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Canine Named ‘Dog Of The Year’ For Helping Boy With Autism


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A puppy that was once abandoned and left for dead has now been named “Dog of the Year” for changing the life of a boy with autism.

The pit bull who came to be known as Xena, the Warrior Puppy, was discovered in Georgia last year severely malnourished. A rescue group brought the pooch back to health before she was adopted by Jonny Hickey, 8, and his family.

Xena had an instant connection with Hickey, who has autism. Once closed-off, the dog helped the boy come out of his shell.

“We have laughter in our home where it used to be silent before,” Hickey’s mother Linda Hickey told NBC News.

The story of Hickey and Xena — which they chronicle on Facebook — has been shared in 95 countries as the duo work to raise awareness of autism and encourage kindness to animals.

Now, Xena has been named “Dog of the Year” by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Hickey and his family traveled to New York last week with Xena in tow to accept the award.

“I just knew that out of all of the money that I spent on therapy, that (Xena) standing right there in my family room was the best therapy money could buy,” Linda Hickey said.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. Betty Ed Young says:

    Xena and Jonny, you rock!! Congratulations!!

  2. jackie says:

    now if only THIS story would get more coverage ! i am a nurse in the developmental disability field, but even more so, an advocate for homeless animals, & spay/neuter programs. pits get bad press, but as anyone who has fallen under the spell of a pit knows, they are the most misunderstood / persucuted breed of dogs. if only more people heard about stories like these, or watched Pitbulls & Parolees on Animal Planet ( which i suggest Jonny watch for more uplifting life lessons ). what a concept- to bring together animals & people in need, to the benefit of all. animals have the ability to unlock human feelings, resulting in relaxation & bonding with another beating heart. after all, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make ! may Jonny & Xena share a long, positive relationship, taking care of each others needs.

  3. Ryan Kempf says:

    this story was a tear jerker

  4. Ryan Kempf says:


  5. Jessica says:

    What a great story of friendship. I am a pit bull mom and a special education teacher of students with moderate to severe disabilities and/or autism. I have seen how animals have had a great impact on my students and their communicative intents. It is an amazing blessing to see also that the pit bull name is placed in a positive light with this story. I believe it 100% because my beautiful pitties are the kindest and gentlest dogs there are. I hope one day to have my dogs trained to be companions and to introduce them to the students I impact in the classroom.

  6. Penelope Herbert says:

    Companion animals for people with disabilities is something I’m passionate about. This is such a beautiful story, and even more so because Xena was abandoned AND is a ‘dangerous’ breed. There is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad owners. I love this story, and have posted it on our own site in Australia, Many Open Doors. Made my day! :-)

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