Life was a lot different for James Isaac before he got Mahe. James, a 9-year-old boy from New Zealand, has autism and is in danger of wandering into traffic or other areas where he could get hurt.
Two years ago, Assistance Dogs New Zealand paired James with Mahe, a black Labrador Retriever trained in helping children like him. In addition to keeping Isaac safe by staying tethering to his jacket, Mahe provides comfort to the little boy, who doesn’t speak or make eye contact and doesn’t enjoy physical contact.
James’s mother, Michelle, explained to ABC News that because Mahe allows James to explore his environment with both freedom and safety, James seems to enjoy outings more. Also, having a dog with him while in public helps to break down social stigmas the family once felt because of their son’s unusual behavior.
The relationship got attention from all over the world when James was hospitalized last month relating to seizures. He was put under anesthesia for an MRI scan. Before the procedure, Mahe was allowed on the hospital bed to comfort James—and the photos of their time together went viral.
"The staff at the hospital were amazing and encouraged Mahe to hop on the bed with James to help keep him calm," Michelle Isaac told ABC. "As James was receiving anesthesia, Mahe put his nose right up to James' face and seemed really concerned."