Dogalize Heroes: Xena, a rescued puppy, helps boy with autism | Dogalize
Jonny Hickey is a 8-year-old autistic boy from Johns Creek, Georgia. He has lived most of his life in solitude. He loves his mum, his dad, his older brother and gets on well with his teachers, but still, none of those people could get many words out of him.
It’s not that Jonny can’t talk. He knows how to speak, and he can read, but autism left him closed off and isolated. Most of his social interactions are awkward, he preferes solitary activities; on a typical day after school, he’d spend hours playing with marbles in silence.
Then, a few months ago, everything changed. Jonny forged a connection so unlikely that people familiar with it describe it as a miracle. His new confidante brings out the best in him — his playfulness, his cute singing voice, his verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences. Jonny’s miracle friend is a dog, Xena, a rescued puppy. “He is non-stop chatter now!” Jonny’s mother, Linda Hickey, “He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years.”
The greatness of this story began whit Xena’s survival to very bad mistreatment conditions. A few months before she bounded into Jonny’s world, the pup was brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia after she collapsed in someone’s yard. “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.” But with fluids, nutritional supplements and an urgent vet visit, the puppy began to recover.
Linda came across Xena on the Internet, and it was just lofe from the first sight. The family decided to adopt her. On their first trial day together — Feb. 11 — Linda decided to bring Xena along in the minivan when she picked Jonny up from school. Jonny smiled widely, then melted in the onslaught of unconditional affection. “From that very first day, that dog was sitting in his lap in the car seat, giving him all these kisses,” Linda said. “And that’s where she’s been ever since.”