Alida Knobloch of Loganville, GA was born prematurely and by the time she was six months old, her parents felt that something was not right with their daughter. After weeks of tests, it was discovered that Alida had neuroendocrine hyperplasia of infancy (NEHI), a rare lung disorder in young children which makes breathing very difficult. "After we were told how rare it was and that there wasn't a lot of information available there were about a million more questions," Aaron told TODAY.com. "How does she get her oxygen? How do we make sure she is getting enough? Where to do we get it from? Will she be able to play with other kids? How is a baby going to grow up having to be tied to an oxygen bottle? Will she ever be able to play sports, or just go play outside? And that was just the first second."
As a result, Alida must remain attached to an oxygen tank most of the time. As Alida grew, it was extremely difficult for her to move around with a 6-pound oxygen tank. Her father built carts for her to use, but they just did not work well enough for the very active toddler. But one day, while watching television, Alida's father saw a program about service dogs and he wondered if a service dog might be taught to carry the oxygen tanks.
Enter Mr. Gibbs. Mr. Gibbs is a trained service dog that has become Alida's constant companion, walking or trotting alongside of her and carrying her oxygen wherever she goes. The Golden Doodle had to learn how to help take care of little Alida. "He had to learn to get under the table at restaurants," she says. "He had to learn that if there were other animals he couldn't just go and play with them. He had to stay right next to his girl and ignore all the fun things around him. He also had to build up to be able to carry around the full weight of the 6 pound tank."
Most service dogs work with children who are over the age of 5, and working with 3-year-old Alida has its challenges. The two are working hard to understand one another so that by the time she is ready for school, everything will be running smoothly.
Doctors are hoping that Alida will grow out of NEHI or be able to decrease her need for the oxygen tanks and by then Mr. Gibbs will only be the family pet and girl's best friend.