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ASPCA’s Dog of the Year, Xena the Warrior Puppy, Gets a Treat from Good Reasons!

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities are complex in nature; no two people with ASD exhibit the same symptoms or respond to the same regimen of care. Many people on the autism spectrum are able to live fulfilling lives with assistance and therapies. Assistance may come in many forms – sometimes it can be a skilled therapist or a comprehensive physical therapy plan. Other times, successful treatment can come in a more unconventional form.

The employees at Good Reasons Dog Treats know very well what it’s like to thrive thanks to an opportunity that many able-bodied adults may take for granted. The company produces all-natural, human-grade dog treats and has an inclusive workforce of people with and without developmental disabilities. Many of Good Reasons’ employees’ lives have been transformed by the opportunity to work for a company that values each of their unique abilities. So, when Good Reasons heard the story of another young man with a developmental disability finding his own niche, they knew they had to reach out.

Jonny Hickey is a young boy from John’s Creek, Georgia who bounces around amicably, with his best buddy, a pit-bull named Xena. It would be an ordinary scene and an ordinary story about a little boy and his canine best friend except that Xena was once an emaciated puppy with barely a prayer for survival and Jonny was once non-verbal and withdrawn.

Xena the Warrior Puppy, as her rescuers named her was found severely emaciated and with deep scarring on her nose, suggesting that she had not only been starved but also confined to a cage.


Xena the Warrior Puppy when she was first rescued by Friends of Dekalb Animals

A rescue group called Friends of Dekalb Animals began the daunting task of nursing Xena back to health and created a Facebook page to chronicle Xena’s rescue journey. People from all over the country were horrified at the pictures of the gaunt puppy and were moved by the pooch’s resistance and fortitude. The Facebook page amassed a large following of well-wishers and donors, including Linda Hickey, Jonny’s mother. When the two met Xena in the flesh at a fundraising event, Xena immediately ran to Jonny. To the amazement of his parents, Jonny responded to the puppy not with his typical apprehension, but with laughter and engagement. Shortly after, the family was able to adopt Xena.

As Xena’s comforting presence continued to help draw Jonny out from his shell, the pup’s fan base continued to grow. When videos of Jonny discussing how Xena has helped him begin to thrive, the duo’s popularity continued to swell.

“Well, my Xena was hurt really bad from some not-so-nice people. And I have autism. So I think we make a pretty perfect team to spread the word to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me,” says Jonny in one video, with Xena by his side. Soon, the pair was featured on a variety of talk shows and in news stories.

Eventually, Xena and Jonny’s story reached several well-known animal rights organizations and the dog was crowned “Dog of the Year” by the ASPCA and “Emerging Hero Dog” by the American Humane Association.

Xena the Warrior Puppy surrounded by Good Reasons Dog Treats

Xena the Warrior Puppy surrounded by Good Reasons Dog Treats

Good Reasons wanted to join in the accolades and reward the pup to some delicious all-natural treats. Shortly after Good Reasons sent the treats, Hickey posted a picture of Xena surrounded by dog treats and clad in a Good Reasons t-shirt on Facebook and wrote: “As you may know, I’m very particular with what my puppies eat, so it is rare that I will share a dog food or dog treat company…but not only do they bake delicious dog treats, they also provide jobs for people with autism and other disabilities. How awesome is that?!?! Maybe one day Jonny will have a job with them.”