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G Thing: Service dog bonds with special needs teen

Posted: 10:59 PM, Sep 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-13 23:00:14-04

UPPER WEST SIDE — September is National Service Dog Month, a time to raise awareness and show appreciation for the work these animals do every day.

PIX11 had a chance to spend the day with one service dog who is making a life-changing impact on a teen and his family.

Whale and Zach have been inseparable for the last year and a half. Zach has autism and also suffers from seizures. The two were connected by animal behaviorist Janice Wolfe.

“Zach kept picking this dog out every single time, he feels safe with him," Wolfe said.

Wolfe's company, Merlin's Kids is a national non-profit dedicated to raising and training dogs to pair with special needs children.

“Each of our dogs takes one to two thousand hours to train depending on the task.”

The cost? Around $30,000 to train one dog!

Now, a local author is doing what she can to help raise funds to help train these dogs. Her name is Vanessa Keel, she wrote the children's book "Boomer at Your Service."

“I really thought about service dogs and how they are real life super heroes for children they serve," she told PIX11. "When I wrote 'Boomer at Your Service' I knew that I wanted it to do something more and I wanted it to serve a special purpose.”

She's now donating all proceeds from her September sales to Merlin's Kids. One of Merlin's Kids has changed Zach's life.

Zach's caretaker, Darren Dickel, loves having Whale around as he provides not only him, but Zach’s family with a sense of security.

“If you're not in the room he will get you and let you know Zach is having a seizure," said Dickel. "So, if his mom is taking a nap in the backroom, Whale will knock on the door, go through the door and come and get her and bring her out here.”

Whale also gets Zach outside, as he loves to take his buddy on a walk in the park.

If you'd like to support Merlin's Kids and all the good they do, order "Boomer at Your Service" this month.  Vanessa is donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the organization.