James Isaac, 9, cannot speak and has difficulty connecting with family and friends due to his autism. However, there is one special friend James can always rely on: Mahe, his black Labrador assistance dog.

For the past two and a half years, Mahe, from The Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust, has never left James’s side. She helps to keep him calm and feel safe when the world around him doesn’t seem to make sense. Mahe follows James wherever he goes and sleeps with him every night – even in the boy’s hospital bed.

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James recently underwent a procedure to diagnose the cause of his seizures, and Mahe was close by the entire time.

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When James was put under anesthetic, Mahe kept a watchful eye.

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Hospitals can be scary places for children, but Mahe helped James feel safe and at ease in his bed.

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Mahe stayed glued to James, making sure he was never alone.

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Mahe isn’t just the word’s best hospital buddy, she also has made sure to keep James out of danger and helps lessen his frustration when he is unable to communicate. James’s mom, Michelle said that before Mahe came into their lives, her son would to run off or have a break down in overstimulating environments, like cafes. That all changed when the four-legged friend became a part of their family. Now, James holds Mahe’s leash and if he starts running too far or toward a busy road, Mahe will sit down and not move to make sure James stays at her side.

“There is such a magic that happens between a child with autism and the dogs, they just calm the kids down. The kids will maintain eye contact with the dog, but often not with their own parents and siblings,” said Wendy Isaacs, the Trust’s funding development manager. 

Doctors are still working to discover the source of James’ seizures, but if they persist Mahe can help detect the early warning signs and alert his parents for help. It’s amazing that with a simple wag of the tail, or cuddle session, an animal can completely change the entire world for a child with autism.

All image source: Louise Goossens