Nightly News   |  April 28, 2013

Miracle puppy gives family hope

A puppy that overcame amazing odds is now helping an 8-year-old boy do the same. NBC’s Jill Rappaport reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> like our final story tonight. all of us certainly did. it is about two friends dedicated and devoted to each oesh, but each with their own special needs . nbc's jill rappaport on how they came to each other's rescue.

>> good girl.

>> reporter: they call her zena the warrior puppy. a title this abused and abandoned dog earned because of her miraculous story of survival.

>> that's zena!

>> i've never seen a puppy anywhere near the condition she was in.

>> less than 1% chance of survival.

>> it wasn't good.

>> reporter: but against all odds, this little puppy that could did and on her road to recovery captured the hearts of thousands. including linda and grant hickey who ended up adopting her.

>> good girl! i just fell in love with her over facebook. yummy!

>> reporter: but little did they know that the survivor would end up becoming a savior. for their 8-year-old son, johnny , who has autism.

>> the relationship between them is unlike anything i can describe. he had issues with -- you know, social issues having autism. and she breaks that barrier for him. they are best friends . johnny talks to her. johnny sings to her. it is really remarkable that what this dog has done for johnny .

>> most kids with autism really want to socially connect. they're really socially motivated and interested but they lack the skills to do so. sometimes a dog with provide an extraordinary tool.

>> how do you explain the gift that this handle has brought to your family. sfli don't even know if i can explain it in words. it is just so heart warming to see it. i believe god has a plan, you know? and on february 11th a dog walked into my home. a dog walked into my home and made the difference.

>> reporter: jill rappaport, nbc news, johns creek , georgia.