A Florida teenager with Tourette’s syndrome and his dog are taking over TikTok with positive messages intended to raise awareness about his condition.
Over the past year, 16-year-old Shane Koch, of Delray Beach, has posted clips of himself playing with his dog Callum — all with the purposes of highlighting their close relationship and, more importantly, destigmatizing people with Tourette’s syndrome. Those living with the condition frequently experience repetitive tics or sudden twitches and movements.
Through an account called “Callum the Ridgy,” Koch has been giving viewers a peek into his life with Callum, whom he credits for helping him with his condition. In one lighthearted clip, for example, the 16-year-old tells viewers that Callum might not have many skills but, at least, the dog is “a 45lb floof noodle.”
In another video, Koch pretends to faint in front of Callum. Without hesitation, the dog checks on the teenager, who later gets up and shows his appreciation.
But, perhaps the most touching video is one Koch shared in October. In it, the teenager reveals that he adopted Callum in December 2019.
“He’s helped me out so much with my Tourette’s,” a text overlay reads. “I love you and glad you’re part of my life.”
I love you Callum! ❤️♬ follow me lol – kaydin🧟♀️
Since Koch created the “Callum the Ridgy” page, he and his dog have amassed 1.4 million followers on TikTok. In an interview with WPEC, the teenager explained his reasoning for starting the account.
“I created the page to show awareness, to show that you are not different nor normal and it’s better to be weird than normal,” he said.
The 16-year-old, who learned he had Tourette’s syndrome at the age of 8 and was bullied because of it, also said that Callum has helped him in many ways that doctors couldn’t.
“He notices when I do the ticks, he’ll nudge me,” Koch said of his dog. “He can literally sense when I do those ticks and as I feel it coming and a lot of that stress will go away.”
And, for that, the teenager is grateful for his companion.
“Having a dog, it doesn’t even need to be a therapy dog, it will just distract you and want to play, and he just helps so much,” he told WPEC.
If you liked this story, check out this article about Lele Pons’ experience with Tourette’s syndrome.
More from In The Know: