Boy's 'magical connection' with dog
A three-legged dog who helped turn the life of a disabled seven-year-old boy around after forming a "magical connection" with him has been nominated for a Crufts award for heroic dogs.
Haatchi, an Anatolian German Shepherd, had to have his back left leg and tail amputated after someone tied him to a railway line and he was hit by a train.
He was saved by the RSPCA but was due to be put down after his first foster family's dog attacked him.
But a charity for German Shepherds stepped in and shortly afterwards he was found on Facebook by the family of seven-year-old Owen Hoskins, who has the rare genetic condition Schwartz Jampel Syndrome, which causes his muscles to be permanently tense.
And the young boy, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, is full of praise for Haatchi, who he says is his best friend.
"Haatchi has changed my life," he said. "I used to be scared of strangers, then Haatchi came along and now I'm not and that's how he changed my life. I didn't really meet many others with disabilities and felt like the odd one out, which made me really sad.
"But when I saw Haatchi and saw how strong he was, even though he only had three legs, I became stronger myself. I love him so much."
Owen's dad, Will Howkins, said the pair have been joined at the hip since they met around a year ago.
"From the moment we brought Haatchi home he came into Owen's room in the morning and just very gently nuzzled up to Owen, not knowing anything about him. It seemed like there was a magical connection between the two of them where they knew something was different between each other - Owen didn't know what was wrong with Haatchi and vice versa."
Owen, who was withdrawn and scared to leave the house before he had Haatchi, has seen his life turn around. Haatchi is among the final five dog heroes who will compete in the public vote for the Friends for Life award at Crufts 2013.