Old Navy Surprises 5-Year-Old Boy with Autism with His Own Mannequin Store Dog: 'Very Grateful'
The mom of a 5-year-old boy with autism is praising Old Navy for going above and beyond after her son was surprised with his own mannequin store dog.
Rebecca Harlow addressed the sweet gesture in a July 10 post on Facebook and noted that it occurred while she was visiting the Clovis, California store with her son, Heath, and her daughter.
During their shopping trip, Harlow said her son became distraught after noticing that the Old Navy mannequin dog, whom he lovingly dubbed "Magic," wasn't positioned at the front of the store like usual.
"You know the one. The happy, smiling figure that greets you at the door. Today the dog was not there among his mannequin friends," Harlow explained. "Heath was immediately upset and proceeded to hurry through the store, anxiety mounting, crying out 'Dog!? Where did you go?! Where are you?! He's gone!!'"
Harlow explained that the switch was especially distressing for Heath because his autism causes him to process "the world around him very differently than you and I."
"The smallest thing can bring him great joy or catapult him into a devastating meltdown," she wrote. "Predictability and routine are so important to help him through his day."
In an attempt to mend the situation, Harlow said she found an employee and quietly asked where the dog was but was told he was currently not on display.
"I thanked her and explained that Heath has autism and becomes distressed when there is a change in the expected and we went on our way," the mom wrote.
But what Harlow didn't expect was for that same employee to later approach her with good news: the dog was back on display and Heath could see him on their way out.
"My eyes filled with tears at this kind gesture and I couldn't wait to tell Heath," Harlow wrote in her post. "I walked him and his little sister up to the front for a 'surprise'. I tell you the joy on this little boy's face… there's nothing like it."
"On days of sadness or rigidity or feelings that are just too big for his little body and mind, it's moments like these that my heart explodes to see his happiness," she continued. "He ran to the dog shouting 'There he is!!!!!' and hugged him and grinned with such pure relief and excitement."
Finishing up her post, Harlow praised the employee "for bringing happiness to a little boy who has a hard time in this world."
"You made him smile and for that, I am so very grateful," she wrote. "Her gesture... meant far more than she knows."
Following Harlow's heartfelt post, Old Navy's corporate team caught wind of the story — and wanted to do more for Heath. The team invited Heath and his family back to the store on Friday. This time, Heath not only got to see Magic, but he also got to bring home his own mannequin dog.
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"Heath's Magic Moment!! Thank you to Old Navy and your kind-hearted employees!" Harlow wrote on Facebook Friday evening, besides several photos of the exciting day.
Harlow added in a separate post, "I hope they inspire us to open our hearts to anyone needing some extra love and acceptance."
In a statement to PEOPLE, Old Navy says of their sweet gesture: "We believe in doing more than selling clothes, and were touched by Heath's sweet story. We couldn't think of a better forever home for our buddy Magic the Dog and hope he continues to bring magic into this special little boy's life."