Pet making big difference
AS Maryborough's Tehya Hoffman rolls on the ground, cuddling her dog and giggling with delight, it is instantly apparent what a huge difference her pet has made in her life.
Her mum Karla wants to spread the word to let other parents who have children with special needs know that a support animal can be a huge positive in their children's lives.
Tehya, 6, was diagnosed with autism more than two years ago and her family made it their mission to raise funds for an assistance dog.
Using the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, the family raised $6000 and was able to provide an Australian shepherd puppy named Espresso for their daughter.
When Tehya has a meltdown or struggles with anxiety, Espresso makes a huge difference, Karla said.
"He'll just lick her face and she'll start giggling," Karla said.
She said that while sometimes Tehya still faced her share of struggles, Espresso was making a huge difference in her outlook.
Espresso accompanies Tehya everywhere, to doctors' appointments, down to the shops and through all her day-to-day activities.
He will even be able to accompany her when she goes to school.
Espresso is still in training at just nine months old but he will be ready to be certified as an assistance dog at 12 to 18 months old.
Karla said that for the public it was sometimes difficult to remember there was different etiquette around assistance pets. She said it was important that people refrained from touching or distracting assistance dogs and asking about a handler's disability.