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Meet Boba the service dog, who is more than 'just fluff'

As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, Local 5 has the story of one family's journey with 10-year-old Boba.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Larger than life and equal parts hair and slobber. More than just, fluff 10-year-old Boba has been a therapy dog to Patty Graziano's daughter Rio.

"We had heard that dogs were great with kids with autism," Patty said.

But there was a catch: Patty had an extreme phobia of dogs. But a family trip that included a chance encounter with a Newfoundland quickly changed her mind.

"My daughter started talking more and interacting with people more that she had never done," Patty said.

Enter service dog Boba, who is a rescue and quickly became Rio's best friend and went with her everywhere.

Credit: Patty Graziano
Service dog Boba and Rio

"We went from daily panic attacks at school to maybe once or twice a month. People ask her about her dogs and that's hard for people with autism to talk to people," Patty added. "And she is so passionate about her dog that she wants to talk to people about it."

As Rio got older, Boba was retired as a service dog. Patty's family didn't want him to be lonely so they then added another Newfoundland, Gimley, to the family.

"As humans we don't want to be isolated so don't isolate them," Patty said of individuals with autism.

And as far as Boba and Gimley are concerned, they will always make sure that you feel loved.

To learn more about what it means to live in the autism spectrum and how you can help, click here.