"Dog of the Year," After Massive Recovery and Adoption, Helped Autistic Boy Overcome Fears

Henry Baker

Xena, the "Warrior Dog," is a Staffordshire terrier mix who was rescued from the brink of death by veterinarians and a loving family. Jonny Hickey, part of that family, is an autistic 8-year-old boy who had problems coming out of his shell. The way the two have helped each other is nothing short of remarkable. Xena was taken to the Dekalb Animal Services Shelter in March of this year at just four pounds, deeply malnourished. Veterinarians were able to bring her slowly back to health, and she was shortly thereafter adopted by the Hickey family.

Jonny's mother, Linda Hickey, says that immediately, Jonny and Xena were pals. She says that Jonny went from being "painfully shy" to being an "outgoing chatterbox." She added, "These two were destined to be together, to save each other at a level that humans just can't understand."

The pair's relationship got some attention from the ASPCA, which at its annual awards show on Thursday crowned (literally, with a tiara) Xena "Dog of the Year." Of course, Jonny was in tow to help accept the award. Linda Hickey said that he would never have been able to attend something as nerve-racking as an awards show before Xena came into his life. In a photo, Xena wears a sign reading, "Who Rescued Who." In this case, it looks like the answer is: both.

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