Xena the Warrior Puppy & Johnny HickeyIt started out as a horrifying tale of animal cruelty, but the ending is nothing but happy. A puppy was found last year starved and abused, left for dead on the side of a street in Georgia. Her heartbreaking story went viral, and fans around the world cheered as the tough pup, dubbed "Xena the Warrior Puppy," made a miraculous recovery. Now there's reason to cheer even louder.

According to 11 Alive, since her story went viral, Xena has raised tens of thousands of dollars from around the world for other abused animals and brought much-needed attention to the horrors of animal cruelty. She also brought herself to the attention of one very special boy, Jonny Hickey.

Jonny has autism, and according to the station, it makes him withdrawn and not willing to speak to many people. However, when he met Xena at a fundraiser in November, he immediately lit up, and the two "fell in love."

Since then Jonny and his family have adopted Xena, and his family says she's changed Jonny's life. Studies have shown how much pets can help people with autism, and this is such a great example. Now Jonny is more talkative (described as a "chatterbox" even), more joyous, and he and Xena are inseparable.

Coincidentally April just happens to be Autism Awareness Month AND Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, which is why the following video of Jonny is such a perfect one this month. Their message is simple:

My name is Jonny, and this is my puppy, Xena. Well, my Xena was hurt really bad. By some not-so-nice people. And I have autism. So I think we make a pretty perfect team to spread the word to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me.

Perfect indeed.

Have you seen pets make a difference in children with autism?

 

Image via 11 Alive