'Miracle dog' helps boy with Autism - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

'Miracle dog' helps boy with Autism

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

A puppy, found abandoned in a DeKalb County neighborhood abused and nearly starved to death has defied all odds.

Xena was discovered in September of 2012. She was on the brink of death. Turns out, she not only survived....she is now helping changing the lives of others and is being called a "miracle dog".

Linda Hickey, of Johns Creek connected with Xena, before she even met her. "I was watching the news and this horrifying photo of Xena came across the television and I stopped in my tracks," she said. "She was emaciated, she was nearly starved to death and was dumped in someone's front lawn." Linda couldn't get those horrifying images out of her mind.

"Every night before I'd go to bed, I'd pray for her. Then in the morning, I'd wake up grab my coffee and sign right into her facebook page," said Linda.

A facebook page called "Xena the Warrior Puppy" was created for the abused pup, so others like, Linda could follow her story. Most people didn't think Xena would survive. "The vet gave her just a 1% chance of survival," said Linda.

Turns out...Xena had a greater purpose. She was nursed back to health and adopted by Linda and her family. She didn't know it at the time, but Xena would change their lives, forever.

"I believe it's the classic story of who rescued who," she said.

Linda's 9 year old son, Jonny...is autistic. "What I decided to do was just put Xena in the car when I picked him up from school that day," she said. And what happened next...well...Linda says, is nothing short of a miracle. "He has issues with space, no one is allowed in his space and here she jumped right into his lap! She's licking him all over his face, he was smiles from ear to ear, he was singing to her, he was talking nonstop to her, this little boy who chose to not speak much, not that he couldn't talk, but he chose not to...was forming sentences!" said Linda.

The two formed a bond no one could have predicted. Xena was not trained for this, she's not a service dog, she's not a therapy dog, she's an ordinary dog, who is doing extraordinary things," said Linda.

Xena is now being recognized for a national award. She is one of eight finalists in the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Award contest.

The public gets to vote until September 15th.

Here is the information on the awards:

MEET AMERICA'S TOP DOGS!

EIGHT FURRY FINALISTS CHOSEN FOR "AMERICAN HUMANE ASSOCIATION" HERO DOG AWARDS™

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Public invited to vote daily for their favorite; winner to be announced at the fourth annual Hero Dog Awards at The Beverly Hilton, airing on Hallmark Channel this fall

America has spoken and after more than one million votes cast by the public and a celebrity panel of dog lovers and experts, eight courageous canines have been chosen as the nation's top dogs in their individual categories for the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™. Voting now opens for the final round that will determine which heroic hound will be named this year's American Hero Dog at the fourth annual Hero Dog Awards, broadcast on Hallmark Channel this fall. The public is invited to submit one vote per day through September 15 at www.herodogawards.org.

Presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards seek to identify and recognize America's Hero Dogs - ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, whether it's saving lives, lending sight or hearing to those in need, or just welcoming us home at the end of a hard day.

Each of the eight finalists and their handlers will be flown to Hollywood to take part in the Hero Dog Awards gala at The Beverly Hilton hotel on Saturday, September 27, to be broadcast on Hallmark Channel in the fall. There they will walk the red carpet, conduct VIP interviews, and attend the star-studded awards show and black-tie gala where the winning 2014 American Hero Dog will be chosen.

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