A DISABLED youngster from Basingstoke and his beloved pet dog have been nominated for an award at Crufts next month.

The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life competition has been running since 2006 and celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity. Crufts is being held at the NEC in Birmingham between March 7 and 10 and will attract 25,000 dogs.

As previously reported in The Gazette, Anatolian Shepherd Dog ‘Haatchi’, has turned around the life of seven-year-old Owen Howkins, who suffers from the rare genetic condition Schwartz Jampel Syndrome, which causes his muscles to be permanently tense.

Owen, who lives with his dad Will and Will’s fiancée Colleen, in Charles Street, South Ham, needs to use a wheelchair and used to dislike leaving his house because of the looks he received from strangers.

But after adopting Haatchi on February 18 last year the youngster has gained a new lease of life.

Haatchi came to Owen’s family after his leg and his tail had to be amputated. He had been deliberately tied to a railway line in London and was struck by a train.

And Owen insists that Haatchi’s strength rubbed off on him, saying: “Haatchi has changed my life. I didn’t really meet many others with disabilities and felt like the odd one out.

“But when I saw Haatchi and saw how strong he was, even though he only had three legs, I became stronger myself. I love him so much.”

Owen’s dad Will, 34, added: “I’m not sure if it gives him confidence because they both have disabilities and it gives him something to draw on, but he has definitely come out of his shell.

“It’s an honour just to be thought of and nominated for the Friends for Life award and now Haatchi is helping other people, which is nice.”

The winner of the award will be decided by popular vote and will be announced on March 10 during the TV coverage of Crufts on Channel 4.

Readers wanting to back Owen and Haatchi for the award should simply dial 0844 646 0204. A 5p charge applies.

The winner of the Friends for Life competition will be presented with £1,500 to give to their chosen charity and the other finalists will receive £750.

Owen will donate the cash to the Naomi House Children’s Hospice, in Sutton Scotney, if he wins.

“The dogs nominated for this year’s Friends for Life competition help to remind us what it is that makes the relationship between dog and man so very special,” said Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club.

Last year, Haatchi was presented with the award for ‘Animal of the Year’ by the International Fund for Animal Welfare at the House of Lords.