Dothan, AL - The Mendez family goes all out for Christmas. They have the tree, the outside lights, even the bedrooms have decorations.
However, this year will be extra special.
“We feel this Christmas we can actually enjoy it,” says Chris Mendez.
That’s because of Emma his son’s service dog.
Elijah has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.
Before Emma, Elijah had frequent meltdowns.
“It was hard to talk to other people. I couldn't express myself. I would be mad, sad. It would just be building up like I'm a soda bottle being shaked over and over until it burst,” said Elijah.
“Elijah would never sit in your lap or give you a hug or tell you he loved you,” said his dad.
After years of therapy they reached out to K-9’s for Kids, a part of Easter Seals Alabama.
The group rescues dogs from shelters. Then, they are trained for up to two years at a prison for specific disabilities.
“I was very skeptical about getting a dog. What's a dog going to do for him? When I can't help him how is a dog going to help him. Instantly I had to eat a whole bunch of crow. Instantly Emma changed my son’s life,” said Chris.
“When I'm stressed she just senses it, and she comforts me,” said Elijah.
During this magical time of year, Emma is giving them hope.
“There's nothing more where I want my son to wake up on Christmas morning and run in with a big smile and tell me this is the best Christmas ever. I think we've got a chance at that this year,” said Chris.
And don’t worry; Emma will have something under the tree as well.
“A peanut butter bone or something like that. I'm going to buy a huge one for her,” said Elijah.
It costs between $10,000 - $20,000 to train a service dog.
You can learn how to help at http://k-9s4kids.com.