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‘It just breaks my heart’: Calgary family appeals for return of boy’s support dog

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WATCH: There’s an emotional appeal from some Calgarians looking for help getting a family member back home. Gil Tucker reports on the search for a puppy that’s been giving a little boy such a big boost. – May 26, 2021

Out in his Calgary backyard on Wednesday, seven-year-old Matthew Patton was having fun playing with his mom and grandma.

But he was also missing the company of his special four-legged friend.

“Tonka is a golden retriever puppy,” Matthew’s mom Kayla Wheeler said. “He’s seven months old.”

Read more: Autism and isolation: How coronavirus is affecting kids on the spectrum and their parents

Tonka is a perfect match for Matthew.

“He’s a very loving, gentle puppy,” Matthew’s grandma Angel Wheeler said.

Those qualities help Matthew, who lives with autism.

“He does not speak,” Kayla said, “and he doesn’t like to interact with a lot of humans.”

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Tonka has been part of the family since late 2020.

Read more: Autism, explained: What’s the spectrum and how it develops

“I got Matthew the dog for Christmas,” Angel said, “because Matthew needs a buddy that is going to grow up and learn with Matthew.”

They had been learning a lot from each other until the morning of Saturday, May 22.

Matthew and Tonka were out in the backyard playing when suddenly the puppy was gone.

“My gates were closed, and he just disappeared,” Kayla said. “I think someone came into my yard and grabbed him.”

Read more: Autism might be overdiagnosed, Canadian research suggests

The family is now spreading the word about the disappearance, appealing for the return of Tonka online and with posters they’re putting up around their neighbourhood, Monterey Park, in northeast Calgary.

“If Matthew’s having a bad day, you just get Tonka in there and Matthew calms right down,” Angel said. “It just made us all happy that he had somebody to go to.”

Family members are doing everything they can to try to get Tonka back home.

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“Matthew is a little boy that doesn’t ask for much. This puppy means so much to him,” Angel said. “When you see how sad he is because his puppy’s not there, it just breaks my heart that he doesn’t have that best friend.”

The family is making a direct appeal for the return of Tonka.

“Whoever has my puppy, I would like and hope that you guys do the right thing,” Kayla said. “Bring him back to his little boy that misses him very, very much.”

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