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The Wonderful, Tear-Jerking Story Of Xena The Warrior Puppy

A puppy rescued from abuse helps her best friend Jonny, an 8-year-old boy with autism.

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Up until two months ago, Jonny Hickey was a solitary and quiet child. Diagnosed with autism, he had difficulty forming connections with other people and would isolate himself, rarely speaking, even to family members.

Then, in February, the Hickeys adopted a rescue dog who immediately became attached to the youngest member of the family. Jonny's friendship with Xena the Warrior Puppy brought him out of his shell — he began to talk, sing, and take a greater interest in the world around him. "He is the happiest child that I've ever seen him be in eight years," his mother Linda told the Today show.

"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, an animal rescue worker and founding member of the rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals told Today. "I brought her home with me and I didn't think she'd make it through the night."


Kaczynski rushed the dog to the veternarian, who guessed that the 4-month-old female Staffordshire terrier/pit bull mix had been confined in a cage and starved for most of her short life before being abandoned.

The puppy, who weighed just 5.6 pounds when she was brought into the shelter, began to recover under the care of the Friends of DeKalb Animals. Her remarkable return to health prompted Kaczynski to name her "Xena the Warrior Puppy."

The Friends of Dekalb Animals created a Facebook page to document Xena's miraculous recovery. Within weeks, the page had been shared by thousands of people. Donations to the group began to pour in from around the world.


Xena ran up to the Hickey family when they arrived at the fundraiser and began playing with Jonny. Observing her son, Linda Hickney, who had been following the puppy's story through Facebook, made up her mind to adopt the rescue pup.

"Jonny has a very limited vocabulary...but since Xena came into our home, Jonny has not stopped talking. He talks to her all the way home from school, during homework and afterwards he plays with her until dinner."


Jonny singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Pixar's Toy Story to Xena.

View this video on YouTube

"Jonny has personal space issues as many children with autism have and he doesn't like to have anyone too close. So it brings tears to my eyes when I see Xena on his lap in the car with Jonny smiling, kissing and hugging on her."

Jonny has grown so confident that in early April, he and Xena made a video to promote Autism Awareness Month.

View this video on YouTube

“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.”

Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Ellie Hall at

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