Meet gorgeous ‘Hound Dog’ Elvis, who saved the life of autistic seven-year-old from York

Just like the Presley hit, to Eli Wilson, support dog Elvis is a good luck charm.

Up until recently, the seven-year-old boy, who is autistic, had been non-verbal and struggled with violent ‘meltdowns’.

But the bond between Eli and the Black Labrador, provided by the Sheffield-based Support Dogs charity, is so strong, that Elvis has worked wonders in encouraging Eli to talk and in reducing and calming his ‘meltdowns’.

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Not only has the pooch brought comfort, three-year-old Elvis has also saved Eli’s life. The dog came to the rescue when Eli ran into the path of an oncoming car, having been spooked by something on the way home from school.

Black Labrador Elvis with Eli Wilson. Photo: Support DogsBlack Labrador Elvis with Eli Wilson. Photo: Support Dogs
Black Labrador Elvis with Eli Wilson. Photo: Support Dogs

Elvis stopped the unthinkable from happening, by preventing Eli from stepping into the road, while the driver slammed on the brakes just inches away. Eli was attached to Elvis via a strap connected to the dog’s jacket.

Mum Rebecca Wilson, 32, had been with Eli and her two other children, Reuben, 10, and five-year-old Arlen, at the time.

She said: “Had we not had Elvis, it would have been a very different outcome. There were certainly a few tears.”

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“That’s the thing with Eli,” added the full-time carer, who lives in Osbaldwick, York, with her children and their father, Karl Dawson. “He can be okay one minute and then he’s not. There was something he didn’t like on the way home from school and his instinct was to run away.”

Elvis supports the Wilson family. Mum Rebecca is pictured here with Eli, seven. Photo: Support DogsElvis supports the Wilson family. Mum Rebecca is pictured here with Eli, seven. Photo: Support Dogs
Elvis supports the Wilson family. Mum Rebecca is pictured here with Eli, seven. Photo: Support Dogs

Last year, Eli was able to go to the dentist for the first time without having a meltdown – thanks to Elvis’ presence.

He used to struggle going in and out of school, with the amount of people and noise, but now he looks for Elvis – who was named by Global Radio listeners - and runs for a cuddle.

Eli was diagnosed with autism when he was three. Rebecca said she spotted signs when he was a baby. “He didn’t look or smile at me and didn’t look interested in anything,” she said. “He never slept either, and as he got older he never spoke. He made screeching noises and everything used to upset him.”

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Rebecca took Eli to a GP when he was two, and he was put on a waiting list to see various clinicians, including speech and language therapists, and later received his diagnosis.

Just before the pandemic, in early 2020, when Eli was non-verbal and not wanting to interact with anyone, Rebecca became aware of Support Dogs – which trains and provides assistance dogs to help autistic children or adults with epilepsy or disability to live more independently.

She had been searching online for support involving animals. “Whenever we took him to a farm with animals, he was a different kid – he wanted to be around them and was calmer,” she explained.

In July 2021, Rebecca went to the charity’s headquarters in Sheffield for dog handler training. The following March, Eli was matched to Elvis and two months later, Rebecca went to meet him.

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“I loved him straight away and thought he would fit in perfectly,” she said. The following day Elvis went to Rebecca’s home to meet the rest of the family.

He has spent a year in training and has just graduated from the Support Dogs course.

Rebecca said: “Elvis is totally in tune with Eli, he can sense if he needs comforting. I can’t imagine him not being here now – he’s very much part of the family. Eli is more likely to speak to other people now, because he is really proud of Elvis.

“He has started to become more aware that he is slightly different to other people, but Elvis isn’t a negative reminder...It has honestly changed our lives so much – I’m so grateful.”

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Elvis, Eli and Rebecca are set to appear on CBeebies show, Dog Squad. The programme follows the adventures of superhero working dogs and how they help their owners in their everyday lives. The episode is set to air before Christmas.