Cody Neustupa is a 6-year-old boy from North Texas. He means everything to his parents and older brother.

“He’s my best friend,” said his brother, Cameron. Cody was diagnosed with autism when he was 22 months old. He is non-verbal and has mixed receptive expressive disorder. Cody has anxiety and sometimes has problems socializing with others because he can’t talk. But to his family, he’s happy and loving.

On Friday, Cody got a life-changing gift. The Neustupa family was handed a bright blue leash and a Labrador named Jude. This was at Canine Companions for Independence in Irving, where graduation ceremony was held for eight skilled companion dogs.

With a puppy trainer and more than a year, Jude learned over 50 commands. She will help Cody in his day to day life.

Over the last two weeks, Cody and Jude spent time together and had an immediate bond. “To watch his interaction with Jude has been absolutely amazing. Cody never really shows affection,” said Brad Neustupa, Cody’s dad. Cody opens his arms for Jude and gives her kisses.

“Literally, we did not expect this kind of connection and reaction this fast,” said Shelley Neustupa, his mom. The family is grateful for Canine Companions and for Jude.

Canine Companions has graduated 99 classes of dogs. The program in Texas is soon expanding to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Texas veterans can start applying in June.