A three-legged dog is helping a young boy overcome his fear of open spaces and new people.
Owen Howkins, 7, was born with Schwartz-Jampel, a rare genetic disorder that causes his muscles to be permanently tense and requires ongoing hospital treatment.
The condition made him uncomfortable and self-conscious around strangers. Because he knew he was different than other children, Owen grew anxious and withdrawn, rarely wanting to venture outside his family's home in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England, the Sun reported.
When his family adopted Haatchi, a three-legged Anatolian Shepherd, Owen started to gain the confidence to finally enjoy the outdoors and meet new people.
Owen now regularly walks his dog and chats with strangers about his pet. He's also more eager to take his "medicine" of honey, salmon oil and supplements.
"As soon as they met, the effect Haatchi had on Owen was incredible," Colleen Drummond, Owen's father's girlfriend told the Sun. "Before his arrival, Owen didn't like going out — he was practically agoraphobic. When he first started school, he became more aware of being different, and he became even more withdrawn."
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Everything changed, however, when Owen and Haatchi became inseparable.
Colleen added, "Owen used to be scared of strangers but he now wants to talk to everyone about Haatchi and wants to go out all the time to dog shows. The difference we see in him can't be put into words."
Haatchi, 15 months old, survived horrific abuse 10 months ago — he lost his leg after being tied to train tracks — recently completed his training as a Pets as Therapy dog. The pup also won an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare for the positive impact he's had on Owen's life.
"We feel completely privileged and honoured that Haatchi is to receive this IFAW award," Colleen said.