Puppy Changed The Life Of A Boy With Down Syndrome And Autism

Jonathan is a 10-year old boy with Down syndrome and autism. His life has changed forever when he got his service dog named Shadow. Jake and Robyn Zampier were looking into the benefits of service dogs for special needs children when they realized it could be worth a shot. The couple ended up working with North Star Foundation. According to the website, the organization’s puppies are socialized from the start to regard children as benevolent leaders.

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Jake said, “We fell in love with the North Star model which encourages bonding with the dog from a very early age.  Basically, the dog and the kid grow up together.  This was what we wanted.” 

Jonathan has been able to form a unique friendship with his dog, Shadow. Because of Jonathan’s challenges he sometimes feels isolated but now less lonely than before. “Jonathan has Down syndrome and autism, which is an interesting mix. He’s a lovable and fun little boy, but struggles with communication and interacting with other kids. Most people don’t realize how lonely physical challenges can be,” Jake explained.

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The 10-year old boy has a lot of trouble in social settings where there are many people, like birthday parties and local events. He stays inside a lot in the winter to avoid getting sick, but with Shadow by his side, he’s never alone. The two are always playing games and having fun together no matter what weather or time of year. “Jonathan is in love with Shadow – constantly looking for him, constantly wanting to know where he is, and always wanting to be near him,” said Jake.

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Shadow has brought sunlight into this little boy’s life, and his whole family can’t imagine living without him. Jake said that from the moment they brought Shadow home, “we went from being a family of 3 to a family of 4. Literally, Shadow has changed everything. He is like another child added to our family. And in fact, Jonathan struggled a little with sibling rivalry at the beginning – somebody else was getting mom and dad’s attention and playing with his toys. Shadow goes everywhere with us and we include him in all of our planning.”

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Jonathan’s life changed for the better when he got his barking brother. For 10 years, Jonathan only said “Mom” and “ Dad.” But within weeks of getting Shadow as an additional member of their family – the child was adding another word to speak: “Doe” (short for Shadow).

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