IT’S a wonderful friendship – and it has changed both of their lives.

Seven-year-old Owen Howkins, who suffers from rare genetic condition Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, was “practically agoraphobic” before he met Anatolian shepherd dog Haatchi, who himself has a sad past.

The dog suffered horrific injuries as a puppy after he was tied to a railway line in London and was hit by a train around 10 months ago.

He was found days later, cowering, with a mangled tail and back leg, and by the time he was taken to a vet’s surgery, nothing could be done to save his leg and tail and both had to be amputated. Haatchi struggled to find a new home and his future looked bleak before he was eventually adopted by Colleen Drummond, fiancée of Will Howkins, who is father to little Owen.

The couple, from Charles Street, South Ham, Basingstoke, took the dog in after Colleen saw an appeal on Facebook to find Haatchi a home. He had been taken in by the RSPCA and UK German Shepherd rescue centre.

Haatchi has had an amazing impact on Owen, whose condition causes his muscles to be constantly tense and means he needs regular hospital visits.

Colleen, who has been part of the family since Owen was three, said: “As soon as they met, the effect Haatchi had on Owen was incredible. “Before his arrival, Owen didn’t like going out – he was practically agoraphobic. When he first started school, he became more aware of being different, and he became even more withdrawn.”

Colleen, 41, said that watching Haatchi get his ‘medicine’ – a mixture of manuka honey, salmon oil and supplements – made Owen feel differently about his own condition, and that the very presence of the energetic puppy had a massive impact on Owen’s life.

Colleen said: “Owen used to be scared of strangers, but now he wants to talk to everyone about Haatchi and wants to go out all the time to dog shows. The difference we see in him can’t be put into words.”

Will, 33, an RAF engineer at RAF Odiham, said: “Owen is incredibly attached to Haatchi – in fact, they are very attached to each other.

“Haatchi will come and drink out of the bath when I’m bathing Owen, and they don’t like to be apart.”

Haatchi, who is now 15 months old, recently completed his training as a ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog and will soon begin visiting soldier amputees injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sick and terminally-ill children.

And next week Haatchi is to receive a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who heard about the amazing dog after he was nominated anonymously.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “When we heard Haatchi’s amazing story of survival, and the very special relationship he has with Owen, we knew he had to be IFAW’s Animal of the Year.” Haatchi will receive his award at the House of Lords at the Animal Action Awards event, hosted by Baroness Gale, where the awards will be presented by Queen guitarist Brian May.

Colleen said: “We feel completely privileged and honoured that Haatchi is to receive this IFAW award.”