A young autistic boy and his assistance dog have a bond so deep that the dog stays beside him everywhere, even in the hospital.
James has been in the Wellington Children’s Hospital, for an MRI scan to determine the source of his seizures, and Mahe has rarely been apart from him.
Mahe’s job is to keep James safe and calm. James relies on Mahe so much, in fact, that he was granted permission to bring the dog into the hospital. There, Mahe has kept him company and comforted him, especially when James went under general anesthesia.
“He was just looking at James, and looking really worried,” James’ mother, Michelle, told Stuff.co.nz about Mahe.
Later, as James was undergoing the scan, Mahe waited with her and helped ease her nerves.
“It was pretty stressful watching James struggle,” Michelle said.
Michelle saw her family’s life improve greatly with the addition of Mahe. James’ particular constraints are an inability to speak and rejection of touch and eye contact with his family. She said going out in public with him was a nightmare, with him either getting anxious or running off.
Since getting Mahe 2 1/2 years ago, James has changed. Mahe’s presence soothes James’ anxiety and a tether attached to the dog’s harness keeps James safe; if he roams too far from the family or runs toward a high-traffic street, Mahe will sit down and stay put.
Make was trained by the Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust to be an autism-assistance dog. The group helps people with conditions such as diabetes or cerebral palsy as well, by connecting them with a service animal who can care for their particular needs.
For now, James needs comfort most, and that’s exactly what he’s getting.