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While eight-year-old Owen Howkins knew he was a little different from other kids, the disparity became more apparent when he entered school at the age of seven. Born with an extremely rare genetic condition called Schwartz Jampel Syndrome, his muscles are in a constant state of tension. This causes the young boy to suffer from issues ranging from growth delays to impaired eye vision and even, lack of balance.
This means that Owen needs a walking frame to get around the house and a wheelchair, if he wants to go longer distances. He is also constantly in pain. In fact, the brave boy is so accustomed to it, that even his parents are sometime not aware that he is hurting. Not surprisingly, all these issues and the fact that he felt people were constantly staring at him, made the young boy extremely self-conscious. So much so, that he became withdrawn and even stopped venturing outside his house in Basingstoke,Hampshire, in south central England. That however, was all before Haatchi came into his life!
The Antolian Shepherd dog had a rather rough start to life too. Tied to a railway track when he was just five months old, the pooch was hit by an incoming train. The impact mangled his tail and a leg so badly, that both had to be amputated.
Taken to a rescue shelter, the dog would have probably been put down had a Facebook post talking about his plight not been seen by Owen's dad Will and his fiance Collin. They fell in love with Haatchi and decided to adopt him, thinking that they were helping him.
Turns out that it was Haatchi who helped them, by getting himself attached to young Owen and becoming the best possible friend, a young boy could have. Slowly but surely, Owen regained his confidence and now proudly walks around the neighborhood, showing off his pooch and telling anyone willing to listen, Haatchi's story. Even Owen's constant hospital visits caused by his condition, have become a lot more palatable with his best friend always at his side.
Haatchi's positive influence on the young boy has not gone unnoticed. In October 2012, the International Fund of Animal Welfare presented him with a special award. The amazing bond between the two has also been captured in a touching short film called 'A Boy and his Dog' by students from the documentary filmmaking class at the University of Hertfordshire. Created to raise awareness of the extremely rare Schwartz Jampel Syndrome and to showcase how incredible rescue dogs are, it has won several awards and garnered almost 2 million views on YouTube.
British best-selling author Wendy Holden has also captured this touching friendship in a heartwarming children's book. Entitled 'Haatchi and little B,' it was released on February 13th and has transformed Owen and Haatchi into the mini-celebrities they deserve to be!