A rescue dog becomes more than just a pet to a family.

By Louise Farr Photography Jonathan Robert Willis

Pit Stop

Tracy Daniels, 34, was still grieving for her recently deceased dog, Derby, when her son, Tre, begged her to adopt a rescue dog he'd just met at a fundraiser for the Adore-a-Bull Rescue group in June 2014. "I don't know that I'm ready for another dog," Tracy told Tre. But when the cream-colored pit bull with the big brown eyes put her head in Tracy's lap, Tracy melted. "She was such a sweetheart," says Tracy, an American Sign Language teacher from Monroe, OH. The dog, whom they named Ember, instantly became a beloved part of the family.

Boy's Best Friend

Early on, Ember was devoted to Tre. "Right away we had a really special bond," says the 10-year-old, who threw himself into caring for the puppy, feeding and walking her every day. Tre also researched the breed's behavior and watched training videos. With the help of Tracy's firefighter husband Tony, 29, he taught Ember to sit, shake and stay. The dog even walked gently if Tre's toddler sister, Tycen, was holding on to her leash, never jumping on or startling the small child.

Sit, Stay, Rescue

It was 5 a.m. on a Sunday, around a year after Ember had been adopted, when Tracy was jolted from sleep. The pit bull sat next to the bed letting out an unusual low growl. "I thought she might be sick or need to go out," says Tracy. But instead of heading for the front door, Ember led Tracy to Tre's bathroom. To Tracy's shock, she saw her otherwise healthy and athletic son in the empty tub, in the throes of a seizure. "He could have been there for hours if Ember hadn't alerted us," says Tracy. She called 911, and soon an ambulance rushed Tre to a nearby branch of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Safe and Sound

After a battery of inconclusive tests, Tracy and Tony were allowed to take their son home. "Tre slept on the couch all that day, and Ember never left his side," says Tracy. After nearly three more months of testing, Tre was diagnosed with idiopathic generalized epilepsy, a condition the doctors hope he'll outgrow. Despite the devastating news, the family remains grateful for their "super dog." "If it hadn't been for Ember, my mom might not have found me," says Tre. Tony and Tre continue to work with Ember on their own to train her as a service dog. She now spends every night sleeping at the foot of Tre's bed, watching over her buddy. "We thought we were saving a dog from the streets," says Tracy, "but she was the one who really saved us."