An Unlikely Super Duo – Merrick and his service dog

dog1The following is a guest post by Jessica Lyons. Her three-year-old son Merrick has autism and owns Toby, a love-able service dog.

My son, like most sons to a mother, is my super hero. What sets him apart from other super heroes, is that he has a sidekick named Toby, who just as equally a super hero in my eyes. Toby works long hours, assisting my three year old son Merrick on his journey through life with Autism and Unilateral Hearing Loss.

Merrick was first diagnosed with Autism, along with Sensory Processing Disorder and Expressive Receptive Language Disorder, before his second birthday. Two months later, he was diagnosed with severe to profound Unilateral Hearing Loss. Early Intervention started immediately, and Merrick was clocking in at about 20 hours a week of therapy.

Half way through through the year, our thirteen year old cat, Kittie, decided to sit along side Merrick for therapy. Myself, as well as his therapists, noticed that Kittie was serving as emotional support; soon as she joined in, Merrick had less melt downs and would focus more on tasks. He would seek her out whenever he was experiencing frustration or an overload, which lead to him wanting to take her out with us whenever we left the house. That’s when it occurred to me that he would benefit from having a service dog, which lead us to where we are now.

Toby has been such a miracle worker, and it’s not just me who feels such; Merrick’s therapists and teachers all seen an immediate change. Merrick has even overcome his language disorder diagnosis. He tested out of speech therapy a month ago! He has even graduated from physical therapy because he has been able to withstand social settings with Toby and is involved in soccer, track, and dance classes. He even became motivated to learn to catch and throw so he would be able to play fetch with Toby.

His Occupational Therapist even incorporates Toby into therapy sessions. She has taught Merrick when he gets lost or bolts, a password is yelled and upon hearing it, he is to run back and find Toby and hug him tight until Mommy arrives. This has significantly decreased his urge to run away. Merrick attends to tasks and sits now, decreasing his perching or crouching, which allows him to sit down and eat now. Sleeping has been so much better; it no longer is a two hour process. Toby will lay beside Merrick or on top of him if deep pressure is needed, which quells Merrick’s anxiety and night terrors.

As if these achievements weren’t enough, I never thought I’d be able to say this: Merrick is finally potty training. Observing Toby being house trained has led to Merrick wanting to potty train!

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy; having a service dog is like having another child. Toby will have his dog moments, which he is totally entitled to. He will also have accidents now and again. But believe me, I don’t mind it. At the end of the day, my super hero son is over-coming obstacles, and he is home happy and safe because of his loving side kick. And yes, Toby and Kittie have become best friends.

dogAbout Jessica Lyons

I am 29 years young and work full time as a Sheriff Officer. I am the Mother of Merrick, a micro preemie super hero born three months early, who fights Autism and sever hearing loss on a daily basis. At three years of age, he has overcome going into cardiac arrest twice, along with six reconstructive surgeries. It has been quite a journey for us. I participate in triathlons and mud runs, raising funds for Autism groups, the Special Olympics, and for families on the Service Dogs By Warren Retrievers wait list (the organization in which my son’s service dog was obtained through).

  • Pat says:

    Hi Jessica, i enjoyed reading about your two superheroes and have posted your story on my Facebook Community Page, For the Love of Service Dogs. Please visit to see the post and congratulations on having your awesome buddies!

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