Dog's love brings Lochie Bailey out of his shell
EIGHT weeks ago, nine-year-old Lochie Bailey lived inside his own world, trapped by anxiety, autism and Down syndrome.
His safe haven was an 'invisible mask' to keep him from the intrusions of the outside world.
But with the love of his new best friend, Lochie has emerged from behind his mask and has begun to engage with the people around him.
About three weeks after Rory, the 15-month-old labrador smart pup joined the Bailey family, mum Kathy said they started to notice the changes.
"Lochie is so much calmer now and our house is so much calmer too," Kathy said.
"His speech has picked up; he's far more compliant and there are less melt- downs... we still have our issues, but nowhere like we did."
Rory was a $25,000 investment from Smart Pups, a Sunshine Coast organisation which trains autism-assistance dogs.
He was partly funded by the generosity of Rockhampton locals and now it's Lochie's job to feed Rory, play with him and put him to bed.
It comes after long hours where the inseparable pair head off to Rockhampton North Special School each day and Rory wears a special red jacket to indicate he's at work.
"The kids in the class love him," Kathy said.
"They all know if Rory has his jacket on you can't touch him, but when the jacket comes off it's free-for-all.
"Lochie gets out of the car happily to go to school and he's happy when he comes home… I don't need to go into the classroom with him anymore.
"The other day the principal asked him to hold the gate for someone else.
" Normally he would drop his head and say no, but he walked back, held the gate and waited."
It's been an incredible turnaround in less than two months and parents of other children with Smart Pups are reporting similar results.
Kathy and husband Adrian say they have had a very big shift on the level of independence they imagined their little boy might have one day and his ultimate ability to have some control over his life.
"Instead of looking at just surviving his adulthood, we're now looking at things we'd never thought of," Kathy said.
So inspired by the change in her little boy, Kathy is now studying to train pet therapy dogs to help other people in Rockhampton.
"Rory has calmed Lochie's anxieties and he's able to cope with the world a whole lot better," she said.
"He's shown Lochie how to love, and that it's okay."