Parents race to fund therapy dog for disabled son

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:


INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. - A local family needs help raising money to buy a therapy dog for their disabled son.

Seven-year-old Ben Shoniker suffers from a number of disorders, including ADHD, sensory integration disorder, apraxia and growth hormone deficiency.

"We've tried lots of different medicines, lots of different therapies, and have been unsuccessful," said his mother, Rebecca Shoniker.

Rebecca said the one treatment that did help was spending time with the family dog, Zoe.

"It was very comforting to have a companion, and he laid with her, and it was very calming, things like that," Rebecca said.

But Zoe passed away in June, and now the Shonikers are faced with the monumental task of raising $13,000 to buy Ben a new therapy dog. In the meantime, Shoniker worries about her son's safety, as he is constantly finding ways to escape the house and run into the street.

"He's always putting himself in dangerous situations and as he gets older he's getting stronger and faster and way smarter than us. He doesn't know a stranger and so he wouldn't have any problem getting in a car with somebody," she said.

Last year, the 7-year-old managed to unlock a second-story window at the family's home and fell nearly 20 feet onto the concrete driveway. He was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center, where he spent time in a coma before recovering.

"It was really scary. We thought we were going to lose him," Rebecca said.

That's why the Shonikers feel it's a race against time to buy their son a new dog, and they hope local fundraisers will help them get the money they need. They believe a therapy dog would act as Ben's protector, preventing him from escaping, tracking him when he tries to hide, and alerting his parents to danger.

"He's a slice of sunshine. He really does bring such joy and love into our lives every day," Rebecca said.

For more information on Ben, click here.