An English boy with limited mobility formed a special bond with a three-legged dog nobody else wanted, and now their story is becoming a book.
Owen Howkins, 7, suffers from Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, a rare genetic condition that leaves his muscles in a permanent state of tension. It makes moving difficult — and also caused Owen to become fearful of meeting new people.
Until he met Haatchi the dog, Buzz60 reports. Owen's mother learned about Haatchi online. The Italian shepherd had been tied to a railroad track where he was hit, and his tail and one leg had to be amputated. Owen's family adopted the dog, and Haatchi and Owen formed a bond straight away.
In a video about the pair created by students from the University of Hertfordshire, Owen speaks about meeting Haatchi for the first time.
"The first day I met him," Owen said, "he just laid up to me and put his head on my lap. And that's what happened."
Owen continued, "He changed my life. I'm not scared of strangers now."
In an interview with TheBreeze.com, Owen's father, Will Howkins, said that within two or three weeks of Owen getting Haatchi, his son was eager to go for walks with the dog "because it was something different for other people to look at as opposed to Owen. He was gaining confidence and talking to people about Haatchi as opposed to people staring at him, and he loved it."
In 2013, the pair took first place in the Friends for Life category at the Crufts dog show in the U.K. Upon winning, Owen remarked, “I am so happy. Thank you to everybody who has voted for me. I am glad that Haatchi is in my life, because he makes me smile all the time and is my best friend.”
Me and my dog: Owen with his friend Haatchi, who has helped him overcome his anxiety of the outside world
Winners! Owen now loves taking Haatchi to dog shows, where he has proved to be quite a hit
Lean on me: Owen's father said the pair didn't like to be apart
Family favourite: Owen's father Will and fiancee Colleen (left) decided to adopt gentle giant Haatchi after reading about his difficult start to life on Facebook. The Anatolian Shepherd quickly bonded with Owen
Best buds: Haatchi, who quickly bonded with Owen, accompanies the youngster to therapy sessions
What to pick? Haatchi and Owen peruse a sweet stall
Kisses: Haatchi accomapnies Owen even when he goes to have a bath