They rescued each other.
Xena the Warrior Puppy found a loving home with the Hickey family in Johns Creek, Georgia, after a rescue group restored her back to health from near death.
Xena immediately bonded with the Hickeys' 8-year-old son, Jonny, who has autism.
The inseparable pair are now both thriving, with Jonny's progress being called a "miracle" by some.
"I really believe God had a plan," Linda Hickey, Jonny's mother, told TODAY. "These two were destined to be together — to save each other at a level that humans just can’t understand."
"He is non-stop chatter now!" Linda, 44, told TODAY of her previously quiet, withdrawn son. "He has so much to say about his math, about what he did in P.E. He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years."
Linda brought the dog home on February 11. Xena was in her minivan when she picked up Jonny from school that day.
"From that very first day, that dog was sitting in his lap in the car seat, giving him all these kisses," Linda said. "And that's where she's been ever since."
The instant friendship led to Jonny opening up. He started talking more and became more playful. His personal-space issues lessened as he got accustomed to a dog leaning on him. Even a trip to the hair salon became less anxiety-ridden when Xena tagged along.
Since the adoption, Linda has been updating Xena's Facebook fans about the dog's new life.
"At first I didn’t tell anyone on Facebook that Jonny had autism, and they fell in love with him without judgment," Linda told TODAY. "And then when I told them all that he had autism, they still loved him. It just brought tears to my eyes, actually."
Jonny and Xena recently made a YouTube video for Autism Awareness Month and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.
"My name is Jonny and this is my puppy, Xena," Jonny begins. "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 words to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me."
- Arts & Entertainment