Mahe follows James Isaac wherever he goes, even into the boy’s hospital bed.
The autistic 9-year-old Wellington youngster relies on the black labrador to keep him secure and peaceful.
James is mute and avoids touch and eye contact with his family.
But he’ll happily curl up with Mahe.
“And for Mahe, James is his best friend; he is all about James,” Michelle Isaac, Mahe’s mother, stated.
The attachment is so strong that Mahe was permitted to accompany James to the Wellington Children’s Hospital for an MRI scan to determine the source of his seizures.
Mahe nuzzled his master’s face while he was placed under general anaesthesia.
“He was just staring at James, appearing troubled.”
Mahe sat with Michelle in the hospital cafe as she waited for the scan to finish, comforting the mother as he had the son.
“I was very rattled, and it was very hard to watch James suffer.”
The Isaac family’s life has improved dramatically when Mahe entered their lives 2½ years ago.
Michelle described going out in public with James as a nightmare. In any unfamiliar or over-stimulating involvement, he was likely to flee and lose the plot.
“Even going to a cafe as a family was impossible. James would become agitated and want to leave right away. When we got Mahe, though, James would just sit there and wait for us to complete our coffee.”
Mahe’s presence not only relaxes James, but also protects him. He is tethered to Mahe while out and about. If he wanders too far or starts racing towards a busy road, Mahe sits down and refuses to move.
Mahe was trained for six months by the Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust to assist youngsters with autism.
The charity trains puppies to assist people with disabilities ranging from autism to diabetes to cerebral palsy.
Dogs can be trained to divert their owners, warn other family members of a medical emergency, or track for missing people and goods.
According to Wendy Isaacs, the trust’s fundraising development manager, Mahe was chosen for autism training because of his calm demeanor.
“There is a certain magic that occurs between a child with autism and the dogs; they simply calm the children down. The children will make eye contact with the dog but not with their parents or siblings.”
If James’ seizures continued, Mahe may be trained to detect early warning signs and whine or bark to alarm his parents, she explained.