“Who saved who” is a common theme found among stories chronicling the human-animal connection — but we have never been so moved as when we discovered the inspiring bond between Xena, a puppy rescued from the brink of death, and Jonny, a painfully shy little boy living with autism.
The story begins just months before the two met and forged an amazing friendship that would impact the lives of thousands worldwide.
A Warrior is Made
Shockingly neglected and malnourished, Xena, a Staffordshire Terrier mix, weighed just four pounds when she was found collapsed in a yard on September 15, 2012. After being brought to the Delkalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia, staff members weren’t sure she would make it — giving her just a one percent chance of survival.
“I’ve been doing rescue probably for about 12 years, and I had never seen a dog that young in that sort of condition,” said Chrissy Kaczynski, who works for Animal Services and is a founding member of the rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals. “I brought her home with me and I didn’t think she’d make it through the night.”
However, after an emergency vet visit, fluids, and nutritional supplements, the fragile puppy started to regain her strength. Soon she was able to sit up and lift her own weight.
Veterinary and shelter staff workers assume from her desperate condition that Xena had been confined to a cage and starved. Deep scratches on her nose suggested that she had been frantically trying to escape.
Xena, the Warrior Puppy, as she is affectionately called, surpassed everyone’s expectations with her rapid recovery and was soon up for adoption.
A Friendship is Born
Linda Hickey from Johns Creek, GA, discovered Xena’s story on Facebook, and felt an instant connection with the survivor pup. When Linda brought her autistic eight-year-old son, Jonny, to meet Xena at a local fundraising event, the two bonded immediately.
Sure enough, the family adopted Xena soon after.
Now, thanks to Xena, Jonny has “come out of his shell,” mom Linda explains. Not only does Jonny wear a lot more smiles, but his communication and tactile skills have improved tremendously since Xena joined the family.
Linda says, “He is the happiest child that I’ve seen him be in eight years.”
Seeing such amazing progress in her son prompted Linda to share their story over social media. Ever since, the inspiring duo has touched the lives of thousands of people across the world with their message of compassion for animals and those living with autism.
Xena Named a Hero
On November 21,2013, Xena was recognized by the ASPCA as Dog of the Year for the lasting impact she has made, not only in Jonny’s life, but the lives of those who have been inspired by their miraculous recoveries and heartwarming bond.
For more information on Jonny and Xena, follow them on Facebook!
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