Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Pup helps boy's recovery

Owen Howkins with his Anatolian shepherd Haatchi.
Owen Howkins with his Anatolian shepherd Haatchi.

A brave eight-year-old boy is making a remarkable recovery from one of the world's rarest illnesses - thanks to a badly injured dog found by his Kiwi stepmum. Owen Howkins has a genetic disorder called Schwartz-Jampel Syndrome, thought to afflict only 35 people. The muscle-stiffening condition left him struggling to breathe and prevents bones growing properly.

His stepmum Colleen, originally from Palmerston, Otago, is married to Owen's dad Will Howkins and now lives in Basingstoke, England. She noticed a dramatic improvement in Owen's health and attitude when she adopted an Anatolian shepherd pup called Haatchi 18 months ago.

Haatchi had lost a leg when dumped by its owner after being beaten then abandoned on a railway line, where he was hit by a train.

"The minute Owen met Haatchi there was an instant bond," Colleen said.

The family's heartwarming story has been told by British author Wendy Holden in a book called Haatchi and Little B, due for New Zealand realease next month. Owen is known to his family as Little B or Little Buddy. Colleen said her dream is to take Owen to the South Island to meet her sister Charissa and show him where she was brought up.

- Herald on Sunday

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