You are the owner of the Kratu, the rescue dog who represented Woodgreen in the Rescue Dog agility which went viral at Crufts this year. You and Kratu seem to have such a wonderful partnership, we would love to hear more…Click here to learn about Agility
Please can you tell us how you got Kratu?
Kratu was my own personal rescue. I decided to rescue a large breed puppy which I could socialise and train to make it easier to fit in with my two resident dogs. I was helped by a friend who chose him for me and we also rescued two sisters who are both in UK homes now too. We rescued Kratu when he was a few weeks old from a very dangerous situation. He went in to foster with my friend and I would talk to him using Whatsapp. I used to sing him songs and send him voice messages. When he arrived back with me in the UK he was familiar with my voice and we bonded instantly.
What is your association with Woodgreen Animal Shelter?
I had three three large, teenage rescue males. I realised I needed to understand more as they were hard work and I was struggling so I started training with Wendy Kruger from the behavioural team at Wood Green. I was taught a lot of things that helped my dogs become happy, well-behaved and well-adjusted dogs at home and outside the home too. Kratu loved training and learnt very quickly.Having these skills has been invaluable; it kept the boys all together as it became manageable and enjoyable. It kept the boys all together as it became manageable and enjoyable. I still train with Wendy at Woodgreen now with Kratu and Polo. They have been the most incredible support in my life, I can never thank them enough.
You have trained Kratu really well, how difficult has that been?
As a teenager he was incredibly hard to train! He was so stubborn and determined to do what he wanted. Wendy taught us different training methods and Kratu took to them and started to learn really quickly as he enjoyed his training. He makes me laugh with his antics. He loves to perform tricks and does them all the time. He is a natural clown which makes it interesting and fun. If he doesn’t like something he won’t do it. He really loves to please me but mostly himself! He is such a big character who will try to do what he wants rather than what I am asking. He is challenging and quite determined.
I am constantly amazed at all he has achieved. He has made me up my game considerably. He became the first dog in the UK to pass his ‘Do as I Do’ exam a special training method where he copies me on cue. He has his Kennel Club Bronze, Silver and Gold Good Citizen Dog Scheme award. He has done some rally training and special obedience training needed to become an assistance dog. He has also done lots of trick training which is his favourite. He is a work in progress with tricks as sometimes he does brilliant ones and sometimes just messes around.
What would you advise someone taking on a rescue, especially from overseas?
I think anyone rescuing must think carefully about their lifestyle and what would suit them. Some dogs that have traumatic pasts, especially many overseas ones, need a lot more care and rehabilitation. I believe in all rescue dogs having an education with kind reward based training and if needed behavioural work in order to be able to become happy balanced dogs.
Ideally being able to meet a dog first with all family members and any other dogs in the household helps a lot to see if that dog will fit in. If you rescue from overseas you must have rescue back up (they will take the dog back if any problems) and make sure the people you are rescuing from are trustworthy. Some dogs aren’t house trained, some don’t know how to walk on a lead, some have never been in a house, some are scared of people. Time and patience and knowing the right things to do is so important. Be aware of what you are taking on and what is needed to ensure their wellbeing and your own too. Think about what you can offer and how that dog will fit in. There are some amazing dogs out there that need homes, good homes where people are committed to making it work with them. Research any breed you are considering in order to give you insights into what you might be taking on.
What kind of breed is Kratu?
Kratu is Carpathian cross Mioritic, breed which is a guarding breed in Romania that isn’t in the UK. I know this to be true due to breed research I have done and the fact I have also rescued his mum and other family members. Kratu does not seem typical of the breed in any way. He had a good start with very early socialising. But also he is a very unique special kind character which is not typical at all with these breeds.
Do you have any other rescue dogs?
I have Kratu’s big brother Raffy who has a lot of fear issues. He experienced trauma as a puppy before we got him to safety. Also Paqo who lives in his own world. He never fully recovered from his early life experiences as a puppy. Both of them are hugely loyal and loving companions with their own special unique needs.
I also have little Polo who has just passed his Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme gold award with Raffy as well, it took Raffy 4 years to get his while Polo only 14 months, he is incredibly clever. I have no room left now for any more!
Kratu looks like such a fun and great companion, what is he like to live with?
So funny! He starts first thing in the morning when he jumps on the bed and squeals and whistles and throws himself around hiding under the pillows. He is always watching me as he knows my body language so well. He loves so much; to go out, the car, meeting people, visiting the local shops where he gets hugs and strokes from everyone. He loves to perform his tricks. I have to use the word love a lot as that’s living with kratu, it’s full of fun and love.
He does lots of random tricks to get my attention. He is a natural clown and performer. He is quite naughty too. He loves to steal things especially toys which he is not allowed. I’m sure he is actually laughing sometimes. He certainly has a great sense of humour.
Have you continued doing agility with Kratu since Crufts or was that the only time?
I do so much agility with Kratu. Sometimes Kratu can do it very well, other times he likes to do it his way. You never know with him which way he is going to go!
Do you do anything else with Kratu?
Kratu was the first Romanian rescue assistance dog in the world to fly back to Romania in the cabin with me which we did after Crufts 2018 to attend a University lecture for animal psychology students. It was a lecture about the amazing animal human bond that we share. Two TV news stations heard about us and we were filmed and shown on both channels and also in the newspaper. People are amazed in Romania at how a dog that they see as a guard dog could be so well trained and achieve so much.
We will go back and hope to support the people there rescuing and training dogs for therapy work with people. We have also just returned from the European Parliament in Brussels as we attended a film screening about the stray dogs of Romania. It was a real honour and privilege to attend this with some inspirational people present. It was an incredibly proud moment walking up the stairs with Kratu into the Parliament. He is an amazing rescue dog ambassador.
We hope to start visiting one of the Cambridge Universities soon to do some therapy work with the students which we are really looking forward to. I want to continue to raise awareness for rescuing dogs and all that can be achieved with kind reward based training. He is an ambassador dog for a charity called IAPWA which is a UK registered charity dedicated to creating a better future for animals in need. We are looking forward to doing some educational projects with them.
What is Kratu’s favourite thing to do?
Being with me whatever I do; playing bows, sitting on my knee. sitting on most people’s knees if he can. Hiding under my clothes when I get dressed and squealing. He loves a ball. He loves squeaky toys. Doing what he wants when he feels like it. He is a free spirit which cannot be contained. He loves to entertain people, making people happy and making people laugh, he radiates joy when that happens.
Kratu had such fun at Crufts this year, will you be back next year?
Yes he will be back! Although that always makes me a little nervous too as I just don’t know what he will have in store for next year!
How has Kratu changed your life?
I have had huge trust and communication issues with people all my life. I have struggled maintaining friendships and relationships especially with family. Finally in my life someone understands me, doesn’t judge me for being different and accepting me as I am, loving me unconditionally. This was what I have searched for my entire life, to be accepted as I am.
I am getting on so much better with my daughter which means the world to me, she also has a dog who adores Kratu. With him by my side I find social situations much easier rather than impossible as before. He has given me a purpose in my life whereas before it was empty. It was a very dark and stormy existence, Kratu brought the sunshine and light back into my life. He is the reason I get up every morning. He watches me and knows when I need him. I have always struggled with low self esteem and low self confidence. Since he came into my life we have achieved some things together that have made me look back and be amazed that it was really us that did something.
I still doubt myself on occasion but never him as his presence helps me conquer my fears which are ongoing but not as daunting now. Obstacles can be overcome as we constantly prove. I feel stronger because of him. His kindness and compassion for people are great lessons for me. He is a very special teacher and guide in my life. Being lost and then finding your way is the most amazing gift you can have in your life and his shining light lit up my path and I can see it now. When you have been a misfit in life and society and then you have this special dog arrive in your life, which suddenly makes sense. This quote sums it up; “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.
I feel Kratu with my heart.