Dogs are pretty awesome at keeping people company, but for one Indigenous Australian boy with dwarfism his dog means even more than that — it's helped with self-acceptance.
Quaden Bayles, 5, from Brisbane in Australia, has a common form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, which has resulted in him feeling uncomfortable in his first year of school.
"He's only half the size of everyone [at the school]... so many questions have been coming to him since the start," Yarraka, Quaden's mother, told Mashable Australia. "It made him feel a lot more inferior to others. He was really uncomfortable, and struggling to come to terms with the fact that he's not going to grow big and strong, just like daddy."
Those negative feelings have been fading away for Quaden, thanks to the introduction of Buddy, a 9-year-old shih tzu who also has dwarfism.
It was a friendship meant to be, even if mum Yarraka was initially resistant when introduced to the dog by a friend, who is a vet, over dinner around a week ago.
"She said: 'I'd like you to meet someone', and Buddy came running towards us and took straight to us," Yarraka said. "I thought, no, my god, we're not ready for a dog yet. My dad died five weeks ago of cancer and I didn't think I'd be able to handle the responsibility at the moment."
That all changed when she watched Quaden fall in love with Buddy. "I just saw them bond straight away, and she said [Buddy] has achondroplasia as well, and she it'd be so good for Quaden," Yarraka explained.
After being asked a few times by her vet friend, Yarraka finally gave in to keeping Buddy. The introduction of the dog has helped with grief following the death of Quaden's grandfather, but has also helped him come to terms with his own dwarfism.
"It was divine intervention, because it's been the best thing for Quaden," she said. "Before Buddy, we could not mention the word dwarfism or achondroplasia [around Quaden]."
Now Buddy is in their life, Quaden can't help but show off his new dog buddy to everyone and has a new level of acceptance of his uniqueness.
"He said he wants people to meet Buddy because 'he has dwarfism like me.' That's like music to my ears, I prayed for the day he would accept it. I honestly didn't think it would be anytime soon, I thought it would be years," Yarraka said.
Ultimately, Buddy and Quaden's friendship has helped more people become aware about the condition, with the aid of some cuteness.
"It's really been a blessing in disguise, because it's teaching people more about dwarfism. And animals do have dwarfism, not just humans either. It's been really good for dwarfism awareness," Yarraka said.
It's certainly an attest to how dogs can improve our lives.
You can follow Quaden, Buddy and Yarraka's journey on their Facebook page.