Kai Niehaus is a young boy with autism who has been trying for a few years to forge attachments with people outside of his family.

Sadly, Kai has been mostly unsuccessful, and not because of a lack of trying. The little boy exerted a good deal of effort into making friends at the playground, using the techniques his therapist teaches him.

However, the lessons did not translate well in the real world. Kai’s mom Shanna witnessed her little boy have one failed social interaction after another—and face the scorn of both kids and adults who ridiculed Kai for being different.


She would comfort her son when he cried at night because he had no friends from the outside world.

Image credit: 4 Paws for Ability on Facebook

There’s a silver lining, though; Kai may have found it challenging to sustain connections with people, but he’s always found it easy to be friends with dogs.

Shanna noticed that when she and her son went to the playground, the young boy preferred playing with dogs, seeking them out instead of people.

Hence, when Kai said he was interested in having a service dog, the Tokyo-based Niehaus family decided to fly all the way to Xenia, Ohio. They were to meet Tornado, the service dog assigned to Kai.


4 Paws for Ability, the organization that partnered Tornado with the boy, has trained the service dog since birth specifically to help children with autism.

As soon as Kai saw Tornado, he happily squealed the dog’s name and eagerly ran toward him. Tornado also seemed happy to see his new buddy, wagging his tail and allowing the whole family to pet him.

Image credit: 4 Paws for Ability on Facebook

The excitement of meeting Tornado for the first time was overwhelming for Kai, so he had to take a break. A couple of hours later, the child returned and laid his head against Tornado’s belly.

It was this unguarded moment showing the natural and instant connection formed between boy and dog that drove Shanna to tears.

Sharing her thoughts online, Shanna said this magical moment made every difficulty they had faced before all worth it.

Watch Kai meet Tornado here:

Source: ABC News on YouTube



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