An autistic 8-year-old boy from Georgia has found companionship and therapeutic help in the form of Xena, a rescued dog who survived unspeakable abuse but survived to bring hope and healing to one family. More from Today.com:
It's not that Jonny can't talk. He knows how to speak, and he can read with proficiency. But autism left him closed off and isolated. Most of his social interactions result in painful awkwardness; unfamiliar situations can trigger terror, tantrums or both. Seeking comfort and predictability, he'd embrace solitary activities; on a typical day after school, he'd spend hours playing with marbles in silence.
Then, about two 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 connected with a dog.
"He is non-stop chatter now!" Jonny's mother, Linda Hickey, 44, told TODAY.com. "He has so much to say about his math, about what he did in P.E.
"He is the happiest child that I've ever seen him be in eight years."
Jonny's transformation begins with the miracle that the dog survived to meet Jonny at all.
Mere 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. When staff members saw her, they recoiled in shock.
"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 perk up.