Courtesy The Loveridge Family
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August 31, 2018 04:13 PM

Anyone who has gone through middle school knows it’s not always the easiest time.

Carson Loveridge was experiencing that discomfort first hand. The 13-year-old was enduring bullying at school that was taking a toll on his confidence, leaving him anxious and depressed. It got to the point that he was having trouble going to school each morning.

“The bullying started in 5th grade but really increased in 6th grade.  Kids would call him names and tease him. They would pick on him on the bus or at school. They teased him about the stupidest things!” Lynette Loveridge, Carson’s mom tells PEOPLE. “It happened so often that it really affected his confidence, and by the end of the year, he was having a lot of anxiety in the evening thinking about school the next day and a lot of stress getting out the door in the morning. He continued to be a great student even though he was struggling so much.”

Concerned about her son’s well-being, Lynette, a registered nurse, sought help from professionals inside and outside of the school, but also wanted to do more for her child. The mother of four decided that Carson needed a dog.

Courtesy The Loveridge Family

She found Zero, a three-legged puppy who lost his limb in a car accident, and instantly felt drawn to the dog.

“Zero was brought up from Florida to A Forever Home Rescue.  I saw him listed online and thought he was pretty cute and I thought the fact that he only had 3 legs was endearing,” Lynette says. “We went and visited him at his foster home.  He was cute and playful and had absolutely no problem getting around on 3 legs.”

Courtesy The Loveridge Family

The family decided to watch the puppy while his foster parents were out of town – and the family “never gave him back.” All of the Loveridges had fallen in love with Zero, but Carson especially bonded with the pup. The pair became fast friends, with Zero sleeping in the boy’s bed every night. Through this supportive, loving bond with the resilient Zero, Carson began to regain his confidence and enjoy school again.

“The 6th grade Carson vs. the 7th grade Carson we had last year are complete opposites! Carson’s confidence has increased greatly and he does not have the same anxiety and stress he had about school in 6th grade,” his mom shares. “He was happy and enjoyed school and even was excited to start 8th grade this week.  Even when he might have a little setback or disappointment, he is able to handle it well and move past it quickly.  He is back to being his happy, fun self!”

Courtesy The Loveridge Family

Zero and Carson’s sweet story is one of many being celebrated during the Petco Foundation‘s annual “All for Saving Lives” campaign, which highlights the life-changing effects shelter pets have on our lives. To help others find the same connection the Petco Foundation is hosting All for Saving Lives National Adoption Weekend on September 1 & 2 at all Petco and Unleashed by Petco locations.

“Dogs really can be a best friend. Even better sometimes than people can,” Lynette says about what she hopes others take away from Carson and Zero’s story.

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