Ok, We Can Definitely Call This Dog Part Of The Family

By  | 

The debate over comparing care for an animal with parenting never fails to infuriate dog lovers and parents everywhere. While some attest that caring for an animal prepares them for childrearing — perhaps in the smallest way — others consider the comparison completely ridiculous. But for those of you who have squirmed at the idea of elevating a pet to the same status as your child, consider the heartwarming story of Aaron and Debbie Knobloch who rely on a service dog to help carry their 3-year-old daughter’s oxygen tank.

The family appeared on TODAY to share their story of their toddler daughter Alida‘s very rare lung disease. The child was born prematurely and started exhibiting breathing problems by six months old. After being rushed to the hospital for turning blue, doctors diagnosed her with neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia of infancy, or NEHI — confirmed in only 500 children, msnbc reports. The disease, which still has doctors scratching their heads, prevents little Alida from getting enough oxygen from the air that she breathes.

An oxygen tank for a baby may be cumbersome, but for a mobile toddler anxious to explore the world behind her — the hindrance to play and development seemed insurmountable. Until Alida’s dad saw a commercial for service dogs and envisioned an obedient pup carrying his daughter’s oxygen beside her. The family sought out a service dog breeder and consequently met, Mr. Gibbs, a puppy with some obedience training to go who gives Alida as “normal” a life as possible given her condition:

[Ashleigh] Kinsleigh calls Mr. Gibbs “a work in progress” because he’s still learning to be a little girl’s constant companion. “His job is to go wherever she goes and do whatever she does,” Kinsleigh explains. “If she wants to get on the bike and go down the driveway he has to learn to run alongside. If she’s going to ride on a slide, he has to learn to climb up and slide down behind her.”

It may be impossible for some parents to parallel their love for their children with an animal, but I don’t see how any mother or father couldn’t love and deeply value a dog who gives their child such agility. Through his training and his obedience, this golden doodle is helping this little girl retain full navigation of not only the playground, but also her rambunctious childhood — a virtually priceless part of her life. Mr. Gibbs’ aide to a child under a five, a reported rarity for service dogs, puts a new wrinkle in the conversation surrounding loving a pet as much as your kids.

[msnbc2 launch=”46806594″]