Meet hero dog Elvis, who has saved the life of seven-year-old York boy Eli.
Eli is autistic, and Elvis is his support dog.
They were home from school when something spooked Eli and he bolted towards the path of an oncoming car.
Thankfully, Elvis, had been trained to ‘brace’ – and stopped the unthinkable from happening, by preventing Eli from stepping into the road, while the driver slammed on the brakes just inches away.
Eli was attached to Elvis via a strap connected to the dog’s jacket.
Eli’s mum Rebecca Wilson, 32, who had been with Eli and her two other children, Reuben, 10, and five-year-old Arlen, at the time, said: “Had we not had Elvis, it would have been a very different outcome. There were certainly a few tears.
“That’s the thing with Eli,” added the full-time carer, who lives in Osbaldwick, York, with her children and their father, Karl Dawson.
“He can be okay one minute and then he’s not. There was something he didn’t like on the way home from school and his instinct was to run away.”
Until recently, Eli had been non-verbal and struggled with violent ‘meltdowns’ due to his autism.
But the bond between him and the black Labrador, provided by the Sheffield-based Support Dogs charity, is so strong, the youngster has begun to talk – and what were daily meltdowns are now only occasional.
Now, if Eli is nervous about going somewhere or doing something, his mum “talks” through Elvis, with Eli asking “what does Elvis think?” and Rebecca replying: “Elvis says it looks exciting.”
Last year, Eli was able to go to the dentist for the first time without having a meltdown – thanks to the calming presence of his Lab.
He was diagnosed with autism when he was three. Life was difficult, with Eli becoming violent and lashing out.
Just before the pandemic, in early 2020, Rebecca became aware of Support Dogs – which trains and provides assistance dogs to help autistic children or adults with epilepsy or disability to live more independently – after searching online for something which included animals.
“Whenever we took him to a farm with animals, he was a different kid – he wanted to be around them and was calmer,” she said.
Due to lockdown, an initial Zoom call explaining how the charity works was followed by two support dogs visiting the family, to assess how they were with dogs.
In July 2021, Rebecca went to the charity’s headquarters in Sheffield for dog handler training.
The following March, Eli was matched to Elvis and two months later, Rebecca went to meet him.
“I loved him straight away and thought he would fit in perfectly,” said Rebecca.
The following day Elvis went to the family home and met everyone.
He has spent a year in training and has just graduated from the Support Dogs course.
Rebecca said: “It’s fantastic to have graduated – I’m so proud of Eli and Elvis and the how strong their bond is.
“I think it’s amazing what Support Dogs does. I applied because I wanted to improve our lives, but I didn’t realise how much of a difference Elvis would make. He has helped massively.
“It has honestly changed our lives so much – I’m so grateful.”
Elvis, Eli and Rebecca are set to follow in the footsteps of support dog Tinks by appearing on CBeebies show, Dog Squad.
The programme follows the adventures of superhero working dogs and how they use their superpowers to help their owners in their everyday lives and the episode is set to air before Christmas.