02/23/2014 AT 6:35 PM ET
As one of approximately 30 people in the world suffering from Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, 7-year-old Owen Howkins can often feel very different from everyone else. But, Haatchi, the boy’s three-legged dog, seems to know what he’s going through – and that helps a lot.
“It’s quite incredible, very hard to describe,” says Owen’s stepmother Colleen Drummond. “But it’s almost like [the dog] understands. The day that Haatchi met Owen was actually incredible and it was electric. It was spiritual, as corny as that sounds.”
In the short film above, made for a class at the University of Hertfordshire in England, Drummond describes the pair’s immediate connection when they first met in 2012. “It’s like they both knew that each other were different, and there was an instant acceptance of those differences and that they were going to work together as a team with those differences,” she says.
Owen, who lives with pain because his muscles are permanently tensed, said he was instantaneously happy upon adopting the Anatolian shepherd, who was run over by a train while tied to a track in North London. And their continued friendship has helped him become more confident in himself.
“Everything changed my life with him,” Owen says. “He does look after me. He is special.”
(Warning: an ugly cry may ensue when you watch Owen and Haatchi receive a special award in the clip above.)