Service dog improves life for Birdsboro boy

Seven-year-old Talon Cleveland bonds with Jaxx.

Service dog changing local student's life

BIRDSBORO, Pa. - A one-year-old medical alert service dog in Birdsboro is changing the life of an elementary student, even inside the boy's classroom.

"He's my best friend," said seven-year-old Talon Cleveland, of Jaxx, his new German Shepherd.

Faced with severe asthma, Talon is vulnerable to respiratory problems that Jaxx is trained to sense.

"If Talon was to have an onset of his condition, the dog would approach him, make sure that he's okay, comfort him," said Erik Cleveland, Talon's grandfather.

Talon also faces mobility problems and is prone to falling.

"If it winds up being a bigger issue than just that little onset, [Jaxx] would start whining or barking or alert an adult who could come over and help him," said Erik Cleveland.

The grandfather said Jaxx spent months working with a trainer out-of-state before he was provided to the family just two weeks ago by the 1 Boy 4 Change program.

Ever since, Jaxx hasn't left Talon's side, including in his first grade classroom at the Birdsboro Elementary Center.

"Talon is coming out of his shell, so to speak… he was very shy and quiet but I think the dog has helped him to be more outgoing," said Cynthia Reed, Talon's teacher.

Reed said Jaxx has been very quiet and well-behaved during class time, adding the dog has provided a great learning experience for other students.

"We read books about guide dogs… they learned a lot… they were ready when he came," said Reed.

According to Erik Cleveland, Jaxx and Talon clicked straight from the start, and are forming a touching bond.

"It was an instant thing… it was stuff that tears are made of actually because it was just an awesome connection," he said.

Although Cleveland said Jaxx is always "working," there is time for play. He said Talon will play ball with Jaxx when the two are home.

"I don't think I've seen him happier. He's got this awesome dog who's going to get bigger and each day," said the boy's grandfather. "I've seen them get a tighter bond."

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