LOGANVILLE, Ga. -- If you've ever hung out with a 3 year old, you know: they're busy. They've got places to go and stuff to do.
Alida Knobloch is one of the cutest toddlers you'll ever meet. With her platinum corkscrews and cornflower blue eyes, she is irresistable, unstoppable, and always in the company of her dog, Mr. Gibbs.
She is also always dragging her dad's homemade cart behind her.
"All she could do was work to breathe," said Alida's mother Debbie Knobloch. "She couldn't do anything else."
Alida was 7 months old the first time she went to the hospital, and by 9 months old they had a diagnosis: "Neuro endocrine cell hyperplasia in infancy, or NEHI," said Alida's dad Aaron Knobloch.
The disease means the oxygen in Alida's lungs cannot get to her bloodstream, so she needs oxygen around the clock. The canisters are cumbersome and heavy.
Aaron Knobloch, the homemade cart-maker on his fifth prototype, was worried.
"What am I going to do to this cart so she can go outside and play like a normal kid?" he said.
That's where Mr. Gibbs comes in.
"He's still a puppy and he's got a lot of puppy left in him," Aaron said.
Mr. Gibbs is Alida's service dog. His job is obvious.
"He carries my Os," Alida said, referring to her oxygen.
He can also go down the slide, chase a ball, and chill amidst the squealing cacophony that comes from hanging with a toddler.
Mr. Gibbs has proved the great normalizer. "They're pretty much best friends," Aaron said.
There is still the very real disease that Alida and her parents must deal with every day -- the inhalers that help when oxygen isn't enough, the worries for her future.
Only research can help children like Alida. To learn more about Nehi disease go to child-foundation.com and Alida's FirstGiving page.
Debbie Knobloch still worries. "How it's going to impact her when she's older, how long she's going to be on the oxygen, will she always need the oxygen, will this affect her heart?" she asked.
But two things keep Alida's parents focused on the present. There is the ever-watchful Mr. Gibbs, and there is Alida, who at 3 years old is busy, has stuff to do ... and doesn't have to do it alone any more.