Double-amputee boy gets surprise meeting with quadruple-amputee therapy dog
PITTSBORO, IN - A 10-year-old boy who recently had both his legs amputated had a dream come true when he got to meet a rescue dog who had all four of his limbs amputated.
Owen Mahan flew to Arizona Friday to meet Chi Chi, a dog he previously knew only from watching videos of him online for inspiration.
"It made me really happy," Owen told ABC News. "We both got our legs amputated."
Owen experienced burns over 98 percent of his body when he fell into hot bath water at age 2 and has had multiple surgeries per year ever since.
The fourth-grader had both of his legs amputated below the knees in June and February of this year.
After the amputations, one of Owen’s teachers showed him and his mom, Susan Mahan, who adopted Owen at age 3, online videos of Chi Chi.
Chi Chi, a 3-year-old golden retriever, was adopted by Elizabeth Howell and her family from South Korea in 2016.
The dog came to the family as a quadruple amputee after enduring severe abuse. Chi Chi was fitted for prosthetics and now serves as a therapy dog with a large online following.
“The never-give-up attitude that she brings to her life every day; she’s a great reminder of that for us,” Howell said. “And forgiveness because she’s forgiven and moved on and learned to trust people again.”
Howell learned earlier this year that Owen was one of the people following Chi Chi online.
She coordinated with acquaintances of the Mahan’s in Indiana to fly Owen and his mom to Phoenix to spend a weekend with Chi Chi.
NASCAR star Tony Stewart, who learned about Owen through a mutual family friend, offered his private plane for the trip, according to Mahan and Howell. People from all over the world sent cards of support that Owen received during his weekend in Arizona.
Owen and Chi Chi were guests at a NASCAR event and played sports together.
Owen also had the chance to attend an NHL game and go swimming.
"Owen is an amazing young man and has persevered and overcome challenges like Chi Chi has," Howell said. "That really spoke to us and we wanted to do something special to celebrate him."
Howell and her husband, Richard, and daughter, Megan, 14, have also stepped up to help the Mahan family.
Mahan, 56, began adopting and fostering special needs children after raising her three biological children. She now fosters two young girls in addition to caring for Owen and his two adopted brothers.
The Howells used Chi Chi's platform online to ask people to send donations to Mahan. So far, strangers from around the world have sent Mahan everything on her children's Christmas wish list.
"Every night I have a nice little cry of how nice and wonderful people are," Mahan said. "There is a lot more good in the world than there is evil."
Mahan said she is hopeful that Owen's meeting with Chi Chi this weekend gives him the strength to keep overcoming obstacles.
"I don’t think Owen realizes he looks different than anyone else just because in the community we live in he’s so accepted," Mahan said.
"But someday, someone is going to point that out to him so him meeting Chi Chi and seeing how someone besides him got up and keeps going will help him a lot now and as he gets older.
"He’ll see how well accepted [Chi Chi] is all over the world."