11-Year-Old Panics At The Dentist, Then Giant Service Dog Leaps For His Legs

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

Every parent would go to the ends of the earth for their child, and Matt and Annelle Peleschak are no exception.

That’s why they did everything in their power to find a special service dog for their son with autism.

The Peleschaks of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, are parents to three wonderful kids. Their oldest, Matthew, is 11. When Matthew was just 5 years old, he was diagnosed with severe ASD, or autism spectrum disorder.

Autism is different for everyone on the spectrum. Some people might be really uncomfortable with touch and eye contact, while others might have more trouble with loud noises and changes in routine.

In Matthew’s case, socializing is no problem at all. However, he gets very scared in new situations. He also has a dangerous tendency to wander off.

When Matthew was 8, the Peleschaks learned about a possible solution for his footloose ways: a service dog could help anchor Matthew and keep him calm and out of harm’s way.

It took years of hard work and fundraising, but when that service dog finally arrived — a beautiful golden retriever named Sammy — he completely changed Matthew’s life.

Sammy the service dog comforts Matthew at dentist.

Late in January 2017, Sammy proved just how important he is for his little boy, Matthew, with one stunning and tender picture.

The photo, shared on social media by Matthew’s father, shows the boy at the dentist. Sammy is leaping into a dentist’s chair and lying gently across Matthew’s legs.

The moment shows just how gentle and loving Sammy is.

Sammy the service dog waits for Matthew in the ER.
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

Once, going to the dentist would have been a nightmare for Matthew and everyone involved.

His father tells LittleThings that “prior to Sammy, these visits were excruciating.”

Thankfully, Sammy knows just what to do to make it a little less scary for his person. Matthew had to have oral surgery last fall and visited the ER last year, so Sammy knows the drill.

Any time Matthew has a doctor or dental appointment that might hurt a little or make him feel nervous, Sammy is there to lie securely across his legs.

Sammy the service dog, Matthew, and his father pose together.
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

When Matthew’s father posted the photo, he shared just how important Sammy really is for his son, writing:

Matthew had his follow up appointment from his dental surgery this fall. Everything looks great! Sammy did an awesome job controlling Matthew’s legs while the dentist worked. After this picture was taken, Sammy jumped all the way up on the chair and laid his head on Matthew’s shoulder, which totally distracted him while the dentist scrapped some tartar off his teeth. Overall, an excellent appointment!

Poleschak family goes for a walk with Sammy the service dog.
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

In fact, Sammy helps Matthew every day and in every way! Matthew has limited speech, but he can’t always communicate or understand everything that’s happening.

Sammy helps him stay calm and distracted in any scary situation where he might be uncomfortable or in pain, like getting a shot at the doctor’s, for example.

Sammy the service dog and Matthew Polaschek pose together
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

Just as important, Sammy is on hand for any situation where Matthew might accidentally wander off and put himself in danger.

Taking Matthew out to the grocery store or to the mall used to be a major challenge for his parents.

His dad tells us: “Before, I would need to hold Matthew’s hand to prevent him from running off. Because of his lack of perception of safety, when he would run off, he would frequently put himself in danger.” 

They worried constantly about Matthew bolting into traffic without regard for cars. They also heard more than one horror story of a child with autism taking off and getting trapped in a pond or reservoir.

Service dog Sammy relaxes in the kitchen.
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

Sammy puts all of those fears to rest. He’s a big English golden retriever, and like all dogs of his breed, he loves working hard for his people.

In a situation where Matthew might be tempted to wander away, Sammy acts as a “tether,” moving with him but holding steady if the boy tries to pull away from his parents.

According to Matthew’s father, if his son does start to run, Sammy will alert him by brushing against his leg.

He also notes that if there were an emergency, “he would need to drag Sammy along, which slows him down enough until I can reach him. He is not getting very far [or going] very fast dragging a 75-pound dog!”

Sammy the service dog and Matthew relax outside.
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

If Matthew did ever get lost, Sammy is specially trained to track him down as quickly as possible following the specific scent of Matthew’s skin. Fortunately, the Peleschaks have never had to put this Sammy superpower to the test.

On an everyday basis, Sammy is mostly called on to help calm and anchor his person. He also soothes Matthew at night so that he gets enough sleep, then serves as an awesome companion while he’s awake!

When the Peleschak’s first realized they need a service dog, they worked with the amazing organization called 4 Paws for Ability, and fund-raised to cover the training.

They managed to raise so much money at the time that they were able to help other families dealing with similar expenses.

Matthew uses his iPad with Sammy the service dog.
Courtesy of Matthew Peleschak

Now, Sammy, Matthew, and the whole Peleschak family are hoping to help another young man get an incredible canine companion who will help support him every single day.

Robbie lives in Montana. He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and a rare form of skin cancer, among other conditions. His family is hoping that a therapy dog like Sammy might help predict seizures and soothe some of his other symptoms.

To learn more about Robbie and contribute to his service-dog fund, check out his fundraising page at 4 Paws for Robbie.

And if you were touched by Matthew and Sammy’s story and what they’re doing to raise awareness about service dogs, please SHARE and spread the word!