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04/29/2013 07:53 pm ET

Severely Abused Puppy, Xena, And Autistic Boy, Jonny Hickey, Become Best Friends (VIDEO)

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We're pretty sure this story is going to quickly be co-opted into a Disney movie.

Last year, Jonny Hickey was a quiet boy whose struggle with autism made it difficult to interact with others and left him isolated, Today reports. Xena was an abused and abandoned puppy, who'd almost been starved to death.

But since Jonny and Xena met each other last November, both their lives have dramatically changed for the better.

Story continues after photo.
jonny hickey xena

According to Today, a shelter in Georgia's Dekalb County found the terrier last September. Just 4 months old at the time, she'd been severely neglected and most likely locked in a cage without food or water before being dumped on the streets.

“I’ve been doing rescue probably for about 12 years, and I had never seen a dog that young in that sort of condition,” Chrissy Kaczynski, an animal services worker in Dekalb County, told Today.

jonny hickey xena

Despite her condition, Xena, who has been nicknamed "The Warrior Puppy," fought hard to survive.

Her recovery even inspired a Facebook page -- which in turn helped Linda Hickey find the dog that would change her son's life.

"I fell in love with a dog on the Internet," she told Today. The 44-year-old mother of two lives with her family and two older dogs in Johns Creek, Georgia. She brought 8-year-old Jonny to meet Xena at a fundraiser in November, according to NBC affiliate 11 Alive.

“We were literally there for four minutes, and Xena ran right up to Jonny and my husband,” Hickey told Today. Although Jonny is usually shy and introverted, upon meeting Xena he came out of his shell, the news source reported.

“From that very first day, that dog was sitting in his lap in the car seat, giving him all these kisses,” Hickey told Today. “And that’s where she’s been ever since.”

jonny hickey xena

According to the Daily Mail, children with autism spectrum disorder are often more responsive in the company of animals.

“He is non-stop chatter now!” his mother told Today, “He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years.”

The pair have made a few Youtube videos together. A recent one recognized April as both "autism awareness" month as well as "prevention of cruelty to animals" month, according to 11 Alive.

"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," Jonny says in the video.

How's that for a happy ending?

Check out this video of Jonny singing "You've Got A Friend In Me" with Xena.

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