A SEVEN-year-old boy with a fear of open spaces has finally started venturing outside, thanks to a three-legged dog.
Shy Owen Howkins was too afraid to leave his house until his family adopted Haatchi, an Anatolian Shepherd, and the pair became inseparable.
Owen had become withdrawn from social situations when he realised a rare genetic disorder made him different to other boys and girls at school.
The condition, known as Schwartz-Jampel, causes his muscles to be permanently tense.
It left him scared to talk to people and worried about leaving his home in Basingstoke, Hants.
When his family adopted Haatchi from the RSPCA, they were thrilled with the positive effect he had on Owen's confidence.
As well as leaving the house to take his dog for walkies, Owen is now happy to talk to strangers — telling them all about his energetic pet.
And he now feels differently about his condition after seeing Haatchi take his "medicine" — a mix of manuka honey, salmon oil and supplements.
Like Owen, Haatchi had a difficult start in life, suffering horrific injuries when he was tied to a railway line and hit by a train around ten months ago.
He was found days later, cowering, with a mangled tail and back leg.
By the time he was taken to a vet’s surgery, his leg and tail had to be amputated.
But he was eventually adopted by dad Owen's Will and fiancée Colleen Drummond, 41, who read about the animal’s plight on Facebook.
Colleen said: "As soon as they met, the effect Haatchi had on Owen was incredible.
"Before his arrival, Owen didn’t like going out - he was practically agoraphobic.
"When he first started school, he became more aware of being different, and he became even more withdrawn.”
Owen’s condition requires regular hospital treatment but the simple joy of being around the energetic puppy makes it easier for him to cope.
Colleen said: "Owen used to be scared of strangers but he now wants to talk to everyone about Haatchi and wants to go out all the time to dog shows.
"The difference we see in him can’t be put into words.”
Will, 33, an engineer at RAF Odiham, said: "Owen is incredibly attached to Haatchi - in fact, they are very attached to each other.
"Haatchi will come and drink out of the bath when I’m bathing Owen, and they don’t like to be apart.”
15-month-old Haatchi has recently completed his training as a Pets as Therapy dog and will soon begin visiting soldier amputees injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sick and terminally-ill children.
Haatchi’s amazing survival and the positive impact he has had on Owen’s life has resulted in him winning an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The dog will be presented with the honour at the Animal Action Awards event at the House of Lords next week by Queen guitarist Brian May.
Colleen said: "We feel completely privileged and honoured that Haatchi is to receive this IFAW award.”