Emotional Support Partnership

Holly, a three and half year-old Labrador Retriever, can be best described as a “marshmallow.” She is sweet, calming, and comforting. When she came into Ariel’s life as an Emotional Support Dog, she had a huge impact on Ariel’s entire family. Words cannot properly describe the changes that have occurred, but according to Ariel’s mother Yael, it’s magic.

The family of six live in Even Yehuda, a small town located near Netanya, which is north of Tel Aviv. Ariel, the third of four children, was 11 when he partnered with Holly. He has two older siblings – one in the IDF and another completing her final year in high school.

Prior to getting Holly, Ariel had outbursts of anger, frustration, and impatience. He was always on edge. At times, he would throw himself on furniture to feel the impact.

His behavior was very challenging and affected him both at school and at home. Since he had outbursts of anger, he was teased by some children (that thought it funny to see him to blow up). Other youngsters would stay away from him because he had a short fuse. This brought him into conflict with the staff. He was frequently punished and expelled from school. Ariel did not fit into any neat medical or psychological category, in spite of these problematic behaviors and their impact on his life. As a result, Ariel did not receive assistance or support at school.

Holly the dog

None of these behaviors occur anymore. Since Holly came into Ariel’s life, she has brought out his softness, gentleness, and love. Ariel is now more patient and understanding; he does well in school and learns in an advance class. Socially, he is a very loved teenager.

Ariel is devoted to Holly and has become sensitive and attentive to her needs. She is Ariel’s responsibility. He cares for her daily needs – feeding Holly, taking her on walks three times a day, playing, grooming, and loving her. This feeling of being in control is something that has grounded Ariel. During this pandemic with the lockdowns, and closure of the schools, Ariel must make sure that Holly is exercised and is able to release her energies. These daily routines have given him structure and outside activities which were not otherwise available to him during these times. The bond between them is resolute and unwavering.

The one characteristic Ariel most wanted in a dog was the ability to fetch. Before Holly came into his life, he dreamt of someday having a dog that fetches. And Holly loves to fetch. So much so that when she retrieves more than one ball, she will try to get them all into her mouth at the same time. If the ball is too big then she will carry it between her teeth, if necessary, will push the ball with her paws. He is also training Holly to do some tricks upon command.

Holly brings joy into Ariel’s life. In the past, she would rest her head on his lap to calm him after he acted out. Now she does that simply for attention. “It’s hard not to immediately become soft like a marshmallow near her. How can you not?”
The gratitude that the whole family feels for the Israel Guide Dog Center is deep. They are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to bring Holly into their lives. For Ariel, it was nothing less than life- changing. As Yael says, the “Center creates miracles and changes life. We will forever be in their debt.”