A PUPPY who was shot and left to die in a ditch on Christmas Day in Zante, Greece, has started a new life as a Pets As Therapy dog.
Olaf was found by rescue workers starving, filthy, covered in ticks and with pellets under his skin on his front legs where he’d been shot.
But now he has a new home in Hove, Brighton, with Anne Mari Barker Davies, her husband Mike and boys Dylan, 10 and Joe, six.
Olaf, who is nearly three, is fit and well and works with women and young children who have been affected by domestic violence as a PAT dog.
Anne Mari, 46, said: “I’m so proud of him. It’s incredible that after everything he has been through, he’s now helping people overcome their fear of dogs.”
The charity worker had grown up with dogs and said she tried to rescue one from the UK but, as a family with young children, she found it a struggle.
She read about Zante Strays via Holbrook Animal Rescue who help rehome their dogs in the UK and saw Olaf was ideal for a family with children and instantly fell in love.
Then she had to pass a home check before waiting six weeks for him to be well enough to travel to the UK in May last year.
Anne Mari said: “I was worried about how he would adapt to life here when we first collected him. His coat was short and he’d been terrified on the journey.
“But he was as good as gold and settled in straight away, playing with his ball in the garden with my two boys as if he’d been here forever.
“The rescue workers say that Zante dogs are streetwise and self sufficient, but when they find a home, they’re very grateful, kind and loving.
“My friend’s son was always scared of dogs, but with Olaf, he got down on the floor and hugged him. It was lovely to see.”
Then Anne Mari was approached while walking Olaf in the park by a worker from Pets As Therapy who asked if he might work with them.
She’d observed how he’d behaved around children and thought he would be perfect.
He was assessed by PAT and found he’d be ideal to help people overcome fear of dogs, to help children read and with children who’d witnessed abuse.
Anne Mari said: “We now work with a women’s refuge and it’s going well. The women and the children like giving him cuddles.
“Some of them have had to rehome their own pets, so it can be emotional, but seeing Olaf is a comfort.”
But Olaf, who was found to be a Sproodle Setter – a cross between a mini Poodle, an English Setter and a Springer Spaniel – still has a cheeky side.
Anne Mari said: “He steals food from the kitchen table and bread from the bread bin and will lick plates if he gets the chance.
“We can’t blame him though after all he’s been through. He really is a special dog.”
Helen Glass, UK co-ordinator for Zante Strays, said she is thrilled to see how Olaf has flourished since moving to the UK.
She said: “He’s been through so much pain and suffering and really is remarkable. The Zante dogs are so loving and trusting and Olaf shows what fabulous pets they make.”
To find out more about the charity, visit Zante Strays.
This story first appeared in the Sunday People.