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Rescue Me

Xena and Jonny: Who Rescued Who?

by Carie Broecker


This is a story about two miracles.

A four-month-old puppy was found in horrific condition. She collapsed on a lawn in Atlanta, Georgia. When animal control picked her up, she was close to death. She arrived at the shelter cold, emaciated, and dehydrated, with no strength to hold up her head.

This pup needed help immediately. The odds were against her, but the rescue coordinator at the county shelter, Chrissy Kaczynski, knew she had to give her a chance.

Chrissy worked for the shelter, but was also founder of a rescue group called Friends of DeKalb Animals. The pup came in on a Saturday, late in the day. It was after 5:00 p.m. and all the vet clinics were closed. Luckily, Chrissy had her veterinarian’s cell number, and the vet was willing to meet her at her clinic after hours.

At the clinic, the pup received intravenous fluids to rehydrate her, and they worked to get her body temperature up by wrapping her in warm blankets. An hour later, the puppy already started to look more alert, but she was far from out of the woods.

She weighed only six pounds, which was about a third of what she should have weighed. The puppy went home with Chrissy, and once she made it through the night, Chrissy became more optimistic about her prognosis. This puppy was a fighter. This puppy wanted to live. Chrissy named her “Xena, the warrior puppy,” to honor her strong spirit and will.

She fed Xena a spoonful of food every two hours so her system wouldn’t go into shock. The vet monitored Xena to be sure she had not suffered any organ damage.

Chrissy started a Facebook page for Xena to help raise funds for her care, bring awareness to her story, and to ask for leads to help the authorities track down who was responsible for the abuse Xena had endured. She documented her story on Facebook with daily photos and updates.

When the local news station did a story about Xena and aired a photo of her from the day she was found, Linda Hickey happened to see the photo flash across her television screen. She still gets emotional talking about that haunting image. It took her breath away.

She became a Facebook fan of Xena’s and checked her page daily to make sure she had made it through the night. When Xena was found, it was hard to tell what breed she was. Chrissy thought she might be a Labrador mix, but as Xena began to gain weight and mature, it became obvious that she was a Pit Bull. Two months into her recovery, Xena was well enough for a meet and greet with her fans. By then she had well over 10,000 Facebook fans cheering her on.

By this time, Linda was in love with Xena and was taken with her spirit and her story, but she had never met a Pit Bull. All she knew about Pit Bulls was the negative image portrayed by media stories. She felt compelled to go to Xena’s meet and greet. She wanted to meet Xena not only because she had followed her story so closely, but also because she was curious to see what a Pit Bull was like.

Linda took her eight-year-old son with her that day. They were there less than five minutes amongst the crowd and TV crews, and Linda was taken with Xena. She was still bald from mange and was wearing a sweater. She was a regular fun-loving puppy. There was nothing scary about her. Linda decided to apply to adopt Xena.

It wasn’t until two months later that she got a call from Chrissy saying Xena was ready to be adopted, and asking if she still want to adopt her.  Linda’s answer was “yes!”


Linda didn’t tell her children that Xena was coming home for a trial adoption. She picked up Xena and then picked up Jonny from school. When he got in the car, his eyes lit up, and his life was changed forever. He was so excited to see her, and she was excited to see him. She jumped in his lap, started giving him kisses, and he started talking to her nonstop. He began describing her. He said, “You have four legs. You have two ears. You have a boo-boo on your nose.”

What is amazing about this is that Jonny had been diagnosed with autism. He typically had space issues and rarely chose to speak. The fact that he was delighted to have Xena on his lap—and that he was talking—blew Linda’s mind.


Jonny was a child who spent most of his time alone for the first eight years of his life. He used little language, but once Xena came into his life, he began talking, playing with balls, laughing, giggling, and singing to her. Linda says it was magical. After years and years and thousands of dollars spent on therapy, it was Xena who got through to Jonny.

At that point, Xena had 14,000 Facebook followers. Linda began posting photos and updates on the Facebook page every day, and the people who fell in love with Xena, now began to fall in love with Jonny and were touched by Jonny and Xena’s relationship. For six weeks, Linda posted updates, but she never mentioned Jonny’s autism.  For years she had felt judged by others and was very protective of Jonny and their privacy. But on March 25, the day they were finalizing Xena’s adoption, Linda decided it was time to tell the world about Jonny’s challenges and about how much Xena was helping him.  And guess what? The Facebook friends loved him anyway. Just like Linda had loved Xena even though she was a Pit Bull. The Facebook friends embraced Jonny even though he was autistic. They accepted him for who he was

red carpet

Xena now has over 66,000 Facebook friends. She is a symbol for Pit Bull awareness. She is a symbol for acceptance and nonjudgement. She is a symbol for unconditional love. In 2013, Xena received the ASPCA Dog of the Year award and in September 2014, she received the American Humane Association Emerging Hero Dog Award. Her award was sponsored by Trupanion Pet Insurance. On awards night, Jonny, Xena, and Alex (Victoria Stilwell’s daughter), walked the red carpet together leading into the Beverly Hilton. Linda posted a photo of Jonny and Alex on the red carpet, holding hands and standing with Xena. Her comment was “An unbelievable night! “

I’m sure Jonny and Xena will be inspiring people for many, many years to come. Magic happens when they share their story.

Do yourself a favor and go to www.facebook.com/xenaandjonny and look back at their timeline and “like” their page, and prepare to be moved by their love.


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