Journey’s end for Isaac and Jarvis

Isaac Dennis and his support dog Jarvis have come to the end of an incredible journey.

Isaac recently reached his 16th birthday and his canine companion of the past seven years was ten. Support dogs retire when they reach that age so Jarvis is now officially just a pet.

Isaac was and always will have very severe autism and learning difficulties. He finds noise hard to deal with, and always wears earphones. He can’t verbalise his needs or feelings and his behaviour is at times very challenging.

But since he was a very small boy, as well as his devoted mum Jenny, and twin sister Jenny, Isaac has always been able to rely on Jarvis, his yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross.

“They are still like best buddies,” says mum Jenny from Heanor in Derbyshire. “Jarvis is very good at knowing when Isaac is in a bad mood to leave him alone! The three of us don’t go out that much together now as we’re trying to wean Isaac off Jarvis, so he is not so reliant on him now he has retired. We can pop to the shops or go to restaurants and Isaac doesn’t run off any more when we’re out.”

Isaac is now a big, heavy lad, remains non-verbal, and is at times quite aggressive. He goes to a special school for young people with autism where he will stay until he is 19.

Bringing up a child with severe autism is unbelievably tough but Jenny remains stoical. “It’s just life really, one of those things,” she says. “It’s a bit of a cliché but it does make you a better person, more patient and understanding. I have an amazing group of friends who all chip in and help, and am blessed to have Jess as well – so I have half of a normal life.

“Jess used to be quite embarrassed to go out with Isaac as he’d growl quite a lot, but they are very close now and have a lovely bond.  When we first got Jarvis, seven years ago, it was hard to explain to her that he wasn’t a pet when he had his jacket on!  Jarvis changed Isaac’s life – all our lives.”

Jarvis has always had a calming influence on Isaac,   but despite this Jenny says her son was difficult to live with in early adolescence, having regular ‘meltdowns’.  That time is now over and the Dennis family is now preparing for the next stage in Isaac’s life; one without his long-time four-legged carer.

Jarvis became more of a pet in his final months as a support dog, switching from being extremely focused when wearing his Support Dog jacket to being an ‘absolute playful nutter’ while off duty.

“He’s a big baby, and likes loads of fuss. I can’t imagine what life would have been like without him,” adds Jenny. “Not having Jarvis as a support dog means we will have a safety net removed, but I’m sure we’ll be fine.”