PHOENIX -- For parents of sick children, there can be so much to worry about that life can seem overwhelming. But one Casa Grande family has found help in the form of a four-legged friend.
Tyler Ashcroft is an energetic, 5-year-old boy who loves to play catch with his dog, Zoey. But the little boy has hit some rough spots in his young life.
"He was born premature, at 33 weeks," says his mom Rochelle. "I had preeclampsia." Tyler's early arrival was followed with food allergies and gastrointestinal issues. And he has to wear a backpack at all times that carries the tubes that keep him fed.
Tyler also has asthma, and suffers from epileptic seizures. It's a lot for a kid and his parents to endure. "Honestly, I just stayed up most of the time, almost 24 hours," says Rochelle. "The majority of his seizures are in his sleep so I didn't sleep much."
That went on until January of this year, when Tucson-based "Service Dogs for Independence" entered their lives, and dog Zoey joined the family.
Zoey is trained to let the Ashcrofts know when little Tyler is close to seizing. "There's a scent that happens when they're going to have a seizure, a chemical thing n the body," Rochelle says. "So she will usually come up to Tyler and paw at him a few times, and then she comes up to one of us and lets us know."
Zoey's presence allows Rochelle to get more sleep, and gives Tyler more freedom. In the fall, the pair will start school together.
"He's happier," says Rochelle. "He has a friend, and I think he knows that, too."