Seven-year-old Matthew Patton of Calgary, Canada, has autism, but he has found much solace in his 7-month-old golden retriever, Tonka.
Seeing how difficult it was for Matthew, who is nonverbal, to make friends, grandma Angel Wheeler stepped in with the perfect plan.
“I got Matthew the dog for Christmas because Matthew needs a buddy that is going to grow up and learn with Matthew,” Angel said, according to Global News. “He’s a very loving, gentle puppy.”
The family has seen a major improvement in Matthew, and Tonka quickly became an essential part of the family.
“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.”
“He does not speak, and he doesn’t like to interact with a lot of humans,” Matthew’s mother, Kayla Wheeler, confirmed.
But on Saturday, Matthew lost his closest companion when the pup disappeared.
“My gates were closed, and he just disappeared,” Kayla said. “I think someone came into my yard and grabbed him.”
Not an unlikely theory, given that the dog is young and a popular breed. The family has posted signs of the missing dog in their area as well as on online.
“Hi I lost my sons sweet loving puppy he is 7 months old he goes by Tonka he got lost in the Monterey Park area Calgary If found can you please call me thank you,” Kayla shared in the Alberta Missing Dogs Facebook group.
Many people eager to help have responded with information for found dogs that resemble Tonka, but none have been him.
In the meantime, Angel and Kayla are seeing the toll the loss is taking on Matthew.
“Matthew’s a little boy that doesn’t ask for much,” Angel told Global News. “This puppy means so much to him. 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.”
Kayla is publicly asking that if someone did steal Tonka, please return him.
“Whoever has my puppy, I would like and hope that you guys do the right thing,” she said. “Bring him back to his little boy that misses him very, very much.”