Zachary Tucker just started school when he was hit with a diagnosis that explains much of his confusing behavior. The little boy is suffering from Asperger's, a form of autism. His condition is worsening visibly.
Zack's autism doesn't just stunt his social development, but it also triggers terrible panic attacks. He cannot sleep and often breaks down crying. Calming the little student is difficult because he won't allow others to touch him while having a panic attack.
His parents Arthur and Susy Tucker are so desperate that they are ready to try just about anything. Susy stumbles across the name Chris Vogt on the internet. The dog trainer specializes in training dogs to be companions for children with autism. He is supposed to be the best in the business. But there's one problem.
Chris Vogt is is a convicted murderer and has been locked away since 1998. Sentenced to 48 years in prison for accessory to murder; the man is participating in a program to rehabilitate dogs in animal shelters.
Yet Chris finds his passion in the program. He upskills himself on the topic of early autism and reads everything that he can get on the them. Chris teaches himself to train the perfect companions for these children.
Up to this point, demand did not exist for companion dogs for children with autism. In prison, the dogs are trained to help blind and deaf people - yet Chris manages to develop a special training regiment for the dogs to help people with autism.
For the 9-year-old the idea is a nightmare. The tortured child cannot imagine meeting a murderer in prison. But after just the first meeting, the child feels how good the critter with the sparkling brown fur and loyal eyes is for him.
Chris has trained the four-legged Clyde to react immediately when he senses a coming panic attack from the little boy. If Zack's heart begins to beat faster, signaling a coming panic attack, Clyde bumps him and distracts him before it gets worse. Zack visits Chris several times in prison to practice dealing with Clyde.
"My panic attacks went down at least 70% and now I'm relaxed enough to make friends at school, which I couldn't do for the longest time," tells Zack. To thank the convict, Zack's family drives to the prison and visits him. Zack does something at the meeting that his parents haven't seen in years: he hugs his savior dog trainer.
Chris is moved to tears as he learns about the unbelievable progress that Zack has made thanks to Clyde. Even 21 years after his crime, it is difficult for Chris to speak about it. He got into a violent argument with another man together with a friend. The situation escalated out of control. "I was too much of a coward to do the right thing," says Chris tearfully. The program gives him the opportunity to atone for his crime.
And for Zack, the training program gave Zack his dog Clyde, gifting him a new life. If a panic attack is coming, the animal directs the child's attention onto him and Zack then knows that he has to take care of his friend, to pet him. That calms him quickly. Zack can finally sleep again and make friends. The student, who almost transferred schools, is now in advanced classes. All thanks to a convicted murderer.
This form of atonement and help from an unusual source is so touching. If Chris's engagement and Zack's progress also inspired you, then share the story of Clyde and his best buddy with everyone you know. Everyone deserves a second chance.