The loveable dog with a mind of his own...
Kratu went viral after his performance at Crufts. He was representing Woodgreen Animal Charity for the third year in a fun display for rescue dogs which was meant to show how owners and their dogs can enjoy an activity together by doing agility but, much to the delight of the audience, things did not go according to plan. He stole the hearts of hundreds of spectators at Crufts and millions of views on-line with his own free style interpretation of the agility course. His owner Tess Eagle Swan says there is so much more to this Romanian rescue dog than just clowning around.
Three years ago I was asked to take part in the Wood Green Rescue Dog Agility demonstration with my dog Kratu (aka Baron Kratu von Bearbum.) Knowing nothing about agility, I asked friends, scoured You Tube and did as much as I could by myself. He could sort of follow direction and and do most of a course. At that stage, I had no knowledge of contacts and many of the other complicated parts of agility. I shudder looking back at how I really didn't know anything.
Being autistic, I struggle with communication and people so classes were out of the question, so I taught myself with the help of some agility friends.I have the greatest respect for people who do 'proper' agility. I use agility training for fun and for interacting with my dogs. It is great mental and physical stimulation and good bonding at the same time.
Polo, my latest rescue, is learning how to do the real thing with Clare Griffiths at Redgates Agility Club. We have private lessons and, in a short space of time, we have learned to much. Agility is no longer a mystery but a great sport and activity which we enjoy immensely. We love our lessons and seeing Polo's progress is amazing. I am starting to understand what is all about. Finally.
And what about Kratu? Well, he's just Kratu. He can do it his way. He earned that and I leave it there with him.
A natural clown
He was challenging to train and quite determined with making his own decisions. Suffice is to say that he is not the easiest dog in the world to train. We use reward based training. We do a combination of Syn Alia (SATS) training and Do As I Do to teach tricks. We always keep training very short and end on a positive note. He is a natural clown which makes it interesting and fun. If he doesn't like something, he won't do it without a great deal of effort on my part and high rewards.
I found out about free thinking when Kratu took over things at his second year at Crufts. It was then he did his first tunnel turn. Then in the third year, he really gave it some added Kratu freestyle moves. He went around some jumps and did a tunnel stop, wait and stay and some turns, too! He just added his Kratu twist as he loves to perform his tunnel tricks. He may not have gone clear but he definitely had the most fun. He simply loves to perform and be himself. He won many hearts that day with his performance going viral again for the second time being shown around the world in many countries.
Kratu became the first dog in UK to pass the Do As I Do exam and he went on to achieve The Kennel Club Good Citizens Gold Award. He then progressed to become my assistance dog as I am Autistic. He is also a therapy dog and has visited care homes for the elderly with dementia and recently a Cambridge University students going through exams.
His other achievements include becoming the first Romanian rescue in the world to fly back to Romania as an Assistance Dog. He attended a University lecture there for animal psychology students and was interviewed on two TV stations there. Not long after he attended the European Parliament for a film screening about the stray dogs of Romania, It's a Dogs Life by Maria Slough Photography. An incredible documentary. We are continuing to support all the crucial, inspirational work Maria does for international dog welfare. He has been to Portcullis House in Westminster for an All Parliamentary advisory dog welfare meeting.
Recently Kratu has taken to the stage at Autism's Got Talent in London to do what I thought was our trick routine but, after seeing a tweet from a talent agent saying it was the 'best comedy dog act ever,' I realised that's probably the best summary.
Being a large dog, he can throw himself around all over the place especially on the agility course! Something I wouldn't be without is my Photizo Red Light Therapy Vet Care so I was more than happy when Ruth Milner, MD of Danetre Health, asked us to be Brand Ambassadors.
Kratu is fuelled by Natural Instinct. Diet is so important for us for health and performance. I think it is an remarkable food and the company has been very supportive in sponsoring my rescue dogs who continue to achieve amazing things.
Kratu the goodest boy ever
As for agility, he may fail at doing a course, but he has the most amazing fun doing it!
About the author...
Tess is currently writing a book about Kratu and his soul journey here.
Tunnel photo courtesy of Natasha Balletta Photography.
First published 6th June 2019