Waggy-tailed Walter has become James Fuller’s best friend, as Wendy Roberts discovers.
James Fuller, living with autism, likes to go for walks in the park and look at trees.
The nine-year-old loves being outdoors – but only if Walter comes, too.
Ask James’s mum what life was like for her son before their four-legged friend came to stay and the story could not be more different.
“James could have real problems when he went out,” said 43-year-old Amanda. “If he felt upset or hassled, he would squeeze his eyes shut with his thumbs and push his fingers into his ears to block everything out.
“If he felt really out of his depth, he would throw himself on the ground and cry. Simple situations like going to collect his sister from school could cause huge upset for James.”
But, since Walter arrived, family life in the Fuller house has been transformed.
The four-year-old Labrador retriever cross – a specially-trained autism assistance dog – has been a priceless gift. He started working with the family, who live in Mickleover, at the end of 2012.
“James can’t talk,” said Amanda, who is a full-time mum to James and her seven-year-old daughter, Daisy.
“He’s got epilepsy and learning difficulties. He’s also autistic.