Crufts nod for disabled boy's dog 'hero'
A three-legged dog which helped a disabled seven-year-old Hampshire boy become more confident has been nominated for an award at Crufts 2013.
Haatchi, an Anatolian 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 adopted by the family of seven-year-old Owen Howkins, of Basingstoke, who has a rare genetic condition.
Owen said: "Haatchi has changed my life."
The seven-year-old has Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, which causes his muscles to be permanently tense, and uses a wheelchair.
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."
Haatchi had been due to be put down, but was saved by a charity.
Owen's father, Will Howkins, 34, said the pair were best friends from the moment they met a year ago.
"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."
Mr Howkins said Haatchi's story "brings a few tears to a few people" when his son tells it to strangers while out dog-walking.
"But I think it's a nice story, that something so horrific and terrible can actually work out good in the long run."
Haatchi is one of five dog "heroes" competing in the public vote for the Friends for Life award at next month's Crufts 2013.