Seven-year-old Owen Howkins and his best friend, Haatchi, are the stars of the adorable short documentary, "A Boy And His Dog," that’s gone viral.

Owen suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, a condition that leaves his muscles in a permanent — and often painful — state of tension.

He gets around in a walker or wheelchair, but as he has grown up, Owen has became more aware of his differences, making it difficult for him to interact with others.

HaatchiColleen Drummond, Owen's stepmother, described his early behavior as "practically agoraphobic."

That all changed when Owen met Haatchi.

The Anatolian shepherd dog had a rough start in life. The canine was tied to train tracks where he was struck by a train and lost a leg and part of his tail.

Owen's parents adopted Haatchi, and when the little boy met the crippled dog, something special happened.

"It was electric, spiritual, as corny as that sounds," Drummond says in the video. "There was just like a communication that only they will understand. It's like they both knew that each other were different and there was an instant acceptance of those differences."

Owen and HaatchiWitch Haatchi at his side, Owen's confidence grew as the attention shifted from Owen's condition to Haatchi.

"It was something different for other people to look at as opposed to Owen," his father, Will Howkins, said. "He was gaining confidence and talking to people about Haatchi as opposed to people staring at him — and he loved it."

"I used to be scared of strangers before Haatchi came," Owen said. "And when he came, I wasn’t scared."

But Haatchi and Owen haven't only changed each other's lives; they've also touched the lives of many others.

Last year, they won the Crufts 2013 Friends for Life award at an international dog show, and they've inspired both a book and a short film.

Students at the University of Hertfordshire spent a few months with Owen's family and Haatchi to create "A Boy And His Dog." You can watch the full documentary below.

Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

How an abandoned dog and a disabled boy are helping each other heal
7-year-old Owen has a rare genetic disorder that draws unwanted attention, but with 3-legged Haatchi at his side, he's coming out of his shell.