updated 08/26/2011 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 08/26/2011 AT 3:00 PM ET
The Labradoodle puppies on the lawn were in a licking mood on the day 7-year-old Evan Moss went to visit 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio. In August, little Evan traveled from Virginia for his first meeting with the service-dogs-in-training who could one day save his life.
“The dogs kissed me on my face a whole lot,” Evan tells PEOPLE in an excited, squeaky voice. “Too much, actually!”
Little boys might not love getting kisses all the time, but Evan is looking forward to a new best friend to cuddle with in the night.
Since he was an infant, Evan has suffered from epilepsy and its frightening – sometimes deadly – seizures. Because his seizures come around 3 a.m. several times a month, “he’s in our room every night,” says Evan’s mom, Lisa Moss, 42. “Our biggest fear is if we miss a seizure or can’t make one stop when every minute counts.” No one – not Evan, not his parents, not his doctor – can predict when a seizure is imminent.
Correction: Make that no human. In fact, certain dogs with exceptional sense of smell can detect chemical changes that occur in a person before the onset of a seizure, and can be trained to warn the patient and people around them to take protective steps. The problem: A seizure-sniffing dog costs $13,000 – which was out of reach for the family of four (daughter Aria is 9) in Alexandria, Va.
Then, Evan had an idea: He could sell a picture book about the lifesaving pup of his dreams – like, “If I go to outer space, the seizure dog will, too,” he says. “I just needed a little help spelling.”
Within a month of its July 6 publication, My Seizure Dog, which Evan sold at signings at a local coffee shop and on Amazon for $10, brought in more than $41,000 – enough to fund Evan’s dog and to help at least three more families struggling to finish their own fundraising. “What these dogs do is priceless,” says Karen Shirk of 4 Paws, the nonprofit that trains children’s service dogs.
Now, Evan is getting ready to welcome a seizure-sniffing Labradoodle when it graduates next spring. The litter from which his dog will be chosen (trainers look for personality and temperament matches) includes Dax and Phantom (pictured) – all of them named for Power Rangers. That’s okay with Evan, even though he’s more of a Pokémon fan. His bedroom is decorated with his Pokémon drawings and he’s excited to get to sleep in his own room – with his new dog. “I think he’ll sleep in the bed with me!” Evan says.
Dad Rob, 40, says, “Evan’s getting a new best friend, but also a shot at life as a regular kid.”
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