A 7-year-old boy with a fear of open spaces has finally started venturing outside, thanks to a three-legged dog.
Shy Owen Howkins was too afraid to leave his house until his family adopted Haatchi, an Anatolian Shepherd, and the pair became inseparable.
Owen had become withdrawn from social situations when he realized a rare genetic disorder made him different to other boys and girls at school. The condition, known as Schwartz-Jampel, causes his muscles to be permanently tense.
It left him scared to talk to people and worried about leaving his home in Basingstoke, Hants in the U.K.
When his family adopted Haatchi, they were thrilled with the positive effect he had on Owen's confidence.
As well as leaving the house to take his dog for walks, Owen is now happy to talk to strangers — telling them all about his energetic pet.
And he now feels differently about his condition after seeing Haatchi take his "medicine" — a mix of manuka honey, salmon oil and supplements.
“Before his arrival, Owen didn’t like going out - he was practically agoraphobic," said Colleen Drummond, Owen's soon-to-be stepmother. “When he first started school, he became more aware of being different, and he became even more withdrawn.”
Owen’s condition requires regular hospital treatment but the simple joy of being around the energetic puppy makes it easier for him to cope.
Haatchi’s amazing survival and the positive impact he has had on Owen’s life has resulted in him winning an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The dog will be presented with the honor at the Animal Action Awards event at the House of Lords next week by Queen guitarist Brian May.