By Lisa Rozner

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey boy on the autism spectrum got a life-changing Christmas gift this year.

CBS2’s Lisa Rozner was there as a service dog came home for good.

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The 120-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback named Moose came wrapped with love Christmas morning at the England family’s home in Ridgewood.

Mason England, 9, is on the autism spectrum and has epilepsy. He is not verbal, but ever since he was introduced to Moose earlier this year, the family has had hope he will one day speak.

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“He started hugging her, kissing her. I have tears just thinking about it. Like, talking to her, babbling. Almost like they fell in love. Like, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Mason’s mother Jamie England.

Mason England, 9, is on the autism spectrum. He is not verbal, but since he was introduced to Moose earlier in 2020, his family has had hope that he will speak one day. (credit: CBS2)

Since the spring, the the nonprofit Merlin’s KIDS Service Dogs has been bringing Moose and Mason together once a week to build their bond.

“Just the fact that he notices something else in his world is crazy,” Jamie England said. “He’s just so aware that she’s there.”

Moose has gone through thousands of hours of service dog training, but she is expensive – around $30,000. Family, friends and even strangers donated money to make this possible.

Mason’s dad Rich England is a Hoboken firefighter, and to support the family he works a second job, which he was furloughed from at one point. He made sure to be home this Christmas to welcome his new “daughter.”

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“I wanted her to have some sense of normalcy,” Rich said.

“I feel like he has a friend, somebody to be with, to help bring stuff out in him, to help keep him safe,” Jamie said.

And Mason’s younger brother Richie, 8, promises to help.

“I’m going to take good care of you Moose,” he said.

LINK: Learn more about Merlin’s KIDS

It’s a gift that Santa and Merlin’s KIDS sent to live with the family permanently. It will keep on giving for years to come.

Jamie had to take a course about service dogs for this to happen and she’ll continue to train with Merlin’s KIDS weekly.

Moose is part of a litter of a dozen dogs that were donated to Merlin’s KIDS. They were trained to serve children with special needs from a young age.

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