FALL RIVER: Lockview High student Alexander Bures has a new loyal companion in his senior year. He comes in the form of a four-legged friend, who helps the Windsor Junction teen remain calm and stress-free, especially in school.

Alex, in Grade 12, has Tourette’s and Autism so with the service dog at his feet it helps him in anxious and other situations that he would possibly have behavioural outbursts.

“Fellow peers at the school have told me it’s tempting to pet the dog, but they know they can’t,” said Alex, pointing to the vest that says “Do Not Pet. Working dog” which was created by Colette Lambert, a teacher at Lockview High for him. “My peers in the school are very supportive. They think it’s cool.”

Alex and the dog at the Fall River Tim Hortons parking lot in this video:

Like any other student, the day begins with Alex and his trusty sidekick catching the bus to Lockview. The dog–whose name remains only known to the family so its focus can remain on Alex–is treated just like it’s another student.

Alex also suits up for the Lockview High Dragons football team with his buddy on the sidelines waiting patiently for his friend. As soon as the practice or game is over, the dog knows and goes running out to meet Alex, who he recognizes despite the players wearing the same gear.

“Knowing my little buddy is there watching helps me stay calm and want to do the best I can to help us win the game,” said Alex. “That way I can come to him smiling and not stressed out.”

Alexander Bures and his four legged companion Dog in class at the Learning Centre at Lockview High School in Fall River. (Healey photo)

Michelle Bures—Alex’s mom—said they initially got Alex a service dog about 10 years ago, however due to the circumstances the dog was sent back. Four or five years ago the search was on for services in Nova Scotia. The nearest one was in Quebec.

“We applied and were told it was a three year waiting list,” said Michelle. “We just got to the top of the wait list in September.”

What was Alex’s reaction to the news of their approval?

“I was excited and a bit nervous,” he said.

Michelle said the dog is vital to Alex because with being autistic that makes being socially interactive difficult and emotionally. He doesn’t always understand appropriate social cues, empathy and has no inflection, or filter. Alex is very blunt when speaking, and can sound harsh/rude.

“The dog assists him in that way,” she said. “Socially the dog bridges the gap between him and his peers, having them come to Alex rather than him to the peers. It also acts as an awareness for when Alexander is getting stressed and anxious.

“He’s trained to do that. Now, instead of Alexander not knowing he’s getting stressed he has a prompt which will then help to deescalate, destress and calm himself down.”

She said the staff at Lockview have been amazing. Besides the vest, Lambert has made beds for everyone classroom that Alex has classes in. Michelle wanted to thank Learning Centre teacher Bev Holland for all her work with Alex.

“Yes it’s been an adjustment, but they’ve all been on board,” said Bures. “We’re very appreciative of that.”

Alex explains what the dog means to him in this video:

As the dog lays next to Alex watching him for any sign of stress or anxiety, what does the dog mean to Alex?

“It means that I can help myself,” said Alex, adding it gives him a sense of independence. “He’s made a major difference in my life. He’s helped me through a lot things in his short time with me.”