Almost everyone who has owned a pet knows the experience of bonding with an animal. For many pet owners, these animals become our friends and family members. According to research over the last few decades, these animal-human relationships can improve our health. Since the 1980s, we have known that having a connection with an animal reduces blood pressure. Contact with animals has (also) been shown to reduce stress hormones, which allows our bodies to heal faster. Animals are also believed to increase oxytocin, which is a hormone related to feelings of love and trust. This may be the reason that animals aren’t just good for our physical health, but also good for our mental and emotional health.
Owen Howkins is a 7-year-old boy in England with a rare medical condition that only affects 30 people around the world. This condition causes his body to be constantly tense. He’s very muscular because his muscles never relax. This is a very painful condition and it affects his balance. Because his muscles are always contracting, he has trouble walking and needs to use a wheelchair.
Hachii is a dog, who has also suffered at a young age and struggled with balance problems. Someone put a rope around Hatchii’s neck and tied him to a train track when he was just a puppy. Hatchii was hit by a train. His leg and tail were damaged beyond repair and had to be amputated.
Owen’s mother heard about Hatchii’s story and went to see him. When she first saw Hatchii she felt an immediate connection. And the feeling was mutual. When Hatchii saw her, he waved his tail stump for the first time.
Owen’s mother took Hatchii home to Owen and describes their first meeting “as electric and spiritual, as corny as that sounds.” She said that Hatchii understood Owen’s condition and they immediately bonded.
Owen says that Hatchii has changed his life. They are great friends and share conversations and experiences that only they understand. When you see Owen with Hatchii, his face lights up. Hatchii has also made Owen more confident around other people. Before meeting Hatchii, Owen felt that people were looking at him in a negative way because of his condition, and this made him feel incredibly shy. He now feels people are looking at Hatchii and this gives him a chance to tell his story and connect with other people over conversations about his special dog. He used to be afraid of people, but now Owen loves to go out and talk to new people.
Watch the video of Hatchii and Owen below. When you’re watching this video, let go of the desire to understand everything. If you want to improve your English listening and speaking fluency, you need to become comfortable with some ambiguity. Relax, listen to the story, focus on the main points, not the details, and let us know what you think in the comments.
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