It truly is a joy to behold whenever Sebastian Belleggia sees the chocolate–coloured labrador, Lily.
Tension drains from his face and his limbs relax as he embraces his dear friend.
Unfortunately Sebastian can’t call Lily his own, as his relationship with her through Vision Australia is only an occasional one.
Sebastian, who turns 11 in July, has amblyopia, an extreme form of short-sightedness.
Unfortunately he also suffers from autism which can bring on anxiety and panic attacks particularly when he is in a social situation such as school.
This is where an assistance-trained dog would make a huge change to Sebastian’s life and that of the rest of his family.
Bendigo occupational therapist Carlia Rix works with Sebastian on behalf of Vision Australia.
She says Sebastian has been seeing Lily for the past six months and has already had a calming effect on him.
“These dogs are very expensive to buy and train but an assistance dog will change everything for Sebastian,” Ms Rix says.
“It really is a sensory thing. By patting a dog, it calms the person down.
”They feel happy and secure. And the dogs are trained to recognise the symptoms of anxiety.”
To assist the family you can go to Sebastian’s Smart Pups Autism Assistance Dog on Facebook.
Or you can ring Ms Annesi–Belleggia on 0447 711 243.