When Junie and Merlot first met, it was love at first sight. Junie is a boy who cannot see with numerous conditions including autism, while Merlot is his guide dog. Thanks to her, the boy has come out of his shell and overcome the developmental delays that marked his early childhood.

Source: Southeastern Guide Dogs

Destiny Fiaschetti is proud of the progress her foster son, Junie, has made. The Army veteran, who lives in Seffner, Florida, has done a tremendous amount of work to help him, as has Merlot, the boy's guide dog.

Destiny Fiaschetti adopted Junie when he was 2 years old. Autistic, blind, with septo-optic dysplasia and panhypopituitarism, he had significant developmental delays. "He couldn't crawl, he couldn't walk, and he really couldn't talk," Fiaschetti recalls.

Everything frightened this little boy, who would even bite in certain situations. Despite the challenge ahead, Destiny Fiaschetti knew she and Junie could handle it. "Don't underestimate our children and the power of love," she said.

By age 5, he had completely changed: he had become a social, outgoing, talkative child. Merlot was a big part of that. The Labrador Retriever was trained by Southeastern Guide Dogs, which assigned her to Junie via the Kids Companion program.

Source: Southeastern Guide Dogs

"Kids Companion helps bridge that gap between today's child and tomorrow's independent guide dog handler," says Katie Perez, program manager.

Inseparable friends

"Children of Junie's age are taught how to feed the dogs, how to groom them," Perez explains. "We teach them basic obedience skills so that they can work with their dog and keep that bond going so that later on, they'll already have a leg ahead when matched with a guide dog. They'll be better prepared for it. The kids gain tremendous confidence from it."

Source: Southeastern Guide Dogs

Junie and Merlot have quickly become inseparable friends. The dog not only guides him and helps him find his way around; she is also his friend.

Source: Southeastern Guide Dogs

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Destiny Fiaschetti hopes that when people hear this story, they will see how far children can go when they are given love and support.

Source: people.com

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