Owen Howkins is one of only 25 people in the world to suffer from Schwartz-Jampel Syndrome, which makes his muscles permanently tense and prevents his bones from growing. He struggles to breathe, and after starting school became increasingly withdrawn and was unable to play with other children in the playground.
His dad and stepmum decided a dog may help, and adopted Haatchi, an Anatolian shepherd who had been rescued after being beaten and left for dead on a railway track in Leyton, East London. He was hit by a train, and had to have his rear left leg and tail amputated.
When Owen met Haatchi, the effect was immediate. Stepmum Colleen said: “The atmosphere in the room changed in an instant. It was as if they were old friends meeting each other again, rather than for the first time.”
Owen says: “Everything changed in my life that day.”
Owen had been difficult about taking his medication but when he saw Haatchi eating pills he had to take after the amputation, he took his own without complaint. Haatchi was always at his side during painful physiotherapy sessions
As time passed, Owen came out of his shell and started engaging with outsiders. His schoolwork improved dramatically and he even stood up in class and announced it was his ambition to walk again “with the help of his special dog”.