A five-month-old puppy is being trained to save the life of his owner – a six-year-old boy.
Golden retriever Storm will soon be able to detect when Mason Hale is about to have an allergic reaction.
The six-year-old, from Buckie, Moray, has so many allergies that he can’t go to soft play areas or the cinema.
And it means he often has to miss out on friends’ birthday parties – because even playing with a balloon and eating cake could kill him.
Mason has suffered thousands of allergic reactions and in the last year-and-a-half, doctors have had to save the youngster on three separate occasions after his throat swelled up so much it stopped him from breathing.
His parents, Kelly and David, have invested their trust, and money, in Storm. It will be his job to notice the signs and, using a special signal, alert Mason and those around him to the situation.
Once he is fully trained, Storm will even go to school with Mason, enabling the primary two pupil to get treatment earlier and prevent a life-threatening attack at any time of the day.
Mrs Hale, 30, said: “I remember the doctor saying every anaphylactic shock he has is a step closer to losing him for good.
“Mason has so many allergies. Even lighting a candle can cause a reaction, depending on what the candle is made of.
“Having Storm will give us more peace of mind and let him lead as normal a life as possible. He’ll be able to do things he couldn’t do before, like going on school trips. Now he’ll have the comfort of Storm being there with him, without fear.
“We only got him in July but the difference he has made to Mason’s life already is amazing. He is so much more confident, and wherever one goes, the other follows. They’re unbreakable.”
However, as Mason is allergic to dogs, even those bred for their non-casting fur, before the family could consider getting Storm, it took a painstaking 18 months to build up his immunity to the breed.
Mrs Hale said: “We looked into it and the retriever was the best dog for the training. So, when it came to retrievers, Mason had to spend a lot of time with them and we upped his medication until he became immune to them.
“He has so many allergies so we’re not sure if it was the hair or the skin.
“It was hard work, but gradually the allergens became less and less.”
Once Storm is fully trained, which is expected to be around May next year, the dog, wearing a special red coat to identify him as a medical assistance dog, will be with Mason 24 hours a day.
Mrs Hale said: “It’s fantastic. I think people underestimate the power of dogs. The training a dog can go through to save a life is incredible.
“It’s still very early stages but I can’t wait to see the final outcome. It will give Mason a lot more freedom and hopefully mean we don’t have any more trips to resus.
“The last time he was there I thought we had lost him. That was our third time there in 19 months – just three times too many.”