A boy's best friend: Dog brings comfort to autistic 9-year-old

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A 9-year-old autistic boy has developed an unbreakable bond with a black Labrador service dog, who the child depends on to keep him safe and calm.

The two are inseparable, and on a recent trip to the hospital where the child underwent an MRI scan, the loyal dog remained close to his owner and brought him comfort. 

James Isaac does not speak and does not like to be touched even by family members.

He was brought to the Wellington Children's Hospital for an MRI on his brain to diagnose what is causing his seizures.

Hospital officials allowed James's service dog, Mahe, to be with the child in the hospital room to help him feel secure.

The dog did not leave the boy's side.

Mahe is seen in pictures on the hospital bed with James, curled up to him. 

James's mother says she watched the dog nuzzling her son's face as the boy went under general anesthesia.

She said Mahe looked quite worried.

Thanks to Mahe, the boy made it through the procedure with relative ease.

The Isaccs say that since Mahe came into their lives more than two years ago, so much has changed.

Before the service dog's arrival, just going out in public was a difficult task, as James would often run off when he found himself in an over-stimulating environment.

Now Mahe remains by the child's side and his presence helps keep James calm, easing his anxieties.

The Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust trained Mahe for six months from a puppy to become a service dog to help children with autism.

The group trains dogs to assist people with a range of disabilities.

The trust said Mahe had been specially picked for autism training because of his calm nature.

"There is such a magic that happens between a child with autism and the dogs, they just calm the kids down," said Wendy Isaacs, who works for the trust. 

"The kids will maintain eye contact with the dog, but often not with their own parents and siblings," said Isaacs. 

She said that if James's seizures continue, Mahe could also be trained to pick up on early warning signs and alert his parents that a seizure is coming.