Tampa boy with autism reunited with service dog

By Sara Belsole, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 05, 2017, 6:57 PM EDT

All tails were wagging Tuesday afternoon at Tampa International Airport, as a young autistic boy from Tampa was reunited with his service dog.

  • Matthew Bishop, 4, has limited social, communication skills
  • Matthew paired with Nixon as a puppy, spent year training
  • Nixon's breed a great companion for autistic children

Four-year-old Matthew Bishop has limited social and communication skills. His parents matched him with Nixon, his service dog, when Nixon was a puppy.

"[Nixon] will kind of serve as a physical barrier between places we don't want our son to go," said Alanna Bishop, Matthew's mom. "And when he starts to escalate into those problem issues, Nixon can interrupt that by putting a paw on the situation."

Nixon spent the first year of his life training with Ry-Con Service dogs in North Carolina. The nonprofit specifically trains service dogs for kids with autism.

"With the rise in autism and the more what I call them neurological-based disabilities, it became clear that we needed dogs who could perform tasks for those individuals and help their quality of life," Mark Mathis, Founder of Ry-Con Service Dogs, said.

Nixon is a Briard, which is a type of herding dog. Mathis said the breed makes a great companion for autistic children.

"When you look at herding and you look at the group as a whole, you see a lot of things that kind of go hand in hand: the contact, the almost maternal instinct the dog has over its flock, over its charge, the protective nature,” Mathis said.