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A collection of unique animal human friendships

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Our True Heroes 

See How Millions of Medical Support Dogs Change Our World

By Ella Blank

This book is dedicated to all the people who suffer fromdiseases that require the help of a support dog.

Medical support dogs are a huge part of our world. For example, they help people that have certain disabilities live with less stress. In this book you will learn about three amazing canines that are not only service dogs but also their owners’ best furends. These dogs do many things to keep their owners feeling safe, protected and loved.



At a tiny hospital in 1993, a baby boy named Cody McCowen was born. At first, Cody’s parents thought he was healthy, but about twelve hours later, Cody unexpectedly had a seizure. Immediately, the doctors took Cody into a private room to determine what was wrong.  Soon after, Cody was diagnosed with epilepsy.  

Cody and Polly

Years later, when he was a junior in high school, Cody’s parents started to worry about Cody having a seizure and getting hurt when nobody was around.  Also, he was getting older and more independent.  


With this in mind, Cody’s family asked to borrow a service dog who had just come home from training camp. Her name was Polly.  

This is the organization where Polly came from.

Polly was a smart dog who was taught to bark when her owner had a seizure. Specifically, she would go wild until someone noticed and came to her owner’s assistance.  Cody’s parents knew that Polly would call for help if Cody had a seizure.

One evening, while Cody was taking a shower, out of the blue, he fell and hurt his finger. 


The McCowens thought it was only a bruise, for he had jammed his index finger. Finally, they decided Cody should bandage up his finger and go to sleep.

In the morning, the sun came up with bad news.

While Cody sat down for breakfast and his mom prepared for the day ahead, Polly started yelping. Barking loudly, she wouldn’t stop.

 Polly  was barking, growling, and even jumping.

Without question, the McCowens sprung into their car and sped to the emergency room with Polly in the back of the car.


It seemed like minutes later, Cody and his family had arrived at the hospital. They ran through the doors and came to a halt when they reached the desk. As Mrs. McCowen explained the incident, the women at the front desk typed quickly on her computer, making sure a room was open for Cody.

With a smile, she soon ushered them to a nearby room.

“H-hello” another woman said with an uneasy smile “Sorry but the dog is not allowed.”  She glanced at Polly.

“No. You don’t understand.” Mrs. McCowen explained, trying to hold her anger back.

 “We need Polly. She can alarm us when our son, Cody, is about to have a seizure.  She and Cody are inseparable. They go everywhere together. Please.”


“Why is that dog here? Why is she barking? Is she okay? Is he okay?”

As Cody got into the gloomy hospital bed and made himself comfortable, Polly started barking AGAIN. Nurses, doctors, and all staff ran in fuming. Questions filled the room.

With bright red cheeks, the nursed

apologized and walked away in embarrassment.


Mrs. McCowen clarified for the hospital staff, “This dog is ours. She is trying to inform us that Cody had a seizure.” She paused “ Thanks Polly” she said patting her on the head.

While the doctor examined Cody. The staff smiled, rubbing Polly in awe. They knew Polly was a real hero.    


After being examined and going through an x-ray it was found that Cody had a broken finger.

Later that day, the McCowens adopted Polly.  With that, she became an official member of the McCowen family.


Four years ago, horrific news struck Debbie and Aaron Knobloch. Their young daughter Alida had lung disease. She needed to lug a six pound oxygen tank in order to keep herself healthy.  To tiny Alida, the tank felt like 100 pounds!  The Knoblochs did many things  so that Alida did not have to constantly carry the enormous tank.


Alida and Mr.Gibbs

As he watched, Alida popped into his mind. Though there was a small chance he could actually get Alida a medical support dog, the ad remained stuck in his head.


One day, Aaron Knobloch saw a commercial on TV about service dogs. 

One grey morning, Alida’s face turned light blue.

      As Alida and her family rushed into the car, they wondered what was wrong.

      When the Knoblochs arrived at the emergency room, they were brought into a room and evaluated by a doctor.  

Unexpectedly, Alida was diagnosed with NEHI, a rare lung disease only discovered nine years earlier. The Knoblochs learned that NEHI would make it hard for their daughter’s body to get enough oxygen by breathing alone. Now Alida always had to have the oxygen tank with her. She soon started calling her oxygen tank her "O".


Unexpectedly, Alida was diagnosed with NEHI, a rare lung disease only discovered nine years earlier. The Knoblochs learned that NEHI would make it hard for their daughter’s body to get enough oxygen by breathing alone. 


Alida's oxygen tank.

Now Alida always had to have the oxygen tank with her.

Once again, Aaron thought about the TV ad he saw a few days before. He brought the idea up to Debbie and she instantly began thinking about whether they could actually get a dog for Alida. 

The dog would carry Alida’s tank while she carried the leash. Day after day, Debbie and Aaron thought about the ad more seriously.

Six months later, Alida and her family adopted a service dog.  They traveled 2,000 miles away their home to get him.  



The new puppy’s name was Mr.Gibbs. He was a Goldendoodle that was trained to carry Alida’s tank. Though the young dog was still learning some new commands, figuring out who is boss and, getting used to Alida’s voice, it was clear right away that he was amazing dog.


Alida didn’t think of Mr. Gibbs as a dog.  Instead, she called him her best friend. Alida knows she is different. She understands that no other kids in her town have an oxygen tank attached to them. She sees kids looking at her, trying to figure out what is wrong but she feels lucky to have Mr. Gibbs by her side.

Alida and Mr.Gibbs go everywhere together. They go to the local park and the zoo. They even go bike riding together. In addition, Mr. Gibbs always comes along for family vacations.



Alida and Mr. Gibbs show us that the best bonds are with the ones we love most.

In Ashley’s case, she could hardly hold on to a bottle.  


At the age of eightteen months, Ashley was diagnosed with dejerine sottas syndrome, a disease that causes loss of sensation and muscle mass, resulting in weakness in limbs. People with this syndrome have a hard time holding on to small things.  For kids, this means that grasping things like toys may be impossible.  

Ashley and MAUI

As Ashley got older, she wanted to go to college after high school like most kids her age. However, Ashley worried that she would not be able to take care of herself. 

At home, it could take up to forty-five minutes for her to get dressed with the help of her family.  Doing this alone would take much longer.  She was already depressed and thought she would need a lot of help.  The problem was that Ashley would be too embarrassed to ask for help.

Going to college would be a dream come true for Ashley. There had to be some way for Ashley to have the same college experience as her friends. 

While doing research, Ashley found that she could apply for a PAWS medical support dog. This dog could pick up things from pencils to notebooks. The only problem was that Ashley didn’t think she her diagnosis was serious enough for her to get a dog.


The thoughts in her head swirled like a roller coaster going back in forth, up and down. Finally, Ashley decided to take a chance and apply for a PAWS service dog.


Soon after Ashley submitted the application, she got a call asking her to come in for an interview.

This is the online Paws With a Cause application that Ashley filled out. This was the first page of a much longer application.

During her PAWS interview, Ashley explained, “...this is something I need to do for myself. I was nervous about going to college and living on campus because my independence was limited. 

fused sinal cord

When I dropped something, I couldn’t pick it up because my spinal cord is fused. My parents supported me, understanding this was something I wanted to do.”  

PAWS heard Ashley’s story and believed that she was a perfect candidate for a service dog. Ashley was soon matched up with a golden retriever named MAUI.


Now living with MAUI, Ashley is like a new person. She isn’t the depressed woman she used to be. Ashley rarely thinks about her “old” life.  She feels extremely lucky to have MAUI by her side.  Each day, MAUI assists Ashley with everyday tasks. 

From opening doors to getting her out of bed in the morning, MAUI is always there to help Ashley.


Now, Ashley can live on campus and not feel       insecure. She gets the whole college experience and can pursue her dream. Ashley is majoring in International Relations and is studying the Middle East as a minor.








Ashley told the PAWS association “MAUI has saved me from that feeling of desperation. When I drop something now, it’s no big deal.”  

Ashley explained that getting MAUI changed her life forever for the better.


What Are Medical Support Dogs And Where Can You Get Them?

Medical support dogs are incredible. Who would have thought that a dog can sense a crisis before any human can?  Medical support dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with medical disabilities. They can communicate with their owners in ways that other animals can’t.

Example of a support dog official certification

Believe it or not, a lot of dogs are born with the ability to sense   a medical crisis but before they become a support dog they need to go through training. Most medical support dogs are trained at places that are specifically designed to help people with disabilities.


Some organizations that provide service dogs are:

These programs are working hard to get their clients dogs that are trained exactly for the patients’ needs.



There are many diseases that service dogs are trained to help with. One is epilepsy, the disease that twenty-one year old Cody has. Epilepsy is a pattern of repeated seizures. During seizures, people often experience unusual behavior or unconsciousness like the kid to the right. Often, one of two things will happen; staring blankly for a few seconds is common. Other times, constant leg and arm twitching will occur.


Usually, medication is prescribed to help control              the seizures. Does having epilepsy sound bad enough for Cody? Believe it or not, he is part of the small percentage of people where medicine makes the situation worse. Besides medication, there are not many treatments for epilepsy.

The best thing to do is to take on every day with a positive attitude. That’s what Cody does and many people like him should too.



Meet Maui, Mr. Gibbs, and, Polly, three wonderful medical support dogs that make our world brighter every day. Throughout the book, you will see how much these dogs do to protect and improve the lives of their owners. From opening doors to barking at seizures, Polly, Mr. Gibbs and Maui really know how to get the job done.


Ella Blank is a 6th grader in Ardsley Middle School. She lives with her parents and one younger brother. Ella Blank also has two dogs who are both labs. Ella enjoys playing softball and basketball during her free time and goes to sleepway camp too.