Xena, and Jonny and his dad, meet for the first time, in November, 2012
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- A puppy, thrown away and left for dead on the side of a DeKalb County street, almost starved to death.
Seven months later, she is living up to the name her rescuers gave her -- Xena the Warrior Puppy.
She is alive, well, and working miracles for all in her life.
One miracle is that Xena survived the abuse.
Another is what she is now doing for other abused animals.
And the biggest miracle is what Xena is doing for the little boy in Johns Creek with autism whose family just adopted her:
This just might be a match made in heaven.
Tuesday afternoon, Xena the Warrior Puppy was running around the yard of her new home in Johns Creek with her new best friend, Jonny Hickey.
How far they've both come. Together.
In September, Xena was near death, a victim of severe neglect.
The rescue group "Friends of DeKalb Animals" found Xena and somehow was able to nurse her back to health.
At a fundraiser in November, 11Alive News shot some video of Xena, wagging her tail, nuzzling up to the people around her, healthier and stronger. Xena's miraculous recovery had made her an international Facebook sensation, and she was raising tens of thousands of dollars for the care of other abused animals.
From November 18, 2012: Xena The Warrior Puppy Recovering as Police Search For Her Abuser
And at that fundraiser in November, Xena ran straight to two people she didn't know, a little boy and his dad, and "introduced" herself.
The news camera caught a glimpse of it, the photographer not knowing, then, that the father and son Xena was greeting was Jonny and his dad.
Jonny's autism had made him withdrawn, reluctant to speak and interact with others.
He fell in love with Xena.
And she fell in love with him.
And in late March, with Xena fully recovered and ready for adoption, she moved in with Jonny and his family.
The two became inseparable.
Suddenly Jonny is a chatterbox.
And he wanted his mom, Linda Hickey, to make a YouTube video of him telling the world about the month of April --
how did Jonny know it is "autism awareness" month, and it is also "prevention of cruelty to animals" month?
"My name is Jonny," he says on the video, "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."
How far they've come, together. A match made in heaven.
On April 21, Friends of DeKalb Animals is holding another fundraiser, at Fleur'tee Bee Boutique, 1440 Dutch Valley Place, NE, in Atlanta, from 2pm to 5pm. Xena will be there, one of the stars of the event's "kissing booth."
Lynn Herron of Friends of DeKalb Animals told 11Alive News Tuesday that Xena, and her story of heartbreaking, near-fatal suffering, and her recovery, have drawn attention to the work of her organization rescuiing abused, abandoned and neglected animals. Herron said people who have followed Xena's Facebook page have donated about $30,000, so far, which has made it possible for Herron to establish the Xena Shelter Fund for the most severely abused and injured animals, like Xena was.
Herron said DeKalb County Police have not yet been able to find out who abused Xena, but the case remains open, with a reward of $2,500 to anyone who helps lead police to the abuser:
DeKalb County Police Sgt. Tim Medlin: 404-294-2645
DeKalb Animal Control: 404-294-2996
Jon Shirek on Twitter: @JonShirek