MOUNT CARMEL ­- Edward Straub has a new hero in his life, and he's helping him cope with the day-to-day challenges that come with living with cerebral palsy.

Straub, who turns 47 on Feb. 25, has spoken repeatedly about having a puppy. His parents, Roger and Judy Straub, have searched shelters trying to find the perfect dog, to no avail. But things began moving in the right direction following a conversation with their neighbor, Georgine Shoffler.

Shoffler, a receptionist at David Hirsch Dentistry in Mount Carmel, helped spread the word about Edward's search for a puppy. Edward, well-known in the Mount Carmel Area, attends Mount Carmel Area's basketball games and wrestling matches, and is very well-liked.

Georgine eventually told the Straubs to stop searching, because someone she knew would soon have full-bred beagle puppies available.

On Dec. 3, the puppies were born.

Georgine took Edward, Judy and Roger to pick out a puppy of their liking at the breeder's home in Atlas.

Edward loved the first beagle that came running to him, and the family knew that he would be the perfect fit. The price of full-bred puppies and cost involved in raising an animal, however, left the family with a hard decision which was only made more difficult with the look in the puppy's blue-green eyes.

Come get 'Howie'

Before they reached a decision, the Straubs received a phone call that changed their lives. They were told to come get the puppy Edward had chosen, free of cost thanks to people they refer to as "secret Santas" who had gotten word of Edward's longing for the puppy, and they made it happen.

The kindness didn't end there.

After the Straubs brought the dog to their Locust Street home, people began dropping off food, toys, a crate, puppy pads and a stuffed bear from rocker Bret Michael's line of pet toys that is three times the size of the dog.

Edward named his puppy Howie after Ryan Howard, a player from his favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

"The only thing that was missing was a balloon outside saying 'it's a boy,'" Judy Straub joked. She said the family is blessed to have been touched by such good people in the world.

New attitude

The family said Howie has changed the entire attitude of the house.

Edward has a hard time leaning over and walking, so the puppy has been great therapy. He carries the dog around and plays with him every day. In fact, Edward said he gets overjoyed when he wakes up and sees Howie each morning.

The puppy is completely Edward's responsibility, although Roger is in charge of bathroom breaks until the puppy, which is just 9 weeks old, is trained.

"He has something of his own to love and take care of," Judy Straub said about her son.

The Straubs said that ever since they've had the puppy, Edward has been out of his room playing with Howie, and not spending as much time watching television.

The Straub family is grateful for everyone who helped make Howie's new home possible.

While she doesn't know who was involved, Judy Straub affectionately refer to Shoffler and Hirsch as "instigators."