Published: 00:01, 01 July 2014
| Updated: 08:33, 01 July 2014
Ten-year-old Jacob has autism and struggles to communicate and socialise with other people.
But his life started to change when labrador puppy Buddy came to live with him – and the two formed a unique bond.
Before his canine companion came to the family home in Gillingham, Jacob rarely laughed and spent a lot of time on his own.
Worried mum Christine Steady looked into getting a trained support dog for her son but discovered there was a four-month waiting list.
So she decided to find Jacob his own four-legged friend.
Christine said: “Jacob was very withdrawn, rarely laughed or engaged with us and spent much of his time in his room alone.
“It was heartbreaking. I knew each day we waited for an assistance dog was a day Jacob was missing out on so many opportunities, so I decided to find a puppy myself.”
Jacob asked his mum for a “yellow” dog, so Christine managed to find a local litter of golden labrador puppies who were looking for homes.
Going to see all the puppies would have been overwhelming for Jacob so his mum arranged a video call with the breeder.
The Burnt Oak Primary School pupil spotted Buddy sitting at the back by himself, something he immediately identified with, and he loved Buddy’s brown nose.
And it wasn’t long before the dog came to live with them in Richmond Road.
Christine said: “I hoped the companionship would help Jacob, but I never could have guessed how much it would transform his life – they are a perfect match.
“Buddy has given Jacob a reason to go outside, they love going to the park and playing football.
“Jacob also communicates so much more now because he wants to talk about Buddy, and it’s given him more responsibility as it’s his job to feed his dog.”
But the duo’s incredible bond almost ended in tragedy when Buddy ate four boxes of chocolate, which is poisonous to dogs.
Buddy needed emergency treatment at the PDSA hospital in Gillingham and it was touch and go whether he would survive.
Christine said: “Jacob is now incredibly protective of Buddy, and Buddy is now extra protective of Jacob.”
She added: “Buddy really has turned Jacob’s life around in so many ways.
“He has so much more confidence. Jacob is going to secondary school in September and he is taking it all in his stride.”
“When Buddy was sick it would have cost us hundreds of pounds for his treatment, which we just couldn’t have afforded. I’m so grateful to PDSA; they’ve saved Buddy’s life, which has made all the difference to Jacob’s life too.”
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