he suffered, Prince trusted everyone at the Challis sanctuary. They lavished love, care and food on Prince and he had nearly tripled his weight by the time the Lamb family adopted him.

“Prince was a lot of work, but he’s perfect now,” said Stuart.

“He loved us,” Stuart said. “He never showed any resentment toward people.” Some people approached him cautiously, perhaps because of his breed’s bad reputation. But Prince the pit bull never acted aggressively. He seemed grateful to his rescuers and his adoptive family for a second chance in life, Stuart said.

“He is great around kids,” as are many pit bulls, Stuart said. “Lexi and Prince bonded instantly. It was like having a new child in the family.”

Prince eats his kibble side by side with the family when the Lambs sit down for dinner. He cuddles up to Lexi on the floor and lets her climb all over him. “He is her everything,” Stuart said. “He changed how Lexi looks at the world.”

Lexi loved Prince right away, Scott said, but at first Prince wasn’t sure what to think of her, putting necklaces and ribbons around his neck, barrettes on his ears and girly things on him. “She would probably paint his toenails if he let her,” Scott said. “He sits there and lets her do whatever she wants.” Lexi hand feeds Prince and he always knows what’s up when she opens the pantry door. “She probably gives him too many treats,” Scott said.

The only time there’s any disagreement between the two is when Prince wants to lie on Lexi’s blanket. She thinks he should stick to his own bed, said Scott.

Kerri Futral Evans, who works with disabled children, brings Lexi by the animal sanctuary on Fridays to volunteer. Lexi loves to pet the cats and kittens, Stuart said.

“She probably has 10 cats she wants to take home with her,” Scott said.

Lexi’s first exposure to a family pet was Olaf, a cat belonging to grandparents Doyle and Myrna Lamb, that would crawl up on her lap and purr. Lexi sometimes calls cats “cats” and other times “RRRs” for their purring sound.

Sometimes Prince comes along on Fridays and reconnects with his friends at the sanctuary. The first time the Lambs brought him back for a visit, the staff was glad to see him.

“He’s so happy,” Stuart said. “He has no anxiety. That makes us feel like, ‘We did it!’ We worked so hard to save him. People demonize pit bulls, but he’s the most loving dog. This is the happy ending we hoped for him.”

“It’s like a miracle,” volunteer Lorraine Mullins said of Prince. “He came back from death’s doorstep to help a little child.”

Prince visited his original shelter in Salt Lake City on a family trip, Scott Lamb said, and their reaction was, “He looks stupid good!”

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