Girl’s Best Friend: Service Dog Aids Teen With Autism

Tags: Currents Autism, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Service Dog

By Michelle Powers

Roxy isn’t your typical dog, and Maggie Banks isn’t your typical teenager.

Roxy is actually a rescue dog, and Maggie has autism and a condition that makes her pick at her skin. 

“She’s destroying her body and she can’t stop,” explained Maggie’s mom April, who for years struggled to see her daughter’s face pockmarked with scars. 

The disability and disorder could be at times isolating. With her anxiety skyrocketed around other people, Maggie was spending most of her time inside. 

When nothing else was working, April decided they would try one more thing, as far-fetched as it seemed. 

April reached out to Janice Wolfe, a canine behaviorist and the founder of Merlin’s Kids, an organization that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to be service dogs. 

Each dog Janice trains costs between $20,000 and $30,000. The canines learn 17 different tasks before they become service dogs, and their training continues on even after they’re placed with owners. 

Only one in 100 dogs has what it takes, and Roxy a rescue from Missouri — is one of them. 

“It was like magic. The first time they met, they clicked,” April explained. She never thought she would see her daughter this happy until Maggie’s best friend came barreling through. 

“She came running out and pushed me backwards,” Maggie said, recalling the very moment that she and Roxy became an inseparable duo. 

In the last four months since Roxy joined the Banks family, Maggie has stopped picking. 

“If I’m picking she licks me,” said Maggie. 

Roxy is trained to detect an increase in Maggie’s cortisol levels, so when Maggie is feeling anxious, Roxy knows to press up against her skin and stop her from picking. 

“I never thought she could go to college,” said April. For her, the relationship between the two is a life-changing one that’s opening many new doors for Maggie. 

“God knows what you need and when you need it,” she added.

The Banks family calls it a match made in heaven: the dog who saved a girl, and the girl who saved a boxer from a pound in Missouri.