Xena, Johns Creek, GA

Hi! My name is Xena. I’m very lucky I get to tell you about my journey to the wonderful life I lead today.

I don’t remember much of my past except that my story begins in September 2012. I had collapsed in someone’s yard in Delkab County, Georgia. I was a four-month-old skeletal puppy, cold to the touch, and teetering on the edge of death.

I was taken to the local shelter where the staff gasped at the sight of me. All who saw my frail, emaciated body were shocked that I was still breathing. My skin was stretched tightly over my bones, my eyes sunken into my skull, my nose scabbed over, and every bone in my body jabbed out.

I weighed a pathetic 5.6 pounds and looked more like a corpse. Chrissy Kaczynski, a co-founder of Friends of DeKalb Animals (FODA) and an employee at the local shelter, stepped up for me. She had been doing rescue for more than 12 years and she had never seen a dog my age in that sort of condition. She didn’t think I would survive the night…

I was rushed to the vet for emergency care. The vet guessed that I had been caged and starved for the first part of my short life. I was given a 1% chance of survival, but with the care of my foster parents Chrissy and Aaron, I grew strong and healthier. I was called a “miracle dog.”

My remarkable return to health prompted my foster mom to name me “Xena the Warrior Puppy.” FODA created a Facebook page to document my miraculous recovery. Within weeks, the page had been shared by thousands of people. Donations to my rescuers began to pour in from around the world.

My life had already changed for the better, but the best part was still to come!

In November 2012, I was healthy enough to finally go out in public and hang out at a FODA fundraiser for abused animals, using my charm and story to support other animals in need. I even dressed up for the event that day: a bright flower collar and a cute little blue and pink sweater. I was excited to meet all of my Facebook friends in person. :-)

I had a blast meeting everyone that day, but one family stuck out in particular.

I spotted a young boy and his father from across the shelter and something about this little boy interested me. I bolted from another lady that I had just met, and ran straight for the boy, tail wagging and tongue a-flying for kisses to be given. I could tell that he was special, just like me.

I wanted to show him all the love that had been giving to me when I was first found. We pitbull types are known for our love, for our compassion, and I wanted to share this with the little boy. No one else at the event mattered from that point on. The only one who mattered to me was this little boy, and I was the one that mattered to him.

I later found out that one of my Facebook followers, Linda Hickey, had brought her family to meet me at the event. She had followed me from the first news broadcast, and had been considering adopting me into their family, especially for her son, the little boy I had fallen in love with: Jonny.

I heard Linda say words like “special needs” when she spoke about Jonny. I knew from my time with FODA that I had been labeled “special needs” from my past, so I knew that I didn’t want to leave Jonny’s side. We were destined to be together.

On February 11, 2013, I rode to my forever home with Jonny and his family, in my boy’s lap. I listened to his soothing, sweet voice as we rode to my new home, together. He was chatting away, petting me, loving me. I haven’t left his side since that day.

I didn’t know how incredibly special that was for Jonny. Our parents always talk about how Jonny was not very social, would not speak, wouldn’t touch food, but I don’t think my boy could ever be that way. He is so outgoing with me, showing me the compassion that I need. My mom said Jonny has a very limited vocabulary but since I came to live with them, Jonny has not stopped talking. He talks to me all the way home from school, during homework and afterwards he plays with me until dinner.

My family officially adopted me on March 25, 2013, and I became a forever member of this family — their third rescue dog. My foster parents were there too for this new chapter of my life and I could tell they were proud of me.

I still don’t know exactly what “special needs” means, but I know that I am special, Jonny is special, I need him and he needs me. If that’s what special needs is, then we have it covered! Jonny helps cook for me and my doggie siblings, he reads to me, he plays the piano for me. And he loves singing for me. Here’s a video of Jonny singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Pixar’s Toy Story. :)

I needed a special boy like him, and he needed me.

Jonny is constantly reassuring me with his touch. People often don’t realize how special that is. Like many children with autism, Jonny has personal space issues and he doesn’t like to have anyone too close. So my mom always gets teary eyed when she sees me on his lap in the car with him smiling, kissing and hugging me. My family has spent thousands of dollars on therapy for Jonny, and my mom believes that on February 11th, when he met me in our family room, the best therapy in the world was standing in front of her.

Sometimes people look at us differently, me because I am a bully breed, and Jonny for his “autism” but that doesn’t matter to either of us. We are together and we have a bond that no one can break. I love my Jonny unconditionally and he loves me. We have both grown together, conquering our issues, together.

With the support and voice of Jonny, we won the Dog of The Year from the ASPCA. We went to the award ceremony in New York City and Jonny even got on stage! :) We are currently in the running for the Hero Dog Award with the American Humane Association after winning the Emerging Hero Dog category.

We walked in support rallies for companion animals and children and promoted awareness of autism and animal cruelty. In April 2014, we made a video to promote Autism Awareness Month and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month — I’m so proud of how confident Jonny has become.

My parents are still in disbelief that so many people love us. And the media too! We’ve been featured on NBC’s Today.com, Nightly News with Jill Rappaport, 11Alive.com (where they captured the moment when I first met Jonny), the Daily Mail and CNN!

I cannot imagine my life without my family, without Jonny. I want the world to know that I love my boy with all my heart and would do anything for him. Jonny said it best, “I think we make a pretty perfect team to spread the word to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me.”

I would do anything for Jonny. Our lives may have been hard but we have each other to lean on. I’m here to help him be the person he wants to be and together, we are on a mission to spread education about the challenges faced by persons with special needs. I ran my first Autism Speaks 5k in honor of my Jonny and was the top fundraiser thanks to all my friends, the Xena Nation. We had a great time meeting lots of new friends and lots of our Facebook friends.

We are also on a mission to advocate for abused and neglected animals because I wouldn’t be here if FODA didn’t rescue me and my foster parents didn’t nurtured me back to health, giving me a chance to live this wonderful life. Thanks to my rescuers, foster parents and forever family, I have a chance to take part in a miraculous story of survival, friendship, love and hope.

My name is Xena The Warrior Puppy, and I have the best life any dog could dream of.

XXOO, Xena

Parents: Linda & Grant

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