The story of Owen Howkins and Haatchi, a boy and his dog who transformed each others’ lives and became global celebrities, is one of overcoming incredible adversity — again and again. Owen, an 8-year-old British boy, suffers from an extremely rare genetic disorder that limits his every action. Haatchi, an Anatolian Shepherd, was as a puppy intentionally left on railroad tracks and hit by a train, causing him to lose a hind leg and his tail.
As told in the book Haatchi & Little B, out today from St. Martin’s Press, each triumphed against seemingly impossible odds. Not only was Haatchi the victim of unthinkable cruelty, after he was rescued by the RSPCA, he faced euthanasia simply because no one wanted to adopt a disabled dog — let alone a “dangerous” breed.
Anatolian Shepherds have a reputation in Britain similar to Pit Bulls’ here in the U.S. They can grow to 150 lbs. and were bred to guard flocks of sheep against wolves and mountain lions. After three Anatolian Shepherds mauled a woman in 2011, the judge who tried the dogs’ owner declared the breed “not appropriate to be kept in England.”
Owen is one of just a handful of people in the world with Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, in which the muscles tense permanently, causing bone and joint problems. Often in a wheelchair when in public, he had become shy and withdrawn, aware of people looking at him because he was different. And although Haatchi made all the difference, the dog nearly didn’t come into Owen’s life.
Owen’s dad and stepmother had already tried getting him a dog to help him open up. They adopted a Spaniel-Collie mix named Mr. Pixel, but Owen didn’t bond with him as his parents had hoped (they kept Mr. Pixel in their family, of course). When Owen’s stepmother, Colleen, found Haatchi online, she was certain he was the companion Owen needed — but when she applied to adopt him, she was turned down! (The rescue group misunderstood the amount of time Haatchi would be alone — which in reality was none.)
But Owen and Haatchi came together at last, and the results were instantaneous. Haatchi, still an energetic puppy learning to walk on three legs, instinctively became calm around Owen and was soon his constant companion. When Owen took him out for walks, people noticed him — not for his disability, but for his “awesome” dog! Owen learned to delight in telling Haatchi’s story. As his dad, Will, says in the book, “It was an incredible transformation. He went from being painfully shy to working the crowd!”
Read the rest of this amazing story in Haatchi & Little B, by Wendy Holden.