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Paws for Blaze Part 2: Area child gets his service dog

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Blaze Bozeman, 20 months old, sits next to his new buddy, Erving, a golden retriever that is specially trained to alert Blaze's parents if the young boy is about to have a seizure or respiratory problems.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Blaze Bozeman, 20 months old, sits next to his new buddy, Erving, a golden retriever that is specially trained to alert Blaze’s parents if the young boy is about to have a seizure or respiratory problems.

Almost precisely one year ago, The Daily Leader presented the tale of young Blaze Bozeman to readers.

At the time, Brittaney Bozeman and her husband, Ryan, of Lawrence County, were searching for a way to afford a specially trained dog, one that would be able to alert them just before their son Blaze, nine months old at the time, was going to have a seizure.

Then, Blaze suffered from an extremely serious medical condition, one that had doctors stymied. There were nights when Blaze would have 15 to 20 seizures, which would sometimes lead to respiratory problems.

At other times, changes in the season complicated young Blaze’s breathing ability.

These problems would keep Brittaney and Ryan up all night, worried that their son might at some point stop breathing.

What they soon came to find out, via a Facebook friend’s message to them, was an organization based in Ohio, which not only was familiar with the medical condition Blaze suffered from, but also had a four-legged solution.

While most people are familiar with seeing-eye dogs used for the blind, or drug-sniffing dogs used by the police, 4Paws, a non-profit organization in Ohio, has been training dogs that are specially trained for children like Blaze, now 20 months old.

To the Bozemans, it was a revelation.

The only problem that remained was the cost of the professionally trained dog. The Bozemans had found what little Blaze needed; however, they were confronted with the question of how to come up with the $13,000 that was necessary to purchase the dog.

The 4Paws organization asks for this amount, and covers the remaining $9,000 in fees through their own donations.

Just under one year later, Blaze’s story bears all the hallmarks of a success.

The Bozemans were able to eventually purchase a dog from 4Paws, after participating and organizing a host of fundraising activities and functions.

It ended up taking the family only five weeks to raise the money necessary to purchase “Erving.” In one fund-raising event alone, a horse and buggy trail ride held in November of 2012, the Bozemans raised more than $6,000.

Media attention helped the family raise a great deal of money as well.

Amazingly, as the family awaited the chance to be united with their new best friend, doctors at the University of Alabama-Birmingham were able to pinpoint the likely cause of Blaze’s severe seizure episodes.

UAB doctors determined it was possible that the combination of medicines that Blaze was taking to alleviate his symptoms, may in fact have contributed to his condition. The results were astonishing, according to Brittaney.

“Blaze hasn’t had a seizure in over six months since his visit to UAB,” exclaimed Brittaney. “The change has been night and day. I am so relieved.”

Another fortunate turn of events concerned one of Blaze’s primary doctors. Formerly based in Jackson, Blaze’s neurologist moved to Crystal Springs, a town much closer to the Bozeman’s residence.

Due to the medical problems in his past, Blaze’s balance is still a little off, and the Bozemans spend time working with Blaze on the kind of skills and activities that lead to a better sense of balance. He also spends time working on vocabulary with his neurologist since seizures can permanently damage speech ability. In retrospect though, Brittaney remarks, “I will take this set of circumstances any day over what we once dealt with on a daily basis.”

It will cost the Bozeman’s just over $100 a month to maintain Erving, or about $1,500 to $2,000 a year. Of course, this doesn’t include the dog treats that Erving has become accustomed to.

Brittaney keeps up to date with the folks at 4Paws, and communicates with them at least three times a week. The family is required to continually train Erving, in order to keep his skills sharp and on point. It is difficult for Brittaney to express completely what 4Paws and Erving have meant to her and her family.

“I am just so absolutely blessed to have come across this organization. Without them, I have no idea what I would have done,” she said.

Now that Erving is in her home, Brittaney says she has been able to sleep better at night.

“I used to be lucky to get three hours of sleep a night. Having Erving around has reduced the stress level in the house by 99 percent. Not just for Blaze, but for my husband and me as well.”

Still, this transition took awhile, Brittaney said.

“I was so used to Blaze’s old routine, that it took well over a month for me to actually sleep somewhat soundly,” she said.

Young Blaze was only nine months old at the time of the original story in Oct. 12, 2012. Now, at 20 months old, he is beaming with enthusiasm even well into naptime.

Blaze can even be seen riding his new dog like a cowboy.

The 4Paws is a non-profit organization that’s been around since 1998. Karen Shirk, the organization’s founder, says that she was saved by her dog Ben years ago, and she made the decision to help others such as the Bozemans.

The dogs are put through an intensive training. One of the major things they are trained for is to maintain a soft disposition. Dogs are similar to people, and different dogs have different personalities, so the organization spends time determining the particular match of the child in need.

Now, “Erving” is “working his little heart out” for Blaze, said Brittaney.